Avengers: Endgame: Reflection rather than spectacle for the end of an era
Before I get into this review of the new Marvel film, «Avengers: Endgame», let me say one thing. This is going to be a spoiler-free zone. If spoilers are necessary at any time, I’ll alert you to them with images and then give the spoiler in the text beneath.
The point of this review isn’t to see whether or not Endgame is good or not. That’s easy enough to answer: «Yes». See? After all, Marvel Studios and its owner Disney weren’t going to take any risks. The directors Anthony and Joe Russo give it their all, as do the squad of actors, the special effects department, costume designers, fight choreographers and stunt doubles. «Avengers Endgame» is set to be record-breaking and go down in cinematic history. The film is bound to set some kind of record if it hasn’t already. But in the end, no one is interested in any of that.
Here’s what people really want to know: will the story be a success? Are all the rumours and theories right? How can Thanos (Josh Brolin) be stopped? Will Ant Man become tiny and fly into Thanos’s ass and expand there? These are questions that have been doing the rounds since the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008 in the after-credits scene of the surprising blockbuster «Iron Man».
When characters are given time
I mean, yeah, of course there’s a big fight where they all clobber each other, fire lasers at each other, hurl spells and beat each other with hammers. But that’s not what sticks in my mind from the 181-minute long film. The reason being that screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely allowed themselves a trick that no one was expecting. Rather than making the plot zoom along, everything goes at its own pace.
After the finger clicking that wipes out 50% of all life in the universe, time seems to stand still. It’s also something that’s very much necessary. No matter how much pomp they include in the fight scenes – and it goes without saying, there’s no shortage of them – it’s nothing we haven't seen before. In the previous film, «Avengers: Infinity War», Thanos and his henchmen of the African kingdom of Wakanda are attacked. It’s computer effects vs computer effects. Zzz, we know that story.
What we don’t see so often, however, is the human side. What does the constant fight against the baddies or in this case against the obliteration of half of the human race have to do with being a good person? Spoiler alert. If you don’t want to see any spoilers, skip to the bit after the video of the battle of Wakanda.
No character depicts it better in the film than Clint Barton aka Hawkeye aka Ronin (Jeremy Renner). The snap – officially known as «The Decimation» – wiped out his whole family. His wife and three children are suddenly gone. The stoic man is broken. While Thor (Chris Hemsworth) resorts to alcohol and junk food, Hawkeye slips on a black hood and grabs a sword. He goes off hunting for criminals and kills any he finds. Why? Because he can’t understand how his innocent family got wiped out but not these criminals, who only make the world a worse place.
Sadly, this subplot is quickly discarded, just like all the other subplots between Decimation and the rescue operation. But they are given enough time to make the emotional fight impactful. The scenes are shown long enough for everyone to understand how all the characters in the film feel. You don’t get scenes like the wretchedly long one on planet Vormir in «Infinity War» any more.
That’s due in part to the fact that «Endgame» has enough plot to be going on with and doesn’t need any filler scenes. And so it’s no surprise the discarded subplots are soon forgotten. After all, the Avengers, or at least whoever in the team is left standing, have a plan. And this needs a bit of time, which it fortunately gets. This speaks volumes for the courage shown by Marvel to grant them time rather than relying on brash spectacle to thrill the masses. It also lets the screenwriters depict the heroes in situations where they’re not covered in glory. It would be great if some of these plot points were revisited in later films.
The weak moments
As much as the «Avengers: Endgame» might be showered with praise, the film doesn’t escape without its weaknesses. Fortunately, these kinds of scenes are short. But for someone like me who has been exposed to superheroes and their myths for decades, these moments do stand out. For instance, the power levels of each of the heroes fluctuate from one second to the next and some heroes drown out others out in battle. More spoilers to follow. You know the drill: if you don’t want to read them, skip to just after the photo of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson).
The character that is hit hard in terms of power levels is Captain Marvel. In her first appearance, she replicates the trick from the finale of her solo film and smashes a huge spaceship by sending it into the seemingly invincible flying object. One thing’s for sure: Carol Danvers should be heavy artillery for the Avengers. Up until this point, it had been the Hulk, but he has just found peace and so is half as effective.
However, a few minutes later and Carol Danvers is struggling with some of Mr Thanos’s foot soldiers. She gets reinforcements from all the heroines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and that’s where one of the hero shots comes from. It’s amazing. But shortly after that, Carol is back in heavy artillery mode and the heroines look on as they blend into the backdrop.
There are little moments that sometimes give the film bad overtones for a couple of seconds. But these scenes are being ripped out of the context of a great performance, attention to detail – even in the big battles – and the obvious fun that some actors have in their last appearance as a heroic figure.
That’s why the hero shots work so well. It’s not just that they’ve already been staged. They also contrast well with the slow moments at the start of the film. That’s the time when we see the heroes at rock bottom, in mourning or in situations that you wouldn’t think would go hand in hand with being a hero. It shows how the characters have to rise above it and set out to battle once more.
And then. Then comes the moment fans have been waiting ten years for. Captain America adjusts his shield. He looks at Thanos and the henchmen and declares:
A bit about films in Switzerland
«Avengers: Endgame» isn’t just a successful film; it’s a very good successful film. The jokes are explosive; the action isn’t the main feature of the film, and it dares to step into unknown territory. The surprise worked. That was partly because the Internet was surprisingly restrained when it came to spoilers. Even though I’d read a lot about the film in the run-up to it, I was still in the dark when it came to what Endgame was all about. Overall, the battle scenes are spectacular and it makes sense. And it’s touching when you get to see beneath the character’s hero facade. That’s what makes films enjoyable.
The Swiss cinema operator Kitag, just like other cinemas in Switzerland, went mad for all things Avengers. The first showings of «Avengers: Endgame» were at about 10am… right after they’d shown «Avengers: Infinity War». It’s rare to come across double features like that. It just goes to show how much love there is for the films – not just a love for money and profit. I mean sure, in this Netflix and Co. age, cinemas have to be more creative than just selling you overpriced drinks and snacks and showing the film you’ll be able to stream in a few months anyway. Yip, things like double features are perfect for something like this. Thanks, Kitag and all the cinemas that got on board.
It would also be nice if they could show versions of the film in the original version without subtitles. But that’s more down to film distributors in Switzerland. The reason I say this is the subtitles are sometimes better and sometimes worse than the original, including in «Avengers: Endgame». There are two instances I can think of off the top of my head where the subtitles completely missed the mark. On one occasion, an indication of time was given in the yellow text underneath and this spoiled the surprise. Then there was the infamous «Avengers assemble!», battlecry that was translated into German as «Avengers, together unconquerable». Please, no. Make it stop. When I mentioned that I love films, I don’t mean I have a thing for Cinetyp, which seems to make a habit of getting itself in hot water with these kinds of half-assed translations.
What would be even better, dear Kitag, would be if you could plan the interval in the film so it didn’t coincide with the second before the end of a scene. But hey, that’s better than in «Guardians of the Galaxy», where the break started just as the character was mid-word.
Right, that’s all for today, folks. Actually, when I think about it again, I reckon «Avengers: Endgame» could still have been a success even without the big battle scenes. And I think that’s a good thing.