We need to talk about Thor.
Let me back up for a second and explain. I love superhero movies. Marvel is by far my favorite cinematic universe. “Avengers: Infinity War” was on my Top 10 Best Films of the Year list. It pains me to say it, but “Avengers: Endgame” left me so disappointed in its (what I had hoped would be an exciting) conclusion. This sequel is a complete letdown.
From the beginning, everything about this movie feels “off” in terms of tone and attitude. There’s an inordinate amount of moping and glassy-eyed staring into the camera. It’s great that the filmmakers choose to focus more on the human connections between the group, but the emotional character development turns this into a thinking person’s “Avengers” that stresses brains over brawns.
Smart superhero movies are great, but I doubt this is the film’s target audience. Adult themes like remorse, heartbreak, crushing guilt, and making the tough decisions that can ruin your own family while saving others is something that may punch a 40 year old man in the gut but will leave his 8 year old slumped in his seat with his hands on his chin. I feel most of this movie will go over the heads of most kids. Hell, I’ll wager a bet that half the adults in the audience will be confused by the inconsistencies of the varied time travel explanations.
You heard me.
They’re the two most dreaded words in a blockbuster movie that’s written itself into a corner: time travel. Can’t figure out a solid ending? Go the cheap “let’s go back and rewrite history by transporting ourselves through the space / time continuum” route. The film plays with time in a way that is less fanboy fun and more lazy storytelling. It’s so similar to the “Star Trek” reboot and “Back to the Future” that it feels like a cop-out rather than a well thought out solution to the Thanos puzzle. Once again, fan theories that have peppered the internet in the last year prove to be more exciting and interesting than the actual movie.
“Endgame” is entertaining enough, but not what I would call enjoyable. The story is at its best when it jumps around in time and we see how each of the remaining heroes deal with life after the snap, grappling with their colossal failure to save half of the universe. It’s humanity like this that makes us all aware that even superheroes are fallible, and it’s darker territory for what normally would be a lively springtime blockbuster.
The snapped Avengers play very little role in the narrative and the remaining heroes aren’t robust nor charismatic enough to carry the movie (Hawkeye and Black Widow, I’m looking at you). There’s also zero sense of real danger, something that the film’s predecessor had going for it (but at least the menacing Thanos firmly clinches his throne as one of the very best screen villains in comic book movie history here). But what’s truly unforgivable is the decision to make an iconic character an absolute laughing stock and the butt of many jokes. His initial introduction in the film is mildly amusing, but increasingly feels more and more distasteful as it drags on.
Most of the new Marvel clichés make an unwelcome appearance, including the continuous, borderline offensive pandering to women that kicked off in a spectacularly over-the-top fashion in “Captain Marvel.” We get it, House of Mouse: women can be superheroes too! There’s no need to include disingenuous all-female shots of your complete roster of lady characters when they are fighting among men. It’s time to buck up, really show them as equals, and refrain from treating them as a separate movie still that’ll look good on a poster touting the studio’s diversity initiatives come awards season.
There are even more emotionally manipulative “hold for applause” (and “hold for tears”) moments accompanied by soaring music that are dripping with an obnoxious insincerity that quickly sours the whole experience.
It’s not all bad, however. Alan Silvestri’s score is beautiful, and there are some clever plot points that are sure to bring delight (I especially enjoyed the way Ant-Man is brought back into the story). While the majority of the comic relief goes for passive, obvious jokes, there are some unexpected cameos guaranteed to bring smiles to faces. Also enjoyable is how several previous “Avengers” movies are incorporated into the story, providing Easter eggs that will deliver diehard fans the appropriate closure as the arc comes full circle.
The brightest spot here is the cast, all giving performances from the heart. There’s not a dog in the bunch, and this is one of the very best acted MCU films to date. You can tell how important these roles are to the actors, so much so that they literally lend their personal signatures of approval to the closing credits.
Much has been said about the 3 hour plus run time and yes, this movie feels long. There’s too much story exposition at the start, which kicks everything off with a sentimental whimper rather than the bang many will be expecting. The film follows a conventional storytelling timeline, and the couple of obvious, direct rip-offs of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did nothing but remind me of the far better movie. It’s as if J.J. Abrams set the new standard of what’s supposed to happen in a big budget studio movie, ensuring that any “surprises” no longer feel that way.
What doesn’t work outweighs the good, making “Endgame” and its anticlimactic ending a real bummer. While this film is disappointing, I need to be fair: it’s something I feel is a direct result of “Infinity War” and its outstanding setup being so great. But even when taken as a standalone film, this sequel proves to be a letdown.