It has been over a week since Avengers: Endgame made its debut on April 24th last month. And over the course of that first week alone, the epic 3-hour movie has already set a box-office milestone with a record-breaking US$1.2 billion worldwide which included a domestic US$357 million in its opening weekend.
I have to admit Avengers: Endgame was a once-in-a-lifetime event movie that gave us all the reasons to catch this on the biggest screen possible (yes, it helps that the movie was shot entirely in IMAX cameras). Now, after watching the movie for the second time this week, I would like to dig deeper into a spoiler-heavy review of Avengers: Endgame. So, if you have yet to watch the movie, you can click away right now or check out my last week’s spoiler-free review here.
Heavy On Drama, Light On Action
Following the dramatic cliffhanger of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War where half of the world’s population was all dusted as a result of Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) infamous snap (or officially known as the Decimation), it was logical to expect that the follow-up would focus more on dealing with loss and grief.
But I never expect the Russo brothers (Anthony and Joe) along with their regular screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely would approach the sequel — particularly during the first act — with a slow-burn drama that almost felt like it belongs to an indie film. The kind that filled with lots of quiet yet emotionally affecting moments. This can be evidently seen in the opening scene alone where Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) enjoys a quiet afternoon on a secluded farm with his wife (Linda Cardellini) and their three kids (Ben Sakamoto, Ava Russo and Cade Woodward). But the otherwise peaceful family gathering is shortlived when Clint realised his family suddenly disappeared out of nowhere and turned to dust.
It was nevertheless a bold move to open an otherwise epic conclusion of the culminated 22 MCU movies — a complete polar opposite, unlike the action-packed opening scene seen in Avengers: Infinity War. Frankly, it was an appropriate contrast that proves the Russo brothers are not looking for another Infinity War-like storytelling beats (read: fast-paced and streamlined). The Clint Barton scene is just a tease of what to expect over the course — again, at least during the first act — of this sequel. It even continues with another quiet moment — this time, set in the outer space where Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are both stranded on a ship. Amidst all the dread-inducing moments where Tony looks malnourished and exhausted, the Russo brothers never forget to inject a lighthearted scene involving Tony introduced Nebula an old-school game of paper football. It might be a little nugget of a scene but it also goes to show that Russo brothers are able to balance lighthearted and dramatic moment at an appropriately given time.
The Avengers’ (Anticlimactic) Vengeance Against Thanos
Now, this is something that I didn’t expect: the surviving Avengers along with a little help from Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) manage to locate Thanos’ whereabouts… yes, during the first act of the movie. While I’m sure most of us would expect some intensely-choreographed fight sequence between the Avengers and Captain Marvel against Thanos, the Russo brothers have a different idea altogether: Thanos doesn’t seem to bother about fighting back at all since his work was already done and even went as far as destroying the Infinity Stones engraved in the gauntlet. And Thor (Chris Hemsworth), still reeling from the guilt for unable to kill Thanos the first time around, made a hasty decision by decapitating his head with his Stormbreaker. The whole scene against the defenceless Thanos in the first act is anticlimactic but at the same time, the Russo brothers manage to subvert (most of) our expectations by showing the early death of Thanos and how the heroes have to deal with their life knowing the fact they do not have the Infinity Stones to undo Thanos’ snap. Another bold move by the Russo brothers nonetheless and also made the movie less predictable where most tentpole summer blockbusters would stick to the conventional “go big or go home” formula.
Five Years Later: The Aftermath
Given the fact that Avengers: Endgame runs a little over 3 hours long, it was admittedly a monumental task for the Russo brothers to sustain a pace without making the audiences losing their interest. And yet, what follows next after the first act leading to the unexpectedly early death of Thanos, is the same continuous slow-burn approach that focuses more on each of the surviving heroes’ emotional/personal journeys: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) goes to a group therapy session; Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) kept herself busy where she no longer bothers to colour her hair or change her hairstyle — a known fun fact that used to be synonymous with Black Widow’s ever-changing hairstyle appearance since Iron Man 2 (2010) — and kudos to Russo brothers for addressing that; and Tony Stark/Iron Man would rather spend his quality time with his wife Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and their adorable daughter Morgan (Alexandra Rachael Rabe).
All of these extended non-action sequences are no doubt a risky move. But it was a calculated risk that the Russo brothers trusted the actors’ commitments over their respective roles are more than enough to sustain the audiences’ interests. And somehow, it works. Unlike Avengers: Infinity War, the Russo brothers give the actors — at least, most of them — sufficient space to make a lasting impression. This is particularly evident for Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, who both deliver some of their finest performances as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Steve Rogers/Captain America over the course of their appearances in the MCU movies.
