Avengers: Endgame. Movie to conclude the major plot points of 21 movies, stories of multiple characters that took place throughout the galaxy. Thanos won part 1, but we just knew not all was lost. It would go against every rule off modern profitable film-making, and some of us read comics…
WARNING! There will be spoilers. The movie has been in cinemas for three weeks, so you had time enough to see it 😉 It will be our discussion on how successful it’s been in summing up the complicated history of MCU and opening avenues for new adventures.
Piotr: I’m a bit tired of my role of enthusiastic simpleton, yet I’ll start with a decisive yes. It was not a perfect movie, it was not the best Marvel movie, but it was a movie well suited to play its unique role within the MCU. Heroes ultimately won, but it wasn’t easy, and not without serious sacrifices. There were hilarious moments, spirit-rising speeches, epic battles – the final battle was, IMO, better than the one from Infinity War. Three hours, but I was not bored and could even stay in the cinema a little longer 😉
Ola: I am also quite tired of playing the unsmiling Dirty Harry to your Pollyanna, and yet I cannot endorse this movie. It is well-made, very professional and full of perfectly choreographed and rousing action scenes, but ultimately it remains empty, the promises of Infinity War for something deeper unrealized. I was intrigued and dismayed in turn, and what really killed my pleasure of enjoying this movie was the lack of internal coherence and logic. For a film that makes so much fun of Back to the Future it should really show a better alternative to time travel – and one that is not blithely disregarded half an hour later.
Piotr: I’m going to see it for the second time and maybe I’ll see more cracks, but the biggest time travel questions here seem to be designed to be answered by future Disney+ TV shows 😉 What did Cap do and how did he manage to get back to his initial reality with a new shield? What happened with the version of Loki that escaped? With all its traps, time travel is still a pretty witty way to explore different settings, different aspects of MCU in one movie and give us a few heart-warming moments with audience’s favourites. I felt genuinely moved by Stark’s encounter with his father, and Thor’s brief re-union with Frigga. Steve Rogers’ happy few decades also, although there’s a theory they actually happened within the main reality, and he had always been Peggy’s husband.
Ola: But that’s the rub, exactly: with all the talk about splintered timelines or some such, how can he go back to the past and still live in the main reality? If going back in time means your presence there creates a pocket universe, how can you be present in the main time? I could go on and on, as Pym particles had apparently been necessary for time travel though the first half of the movie (along with Stark bracelets), but not through the second half – at least not for the whole Thanos army and his gigantic ship. And let’s not forget the obvious: killing Thanos from 2014 royally messed up everything since. Who picked up the stones in 2018 if Thanos essentially got killed in what was his 2014? And what then happened to Loki? Or Gamorra (the first one, not the 2014 one), especially in the light of Black Widow’s sacrifice? No amount of wilted jokes about Back to the Future will fix that. And the splintered timelines and Thanoses from different universes are admittedly slick but not entirely convincing gimmick.
Piotr: Well, some of that is not as broken I believe. Captain most likely lived in two different realities, after all, that remains to be explained – and if they confirm the other theory, I demand explanation. Thanos did have the Pym particles, extracted from our Nebula by the loyal one. And they did create an alternative reality in 2014. We could talk about it, but there’s word of gods on these questions. I’m not saying the script is plot-less, but it’s not that bad… and, I say it again, gave them a chance to get back to some of the past plots for a bit, which for me was extra nice, for a movie that finishes a huge phase in the MCU history.
Ola: Nebula had enough Pym particles for one trip for one person; half of the movie was based on the fact that the Avengers didn’t have enough of them to make more than one trip. And the explanation provided by Russos is just a post factum hasty patching up. Oooh, being such brilliant wizards and whatnot, Thanos and the Maw actually could have done anything, not only “easily reverse engineered and mass-produced Pym Particles”. Give me a break.
Piotrek: I also believe it tied up most of the open plots and largely cleared the table for a new series of adventures, this time with closer coordination between the movies and new Disney+ tv shows.
Ola: Agreed. It’s a movie done more in service of the ongoing MCU project and demands of various contracts and obligations than in the service of fidelity to the spirit/content of the source material. There were so many elements that I felt were resolved in a totally unsatisfactory way, even though I knew they had to be resolved somehow. Still, in the rush to the end line the writing got sloppy and the need to satisfy the fans got the upper hand over the requirements of basic internal logic. Is Endgame a product of necessity, making the best of the situation? Possibly; but don’t hold it against me if I feel it’s just not enough 😛
Piotr: I haven’t actually read the comics this time. If I had, maybe I’d agree with you more, as I did on Thor: Ragnarok. Without the original material to judge the movie against, I’d say it’s more than decent.
I liked the first part, when the depressed survivors slowly gathered together to beat Thanos… only to learn it gave them nothing. I was moved the story of Tony Stark leaving the happiness he had in this half-destroyed world to save everyone (but himself). I was excited by the big battle, although the final loses were rather low, and included a major character that should have gotten her own movie and now never will.
Ola: Oh, but she will. It’s already in the works, just set in the past ;).
