As Promised: Objective Review of AVENGERS: ENDGAME!
NB: NO SPOILERS HERE (Other than a few VERY subtle hints). If you are out there filming the movie on phones and dropping spoiler clips online? Shame on you. Tempted to name you all but you’d have already closed accounts in the time it would take to copy out your names. Well done. But some movies cannot be spoiled, even if one knows what happens in advance..and so, here we go..my review..
So: my headline references Shakespeare (Richard II, to be precise). That something or someone can have greatness, undeniable and yet somehow JUST fail to unite all strands to create a truly universal feeling of ‘great’. That. That’s how ENDGAME makes me feel. I cannot deny its brilliance or the fact I was moved and entertained. But it’s curate’s egg stuff and falls in places on its own pseudo-erudite ambition. Though that cannot detract from the FUN.
- Downey is sublime. He manages to retain the essence of what made us love his Tony Stark character, whilst moving it forward. You still get a funny, clever, romantic, adventurer. And at the same time? Just subtle hints of quite how good an actor this is and where he might go on completion of this role.
- Rest of cast also have moments of genius: comedic, tragic..you name it, it’s there, to perfection. This is the best acting I have seen from Chris Evans as Captain America. Mark Ruffalo is hilarious, endearing and complex as Banner/Hulk. Don Cheadle finally gets to shine and have a self contained mission/ screen-time segment to himself. Chris Hemsworth is as hilarious and charismatic as always (he’s still on my list for the next James Bond). Paul Rudd feels essential here: proactively driving plot points rather than comic relief alone. Josh Brolin’s Thanos rightly goes down as one of the all time great cinematic antagonists.
- Brie Larson and Gwyneth Paltrow: DIVINE. Give them a spin off, together.
- A truly rousing series of action set-pieces. Your heart will soar in THAT moment and THAT one and..etc..beautifully shot and with a perfectly pounding score from Alan Silvestri. Stunning location /design work.
- LOTS of subtle and fast yet satisfying ‘easter egg’ surprises for fans of the series, including cameos you will not see coming!
- There is a linear logic, explained, in universe, and shown as the story and plot threads unwind, with each and every character having a relevant role to play in that dynamic. Even the sci-fi feels ‘real’ here.
Not so Good:
- The whole thing feels at once too slow and too rushed. I cannot quite place the pace here. I was never bored or looking at watch etc. But it feels like 3 films forged into one? And whilst that of course is in essence, what this movie is, that does not make it desirable or elegant storytelling. THIS MOVIE NEEDED AN EDIT! #
- Lacks the character roster of INFINITY WAR. This feels an emptier movie, with filler attached. You FEEL the absence of those ‘dusted’ characters. Now, whilst that is satisfying emotionally, it is a conspicuous absence, nonetheless. Nothing beats Starlord, Dr Strange and Iron Man arguing on a Moon. Sorry!
- The epic battle is SOOOO epic and BIGGG that you literally cannot SEE as much of it as you might like. Lots happening, very quickly and very crammed.
- Thanos is a bit awkward here. What is his power base? Is he more or less of a threat than the preceding film? Are we meant to hate him completely or see some pathos coming through? It’s very blurred and one almost wished they’d left him out altogether, found a new baddie or simply pickled up RIGHT where INFINITY WAR left off and had the Avengers devise a far simpler way to resolve things.
- THEY DID NOT NEED TO DO ‘THAT’ OR GO ‘THERE’. You will know what I mean when you see it. That’s all I can say. And it mutes the affair as credits roll, leaving one with a feeling of ambiguity in tone rather than either a victory lap of fantastical fun or even the much heralded ‘closure’. Yes: franchises, people, character in fact and fiction..must grow, move on, change etc. I get that! And yes, 7 -11 years of movies is a lot of work. But it’s not twenty years..it’s not quite a generation yet, even by the standards of the average guest on Jeremy Kyle 😉
All in All:
- ENDGAME did not NEED to be an ‘endgame’ and there was no real reason why the passing of time among its players needed a story to match, onscreen. These are sold as escapist fantasies that appeal to all but, let’s be frank: target, or at least have targeted a largely adolescent male psyche? And whilst perhaps that too is changing, I think it’s a shame that quite so much has been invested in and rushed through what is ultimately ONE iteration of a brand. This movie FEELS like the END OF MARVEL. And that sucks. Yes, the Russo Brothers have done a fantastic job here as indeed on all their Marvel movies. But they’re just ONE take!
- Let’s not forget that this all started with Iron Man (2008) and a subsequent, 2 movie a year production line of superhero visual candy that could of course hint at darker places and depths but always, always, left us with a spring in the step. THAT is what they SHOULD have been celebrating in this one. In fact, it was the Russos who started bringing depth/textured grit to these pictures. WINTER SOLDIER, CIVIL WAR etc: great movies, not just super-hero ones!
- Yet even there, a sense of overstretch; a nod to the Chris Nolan Dark Knight series, itself a tribute to Michael Mann and further and further removed from bright coloured optimism..one could not get. There are moments in ENDGAME where I feel like they have made up Tony Stark to look like Michael Corleone in Coppola’s Godfather 3. It’s not an affectionate in joke. It just feels..wrong. I dunno..maybe it’s just me but you will know it when you see it. Kitchen. There’s a clue.
- And yet, for all my poking fun at the over-earnest Dark Knight? DARK KNIGHT RISES at least ends on a high, on hope: not compromising the gritty realism or darkness but somehow finding the most childlike of idealistic optimism beyond that, as reward. What a shame that, for all its moments of comedy, fun, amazing action, beauty, community, friendship and nostalgia..ENDGAME somehow manages to deprive us of that simple sense of genuine happiness on leaving the Cinema?
- Having said that: everyone will have differing reactions here. And it is to the credit of ENDGAME that I can genuinely say there is indeed something for everyone. You will laugh! You will cry! If a fan of the Marvel series then you will be overjoyed at the loving tributes to past films in the canon. Non fans can simply simply enjoy the action and related content on its own terms (trust me, I brought my beloved Dad and he ‘got’ this: he usually just watches war movies and documentaries).
- So yes, I DO recommend ENDGAME. You are watching cinema history unfold, daily, through its box office receipts alone. But it’s also a slightly missed opportunity. If we must use Star Wars/ an other pop culture analogies? This is neither Empire Strikes Back nor Return of The Jedi but somewhere in between. A bittersweet pyrrhic victory that is nonetheless accomplished and entertaining from start to finish. Caveat: do not bring an under 12 to this, I’d say? But yes, it is, in many senses, a ‘family’ event movie that crosses the generations and sets up questions for boys and girls awaiting the next iteration of this beloved franchise.
B + ‘ I love you 3000’. X