Avengers: Endgame ★★★★

I watched Avengers: Endgame in a packed theater about twelve hours ago now, and I’m still chewing over what exactly I saw, which is a lot. Not just in its gargantuan runtime (though I will give the movie points that for the most part, it doesn't ever feel that long), but in the vast mixture of story, nostalgia-hype, and jaw-to-the-floor satisfaction that the movie presents to you. In a lot of ways Avengers: Endgame isn't a movie, or at least won't be judged in the same ways other films will. It's not just about the weight of the 22 films that precede it and what that means for any given fan, it's about satisfaction. It's the curse that befell Breaking Bad and will definitely be following Game of Thrones until its final moments drop in a few weeks. Is it satisfying? Is it worth it? Does it pay off?

I think largely, yes. All the movies' plot inconsistencies aside (which I won't really bother getting into here, but it's one of the things that keeps me from giving the film a higher rating, and sometimes knocking a star off the four I gave it here), they find a fairly clever way to literally walk you down memory lane in a way that only Marvel can do, and when it works, it really works. The MCU has established so many groundbreaking trends -- for better or worse -- but one exciting thing is what can happen to a franchise when its this many films deep. When they've proven themselves financially over and over, they can actually earn the ability to make a movie that's three hours long and is riddled with details, cameos, and call-backs -- and very few of them are really explained or dumbed-down. They know at this point that if you've come this far, you're probably here to stay.

And that was really the most exciting thing to me about watching this film -- it's a very strange and sometimes bold blockbuster. It's all about time-travel, which is always controversial; its opening is a big and bold reversal; it turns Banner's Hulk into a whole new thing and makes Thor fat; the list kind of goes on and on. I didn't even love all of these choices, but I love that we exist in a world where a movie machine this large can make such strange ones. Plus, kudos to Marvel for actually keeping the film under wraps, because there are so many fun surprises in this movie. And when the curtain call finally comes for everyone previously dusted, boy oh boy oh boy is it great.

That's not to say it's a perfect movie. I will happily stand by my belief that it doesn't need to be three hours long. That's not because there's too much story -- it's because a handful of scenes just drag because they either aren't funny or they're just filler, so get on with it please and thank you. I also don't know how well this movie will hold up on a re-watch. There's so many things here that I was frowning at a little when I watched, and I'm sure a second viewing devoid of the fever-pitch hype of opening night might leave me a bit more skeptical of the movie as a whole. Oddly, I think Avengers: Infinity War might be a better movie simply because it's more of a bold heist film while this is a bit of a self-reflexive fan trip. The difference is, Marvel's earned that right. They’re paying off character arcs a decade in the making, and if in the process that happens to be fan service? That's the reason why Marvel is Marvel -- they're the only big franchise figuring out how to do that right now.

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