Avengers: Endgame ★★★

If Avengers: Infinity War was Marvel's self-serious, genre-hopping, melodramatic, hype-event of a lifetime, ENDGAME is very much a return to form, and twofold. First, to the genetic core of what makes MCU films (lighthearted humor, solid character work, and a metric tonne of fan-service); but more fundamentally, back to the real origins of the MCU: comic books. In an age where Netflix is adapting fanfiction written by teenagers (The Kissing Booth), and studios, diet plagiarists (50 Shades), the MCU and Disney are using Endgame as a 1-2 punch for vertical integration: so many threads of this often unwieldy product can and will be spun off on the Disney+ platform, as well as network, cable, and our very own silver screen. Comic book stories are iterations on iterations, and as any fan of comics to tv to youtube will tell you, that's not a bad thing. The more refining, or alternatively, the overproduction will lead [in essence] to actual interesting storytelling possibilities previously thought inconceivable in 2002 with Spider-Man or 2008 with Iron Man or even 2012 with The Avengers. No, now is the time where we might actually see masterpieces (the hopeful analysis, at least. Disney is notoriously strict on image). But I digress.

[Slight spoilers to come]

ENDGAME should be called AVENGERS: FAN-SERVICE, and I say this in the least (well, as little as possible) cynical of tones. My fellow InRo boy Matt Lynch points out, critically, how Marvel has painstakingly (or Mike D'Angelo's opinion, stockholm-syndrome-ly) won our affection: "the quirks of the MCU have started to become not only apparent, but even perhaps their main appeal." Moreover, there are plenty of "subversive" elements in Endgame. The opening goes exactly not as planned, especially for those who have read the original Jim Starlin Infinity Gauntlet (which alternates between Thanos' struggle to court lady Death and the many multifaceted superhero plans, working with gods, deus exes galore). The subversive element I find most interesting is that Endgame is significantly more lighthearted than Infinity War, and it at times is better off for it. After all, Thanos never proved very interesting of a character, a one-note idea with an arbitrary goal rolled up in a compelling-enough performance by Brolin. His pretension, indicated in the opening monologue of the previous film, is almost overbearing to a universe best channeled through jokes most inside and absurdist (Spider-Man: Homecoming the legit best offering previously).

So, we get a lot of jokes in a post-apocalyptic world. And—what do you know—actual character work and not a bunch of big dumb set-pieces out the gate. Captain Marvel as deus ex is cleverly discarded, and we're better off for it. So many payoffs and fan-service to comic and film fans alike, "Professor Hulk" (or whatever he's called to the nerds) maybe my favorite reveal. A true-blue flick devoted to legions of fans who've bled support in Youtube views and Reddit threads. The writing isn't tight and it shows, and the whole last act gets sickeningly overburdened with the fan-service, cameos, cross-cut scenes (very inelegant storytelling, I must again note, where its predecessor felt downright short at 150 minutes). But then again, we're here at this point because we're fans, so it's time to own up. We ARE the nerds, everyone seeing this film. And Marvel lets us in on the joke, at least—most of the time. The end is an admirable assault of fan-service (and I mean, NEXT LEVEL assault), deus exes, and shaky storytelling held together by wit, charm, and (in a kind of way) love. So, really, we don't know what's best for us. Marvel does. And for some maybe this is a good enough exit point. For the rest of us—as Gunna would say, it's drip or drown; so we better get with that drip.

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