Keeping it Reel : Thoughts following “Avengers : Endgame”

So arguably the most intricate franchise in the history of cinema has come to an epic conclusion, well, at least the saga that has been told to date. “Avengers : Endgame” is the final chapter of a 22 part story, and it delivered for the most part. Whether it be the twists and turns, the deaths of certain characters, or the returning side characters from previous films, this movie was what you expected/hoped it would be.

Like most films though, it has some flaws. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that they do exceptionally well, including a scene that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, so I’ve decided that come the end of the year and my annual countdown, I simply can’t just talk about the good and bad in just three or so paragraphs, I have to do a full on article about several aspects of the movie.

Please note that these aren’t in any particular order and before I start, I will also clarify that at the time of writing I have only seen the film once, so my interpretation could easily be wrong, much like I was about Dr Strange giving away the time stone on the first viewing.

The Four Parts I Loved

The “hairs on the back of the neck” moment

So let’s start with the moment that turned my opinion on the film and made me watch to watch it again, the part where the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, Dr Strange and his fellow protectors transporting all surviving members of the MCU into the battle field towards the end of the film.

It starts with Steve hearing Sam’s voice, but you can’t see him, and then the Dr Strange orange glow appears, and each of the surviving characters from the 21 previous films came into the battle. They were each given an introduction, whether it be the named heroes, or the side characters, such as Wong and Shuri, get their own little bit. This is the moment that the films all tied together and felt truly connected.

The moment is impossible to put into words and make it sound as epic as it was, but this was definitely a “YES” moment.

Keeping the focus

A bit of a short one this, but when the final battle commences and the rest of the heroes have joined the Avengers in the final fight against Thanos and the Black Order, it would have been easy to shift focus away from the main surviving original team, however, I think it was important that the principle cast of the movie all got to remain in the main focus.

Whilst other characters have their own moment to shine in the battle, such as Scarlet Witch holding Thanos in place and Peter Parker struggling to keep the gauntlet in his possession, every time it goes back to the characters you’ve followed throughout the movie, especially the principle three of Tony, Steve and Thor. With it being the swan song on the first two, it was right to see their character arcs, spanning over 10 and 80 years respectively, come to a conclusion.

Unfortunately some of the side characters from the movie, such as Ant-Man, do take a bit of a back seat compared to these three, with only him being giant and standing on a few things making a difference.

“Avengers : Infinity War” was Thanos’ movie, this was Tony, Steve and Thor’s.

Thor

Thor is comfortably my favourite MCU character, and I think I’m one of the few that actually enjoys “Thor : Dark World” (although I acknowledge that it certainly isn’t anywhere near the top tier Marvel movies) and his arc in this film is fantastic.

A lot happens to Thor in this movie, ranging from him finally getting his vengeance on Thanos, becoming depressed due to the feeling of failure after he failed to kill him the first time around, and the body transformation of the character. Seriously, there is a reason that he wasn’t shown in the group shot of them all walking through the air-hanger, because at that point he seems more he is from “The Big Lebowski” rather than the MCU.

Then you get onto him finally getting to say goodbye to his mother (one of the many satisfying cameo-type appearances from side characters from other films). For a character who has only really known tragedy in his time in the MCU, that was a subtle, yet incredibly satisfying moment.

Throughout the seven movies that Thor has now appeared in, he has developed and changed more than any other character within the MCU, and I can’t wait to see how his relationship with Quill continues now that he seems to have officially joined the “Guardians of the Galaxy” sub-franchise. Granted, I am disappointed that it seems like we’re unlikely to see another standalone “Thor” film, but I’m more than ok with the “God-Man” joining my favourite sub-franchise.

Clint vs Natasha

So similar to when Thanos and Gamora went to retrieve the soul stone, once Clint and Natasha stepped foot on Vormir you knew that only one was going to come back, and realistically this was going to be the only way the Avengers could retrieve the soul stone. Granted, you could have easily had other pairs go, but whilst friends, you can’t point to another combination of two of the surviving Avengers and say that it would be believable. Since their initial introductions, you’ve grown to appreciate this exceptionally strong bond between the two.

