Are you thinking about a nice night at the movies in the next two weeks? Then you are about to see the long awaited and/or highly hyped, expected to break all box office records film, AVENGERS: END GAME. It will be playing at the Island Cinema, on both screens, for the next two weeks.
Upfront, I need to admit that I only have room in my head for one complicated mythology, full of interacting characters with detailed backstories, evolving and improbable connections, confusing narratives that seem to be designed only to fix up a previous plot issues, full of magic or faux science. The Avenger series has all that, but much of my headspace is taken up by the mythology, etc. of Game of Thrones. Also, full disclosure, I have only seen about half of the twenty-two films that now make up the MCU (that’s Marvel Comic Universe to the uninitiated). I did watch Avengers: Infinity Wars the night prior to seeing Endgame. It didn’t help me much. I am certain there were references, callbacks, locations and past relationships that I did not catch. I can, however, state definitively that Endgame is better than Infinity Wars. It may be the best MCU film I have seen, on a par with Black Panther and the original Iron Man. If you are not too bothered with details like “Who is that? He looks like the other guy?” Or, “What’s his/her powers? Whose posse are they?” Endgame will work for you as a stand-along feature.
I am Iron Man.
– Tony Stark
Endgame has all of the best features of a super-hero movie. Love of friends, of family, of great threat (to the end of civilization, as usual), discovery of limitations, sacrifice, supreme sacrifice for others, etc. It also has touches of humor, some of which I missed because the audience chuckled when I didn’t, some of which I found funnier than they did because I wasn’t familiar with the reference, at least not in the same way. Some of the humor was sophomoric, 13 year old boy stuff. Some was funny in a wistful, nostalgic way, one of the many surprising layers in this movie.
It is a long movie. The first hour tends to be spent in setting up what is, what was, and planning for whatever is to come. There’s a sort of “getting the band back together” vibe to it, plus a plot line constructing a “time heist” that will fix all that has gone wrong. This combination of tried and true movie themes, planning a heist, putting together the team, time travel, and saving the universe, combined with a few shots highly reminiscent of iconic shots from other films, brings the audience in synch with the basic premise. Particularly enjoyable is the quick explanation of why all the time travel paradox rules from other films don’t apply here, thus opening up the possibilities for interactions usually portrayed as impossible, improbable, history-changing or worse. This climaxes with Captain America giving the rousing pre-game, pre-battle speech seen hundreds of times before, ending with a variation of “be careful out there!”
The middle of the film cuts between various efforts to complete the mission. Things go right, things go wrong, our heroes are forced to improvise, and “being careful out there” is quickly discarded.
By this time, all bathroom runs should have been taken care of, because, even though there is a lot of running time left, the film does not have as much of the prolonged video game type battles often seen in the genre.
Finally, after an old-fashioned fade to black, Endgame comes up with a moving and elegant tribute to the costs of abandoning a not-so-secret human identity to be a super-hero and save the world. It touches upon who people were, how life changes even for those with superpowers, what is achieved, what was lost, and what can be done to face the future.
For these Avengers, it’s the End, not the Game, that matters, both to them and us.