In spite of my reservations about the Avengers films (to be honest, aside from the first one, I haven’t found them all that satisfying), I decided to see Avengers: Endgame. It’s a lot more complex than I had expected, offering a deeper examination of character and psychology than one might expect from a “comic book” movie, and I’m not sure just how successful it is.
The film opens with Clint Barton (Hawkeye; Jeremy Renner) on a picnic with his family. Not surprisingly, he is giving his daughter an archery lesson when she, his wife, and his two sons disappear – one of the results of Thanos having activated the Infinity Gauntlet and reshaped the universe to his liking. Hawkeye’s family is only part of the disaster: half of all living things in the universe have disappeared.
Over the course of the following scenes, the remaining Avengers are reunited, along with Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel; Brie Larson), and begin planning to steal the Infinity Stones back from Thanos (Josh Brolin). Scott Lang (Ant-Man; Paul Rudd) eventually reappears with the key element: they can build a time machine and go back and steal the Stones before Thanos has a chance to capture them all.
After a lot of back and forth, strange encounters, and a couple of near-misses, it works. All this leads, of course, to the battle to end all battles.
Be advised that this is a bare outline of what is a very complex plot. (Hint: the running time is approximately three hours.) There is a lot of interchange among the characters which does actually serve to flesh them out, so to speak. There are also, as the team journey back in time, flashbacks with scenes and/or characters from what seems to be every Marvel superhero film to date. (No, I haven’t seen them all.)
Does it work? Well, yes and no. It’s a dense film, not only in plot but in character – maybe a little too dense. And it’s not all that tight: I can tell when a film has lost me by how restless I get before the end; that happened with this one, well before the final credits. For my part, the film could do with some judicious editing – say, get rid of half an hour or so.
If you are the type of viewer/fan who delves deep into the workings of the film, you’re going to discover gaps in believeability, which are certainly in evidence here. But that’s something most of us aren’t going to worry about unless they are glaring, and the Russos have managed to avoid that, for the most part, although the whole time travel idea is best left unexamined: if you think about it in detail, it doesn’t really make sense. But as a device, it works well enough.
There are other conundrums, which I’m not going to detail lest I be forced to include spoilers. You can watch it for pure entertainment, or you can ponder the workings of character and plot – but don’t ponder too deeply.
(Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, 2019) Rated PG-13, running time 181 minutes. For full cast and credits, see the entry at IMDb.