Avengers: End Game -- Grade: C-
Updated: May 5, 2019
The male characters all got great endings. The women? Not so much. In fact, all of the female superheroes get short shrift in this overlong epic finale. (NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD)
I'm a huge #Avengers fan. I've always loved the snark, the battles, the interpersonal conflicts and the excellent acting behind all that action. I've seen every film multiple times. They're awesome. Also, and equally importantly, these movies have done a better-than-average job of depicting their female heroes. Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow is amazing, and should've gotten a stand-alone film long before now (though there's one in development). And Okoye, Scarlet Witch, The Wasp, Valkyrie, Nebula, Gamora, Captain Marvel -- they're all strong, competent warriors, whose abilities are never doubted.
That's why MCU's End Game was so very disappointing.
Save for Black Widow, all of the aforementioned film characters appear in End Game, but they barely register. They're not much more than glorified cameos, especially in the case of bad-ass Okoye and Captain Marvel, who's supposed to be the most powerful superhero of 'em all. She shows up to say, "sorry not available, you've already got Avengers, I'm needed elsewhere in the galaxy," only to return at the last possible moment to help save the day. SERIOUSLY? She's not the least bit concerned about her home planet?
Instead, we get the laughable "Ancient One," aka bald Tilda Swinton taking up screen time. Nebula gets a plot point or two, but for some reason, whether it's the makeup or the actress or both, she remains totally nebulous (not sorry).
Oh, and hilariously, there's a scene in the big battle at the end where all the women get together for a less than a minute or so to kick ass. Which is exactly what happened in Infinity War and Black Panther. EXACTLY the same beat. I am NOT satisfied by this bone they just threw me, in fact, I'm insulted by it, even though all the fan boys cheered this scene.
And here's what I could see coming a mile away, sadly (MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD) -- Black Widow dies, sacrificing herself to save Hawkeye, cause he has a wife and kids and all, and she's got nada except the Avengers, and they don't really need her. That happens at the end of Act II, so the character who's been the heart and soul of the Avengers since the beginning isn't around for the "getting everyone back from the dust" part OR the epic final battle OR the satisfying emotional conclusions that all the male characters benefit from. Written and directed by men, much??
This also furthers the unfortunate subtextual trope of unmarried, childless women being sacrificed because they're daring to "subvert nature." Thus, they must be punished, preferably by death. Natasha Romanoff didn't deserve this. It would've much more emotionally powerful for Hawkeye to have died, leaving his family behind and Nat feeling guilty over it.
Okay, other than the dreadful and disappointing depiction of women in Avengers End Game, there was some really good stuff. The movie kicks off just a couple of days after events in Infinity War, drops a shock, then jumps ahead quite a bit. The Avengers once again need reuniting, and some are of course, reluctant, but what if they could go back in time and get the turned-to-dust folks re-constituted? That'd be awesome, let's try! So they split up into teams to try to get the Infinity Stones back and complications ensue. Thanos isn't happy with this, tries to stop them and Josh Brolin once again amazes with his ability to act through a giant purple head. There's a big war scene, and then some emotional goodbyes.
1. For the most part, the comedy bits totally worked. Thor literally turns into the Big Lebowski, Paul Rudd does the clueless thing so well and Tony Stark is his usual snarky self. Hulk's intro is hilarious. Even Cap and Rhodey get in some really good lines. Plus, the time-travel plot offers lots of opportunity for amusing, if sometimes confusing, shenanigans.
2. The emotional payoffs are huge and satisfying. This is a really good ensemble of actors, and it's been a pleasure watching them portray these characters together. Robert Downey Jr. really gave this entire franchise its style and power, and they pay him his due for sure. Captain America also gets a fitting end to his arc.
3. Conflict is drama, someone once said, and they're so right. When the Avengers are together and butting heads with each other, the sparks are flying and your butt is on the edge of its seat. They got a couple of really good scenes out of that family in-fighting (the aforementioned Nat vs. Clint Barton battle is particularly well-acted and noteworthy).
4. This was definitely a satisfying wrap-up to long-running series. It was great to see all the MCU folks together on screen -- Jarvis, Agent Carter and other surprise guests got to make an appearance. Just wish there would've been a way to get them more involved in the story. And there were plenty of enjoyable callbacks to the prior movies.
1. This thing takes forever to get going after the prologue. There's a lot of unnecessary moping-around scenes -- and one completely ridiculous scene of Captain America leading a grief support group. Then it's Nat's chance to be sad and restless (which we can tell because of her constantly changing hair color). It takes quite a while for Ant Man to get his sh-t together, and it's only when he shows up at Avengers HQ that the story finally takes off.
2. There's a lot of repetition here -- literally, with scenes from prior movies revisited, and visually, with the same old monster/demons we've already seen, plus your usual giant ship shooting up things. The final battle really was disappointing -- except for the mano-a-mano with Thanos, there was nothing new to see here, no big bad creature we've never seen before that's hella scary. I mean, I get the whole nostalgia thing of "oh, I remember those flying metal worm thingies, it's great to see them again." But I would've really liked something surprising and new.
3. There are a lot of plot points that are glossed over or never really explained. Like, what's the deal with Gamora? Is she dead or not? How does Tony know that the Infinity Gauntlet will turn Thanos and his crew to dust instead of everyone else? Do the dust people realize what happened to them -- how do they feel when they reappear? Has time passed for them as well?
I'm glad the heavy-duty Marvel plans are happy with how things turned out, but I've got red in my ledger for Black Widow. A lot of it.