Avengers: Endgame

Infinity War, I think, is an exceptionally interesting movie. Not a good movie, I like almost nothing about it other than its jetsetting quality, but the one really great thing about it, the snap, felt like the entire MCU finally retroactively had a point. After all this money spent and earned telling these ridiculously uninteresting, artless stories, that money finally showed something only a movie made at this scale could, finally achieved some measure of potential inherent to a universal conflict via the horror of a genocide realized in the blink of an eye. It’s not quite masterfully executed necessarily, but finally this world, after all this time, truly showed me something I didn’t feel like I could see any other way.

(Aside: it’s helpful to rhetorically structure this review like this, but Black Panther is actually the movie in the MCU that finally feels set in a truly unique world, and is better than IW in every conceivable way.) 

It’s funny, then: almost all the critical voices I seek out (and David Ehrlich) felt as though that movie was the hill on which they’d died. That the ending of Infinity War was incapable of carrying weight knowing it would obviously be undone. That the first two hours leading into the final battle felt like a whole lot of time wasting away waiting to get to the final confrontation, a confrontation barely worth journeying to. That the movie felt constructed as to basically just arrange the many action-figure-deep characters of the MCU and slam them together, verbally or physically.

I understand these criticisms, and agree with them to some degree, but the feeling I’m struck most with is that the movie they were describing is not Infinity War, in my opinion. It’s Endgame. This review is going to read very negative, this score is going to marcate this as very negative, but I’m not frustrated with Endgame, to be clear. I haven’t liked the MCU in six or so years at this point, I expected to feel this way about Infinity War and was shocked I didn’t. But when an hour into Endgame literally nothing worth watching had happened, when the hour to come seemed to have literally nothing of interest to offer, I knew I’d finally arrived at the movie I sat down for a year ago.

The name of the game with Endgame is Payoff, and it’s in that fact that I can see my outroad here. Virtually every meaningful character dynamic in the series to this point hits a head in this movie, and how juvenilely constructed that feels throws into relief how important it is that you cared in the first place. A payoff only means something if the setup was important in the first place, which virtually no relationship or arc is to me here. I can say this with such certainly, especially, having literally started crying in the last moments of the movie, my legitimate first emotional reaction in all three hours, watching the only characters I care about in this series reach something fantastical.

It’s here that I finally return to my lede: what saved Infinity War, a movie that was itself very navel-gazing, from the same ire I have for this, is that it all led to building something new. Taking the very mundane storytelling bones of the MCU and finally creating spectacle out of them. Endgame is not capable of the same, not when every action beat has to refer back to some previous idea from the preceding films, when every emotional/character beat is resolving beats that we’ve seen coming for literal years now. Not when it all has to be payoff. Virtually everything here is blandly achieved, but far more damningly is flatly, straightforwardly conceived.

It’s no surprise that this is a huge moment for a lot of people. I don’t begrudge them that. But this conceivably might be my exit from this series I haven’t had the good sense to let go of sooner. It’s never going to give me anything, not consistently enough to justify the hours and hours at the very least.

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