When Red Skull tells them how to retrieve the soul stone, it becomes evident how much they care for each other as they are desperate for the other to survive, fighting each other as they attempt to sacrifice themselves. Regardless of who survived out of the two, whoever had died would have actually felt like a natural conclusion to their story, whether it being Clint “swapping lives” for his own family, or Natasha finally clearing the “red in her ledger”.

The fight between the two is not only unpredictable, but also exceptionally violent for something that doesn’t contain any gore. I personally feel that Natasha ultimately being the one that dies was the right call for the simple reason that she has been treading water for a while now. Her relationship with Bruce disappeared into the thin air it emerged from, and there was nowhere else that she could really go, and even though she has a stand alone movie coming up, this is obviously a prequel. Maybe now we can finally learn what happened in Budapest.

 

What Three Things I  Didn’t Like

The Captain Marvel Deus Ex-Machine

So much like “Infinity War”, another Marvel movie was released just a few months prior, last year it was “Black Panther”, and this year it was “Captain Marvel”, but the impact on the story of the Avengers could not have been more differently delivered. T’chala’s inclusion into “Infinity War” didn’t feel unwelcome, unnatural, or even that that one character could make a huge difference, it was handled well. I can’t say the same for Carol Danvers.

The character is basically a deus ex-machina, turning up twice during the entire film, maybe for five overall minutes of screen time, and yet whenever she does show up, he basically solves whatever issue it is without much effort. For example, you’re there watching Tony and Nebula struggling to survive on the Milano, hours from death, and then along comes Carol and just takes them back to Earth. It felt like they had written themselves into a massive corner and didn’t know a natural way to get the characters home, so they just did it that way.

It raises the question of how she knew that they were there in the first place, maybe I simply missed it and a second watch will correct me, but it just seems to random to be anything other than lazy writing.

Secondly, during the final battle, she just comes along and whilst the Earth army is holding it’s own, arguably winning, she single handedly takes down an entire ship.

Tony vs Steve……not so much!

So there was a slow build over a couple of films of the team splitting into smaller teams and this finally came to fruition during “Captain America : Civil War”, when rival factions, headed by Tony Stark and Steve Rogers respectively, fought each other over the Sokovia accords. Whilst most of the team came back together within a few film hours, Steve and Tony just didn’t talk. Steve was even referenced in “Spiderman : Homecoming” as being a war criminal.

Whilst most people thought that they would come together in “Infinity War”, they didn’t, although there was progress in the relationship as Tony finally admitted that he would need Steve’s help, almost getting to call him before being interrupted by the Black Order.

Skip forward to “Endgame” and they meet early on in the film, thanks to the “Captain Marvel Deus Ex-Machina”, and initially they just discuss how they thought Thanos and neither could stop them, but it felt forced, and then, with Tony hooked up to an IV, it turns out that he is definitely still bitter and you can’t see how they’re going to be friends again.

After Steve and the others have gone to kill Thanos, the movie skips forward five years and yet he and Tony seem to be normal friends again, without any context as to how they got over their differences. It feels really forced and an unnatural resolution to the conflict.

The wasted female empowerment spot

So in most team up films like this there is the classic group shot, such as the camera rotating around the original team in “Avengers : Assemble”, or them all going to attack at the same time in “Avengers : Age of Ultron”, and this film was always going to get one, but they went a different way about this one and had a shot of all of the female heroes that were left alive at that point, an empowerment shot and their time to shine, regardless of how little impact their character.

The only problem with this is that whilst you see them have a few seconds of making a difference, they very quickly go back to the battle in general. It’s not too dissimilar to when the wives of the fighters in “The Hobbit : Battle of the Five Armies” declare that they need to go and help the men, but you then just don’t see what impact, if any, they made as a group.

There is a similar moment in “Infinity War” where Black Widow, Okoye, and Scarlet Witch team up to fight Proxima Midnight, one of the key players in Thanos’ army. That was a true empowering moment, this wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, individual members of the females in the film had their impact in the battle, but on the whole it seemed like a shot that was just done for diversity sake, rather than actually having it actually mean something.

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