I did enjoy the first part, it was poignant and it dealt with loss in a smart, not overly saccharine way. One of my favorite scenes of the movie was the one between Tony Stark and Nebula back in Milano, showing a range of very human emotions. I was even able to ignore the very literal Deus ex Machina in form of Captain Marvel. I appreciated the fight scene between Hawkeye and Black Widow on Vormir, it was very well done, aesthetically pleasing and it hit all the right emotional buttons for me – though I did not appreciate its resolution one bit.
Piotr: But is it Deus ex Machina when we actually expect something to happen 😉 Vormir was done beautifully, one of the emotional centrepoints of the movie, and the resolution was tough, but, in all the happy endings, there should also be real losses…
Ola: I also think the final battle opening scene in which all Marvel heroes show up thanks to a bit of Doctor Strange magic was brilliantly made, even if the logic holes were bigger than Strange’s portals 😉 It just looked great, even with Valkyria’s pegasus (don’t ask where she got it from, I’m rather sure they don’t breed them in New Asgard).
At the same time, however, this movie is very problematic for me for a number of reasons – from aesthetic/fidelity to comic books, to philosophical. I did not appreciate what most people seem to enjoy or shrug off as inconsequential, mainly the fat, imbecilic Thor. It was dumb, and too easy, and it was totally against the character who in the comics could be funny (check out Throg, for example, a story with origins reaching back to 1966 and Loki’s practical joke), but when the occasion demanded, he would sacrifice everything (see Fear Itself storyline, notable also for the instance where Cap lifts Mjolnir). In Endgame, Thor was reduced to a bumbling, sniffling idiot who didn’t know what to do most of the time, and when he did, he couldn’t properly do it.
Piotr: But, Thor has his weaker moments even in mythology. Here, he finally does what he needs to, and a few years’ crisis for an immortal is not unthinkable. I wouldn’t say they’ve gone too far, from the MCU-Thor perspective.
Ola: Let’s agree to disagree on this one. Thor’s weak moments in mythology do not make him God of The Dude. The transformation in the movie was made for laughs, and, as with most physical jokes, turned out badly.
As for the more philosophical issues, two stand out the most: the problem of just war, encapsulated in the conclusion of Tony Stark’s arc, where Iron Man basically repeats the action of Thanos from Infinity War, only in reverse, erasing Thanos and his host from existence with a snap of his fingers, and is lauded a hero and savior for this action. This could have ended in so many different ways. And though Russos push for that particular resolution, time and again showing Thanos as ultimate evil, this doesn’t make it any more moral. With Infinity Stones you can do anything. Killing is the least imaginative act you can do.
Piotr: I see the irony, but… are the heroes supposed to always only do 100% good things? I mean, Iron Man did a few bad deeds in some of the best comics, and his decision here is not easy, it’s just the only effective thing to do. Stark always was more prone to Realpolitik than, say, Cap, and, even if I usually place myself in the Captain America’s camp, I’m quite fond of Machiavelli and suchlike… I don’t expect my side to always behave like Ned Stark.
Ola: I absolutely don’t expect the heroes to always behave well – it’s in the definition of hero, and redemption is one of the key motives of all stories, after all. But I would want it shown that way, and not like something glorious and noble. It wasn’t. And yet nobody batted an eye and everyone was like: great, all hail Tony!
Ola: And the second one (I did warn you :P) – Hawkeye/Ronin who is ultimately – and triply – rewarded for his killing spree: he gets to be an Avenger again, forgiven by everyone, Black Widow sacrifices herself for him, and his family returns to him whole five years later as if nothing happened – a wonderfully tearful family reunion with a mad serial killer. This is an interesting one, especially compared with Marvel’s treatment of the Punisher, who was always viewed – and rightly – as an ambivalent figure. What happened with this ambivalence?
Piotr: That is actually something to explore, I’d happily see Hawkeye dealing with the consequences of his actions and Widow’s sacrifice. A Ronin film with the uncompromising tone of Logan would do great here.
Anyway – I really did get what I wanted, and expected, and I might concede a point or two, it doesn’t change my overall contentment. Could it be better? Sure. But I don’t expect blockbusters to be the most ambitious part of any of my favourite franchises. Maybe I actually am a realist, with expectations tailored to what is achievable in the current Hollywood system 😛
Ola: Huh, I am an idealist, that’s for sure 😉 Thankfully, I’m no romantic – those are supposed to be the most dangerous creatures 😀 I enjoyed the movie, don’t get me wrong; as your average entertainment it is actually exceedingly professional. I just expected more from what was supposed to be the crowning achievement of MCU. Why did this movie devolved the sometimes surprisingly subtle and complex Marvel lore into such a primitive, black and white picture? Granted, not all comics are good. Heck, most of them are rubbish, and the pearls are strewn here and there throughout the long history of Marvel and DC. But they appear every week. Every month. In several dozen titles. A movie comes out once or twice a year. Why not try to use the best of the genre?
SCORE: Piotrek: 7,5/10, Ola: 6,5/10