The Fat Thor
This is the case of love-it-or-hate-it scenario… and an unexpected one at that: Who could have thought that the normally-trimmed Thor would be fallen into such a depressing mode until he looks completely out of shape?
While it was understandable that people have their own ways of dealing with grief and depression, seeing Thor with a beer belly and an unkempt long hair takes quite some time for me to get used to. I even admit that I hated how the Russo brothers go as far as introducing the Fat Thor when I watched it for the first time. The whole segment involving Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) travel to the small fishing town of New Asgard looking for Thor feels like it belongs to a different movie altogether. This is especially true with its curiously offbeat tone that almost deviates from the slow-burning, but quietly affecting first act of the movie. Sure, it has a few worthwhile lighthearted moments but it also felt somehow awkwardly misplaced.
And watching it for the second time makes me feel that the Russo brothers trying to ape Taika Waititi-style of eccentric filmmaking style seen in Thor: Ragnarok. While that movie was a unique beast of its own, transporting the same storytelling beat in order to diversify the tone of Avengers: Endgame doesn’t really work out for me.
The Elaborate “Time Heist” Sequence
The movie finally gets to the story proper during the second act where the Avengers decided to make use of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)’s idea of going back in time to retrieve every six Infinity Stone using the Quantum Realm dimension with the help of Pym Particles.
From here, the Russo brothers started to pick up the pace as well and even added more sense of fun and adventure to the time-travel proceeding. That means MCU fans and casual viewers can expect the usual Russo brothers’ comedic touches over the course of this extended second act. But as seen in Avengers: Infinity War, there are times that some scenes get too jokey for its own good. Still, there are some well-timed lighthearted moments and jokes that work in its favour (the part involved Captain America’s “America’s ass” drew among the most laughs in this movie).
There are plenty of nice resolutions as well, namely Tony’s encounter with his own father Howard (John Slattery) during the 1970 segment. It was no doubt a well-executed father-and-son reconciliation. The same also goes with the Fat Thor meeting his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) in Asgard for one last time before her eventual demise.
The whole “time heist” sequence may have been convoluted but thanks to some of the genuine characters moments, it somehow helps to distract me from overthinking the fundamental logic behind the inner working of the time-travel concept.
Now You See Her, Now You Don’t
By “her”, I mean none other than Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel herself. I’m glad that the Russo brothers made the right choice not to put her front and centre or giving her a bigger role in this movie. But even she is thankfully (!) reduced into a cameo appearance, her acting remains questionably wooden and blank-faced. It’s the same case that happened in her first solo movie released back on March. Personally, I wish the studio would consider recast her role but judging by the current box-office performance of Captain Marvel (US$1.1 billion and still counting), it’s highly unlikely she’ll be let go.
Captain Marvel’s Pixie Hairstyle
Yes, we finally get to see Captain Marvel’s pixie hairstyle that was famously shown in the comic book. But I wish that iconic pixie cut could have reserved for the future Captain Marvel sequel instead. Put it this way: it bothers me to see that her character goes from a shoulder-length hairstyle seen in the earlier scene of Avengers: Endgame and subsequently appeared with a pixie cut five years later after the death of Thanos. Which begs the ultimate question: How the heck she has the free time to get a new hairstyle whereas she supposed to be busy scouting for possible threat(s) across multiple galaxies? Even if it meant as fan service or a jokey excuse for Rocket to wisecrack “What, you gonna get another haircut?”, the Russo brothers could do us a favour by not even considering featured Captain Marvel with an inappropriately brand new hairstyle.
Clint Barton’s New Mohawk Hairstyle
Just when I thought the issue with Captain Marvel’s pixie cut is more than enough, the Russo brothers feel the need of introducing Clint Barton with a new hairstyle. A mohawk cut, to be exact. Given his vengeful state of mind, he even has time for all this? But unlike Captain Marvel, Clint Barton’s new mohawk cut isn’t as distracting. This may have to do with Jeremy Renner’s thankfully engaging performance that able to distract me from thinking too much of a negative side of his character.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow’s Sacrifice
This scene where Clint and Natasha are tasked to get the Soul Stone is unexpected. I didn’t expect Natasha would die in Avengers: Endgame but once again, the Russo brothers have their sneaky ways to surprise us. However, not every subversion is a good thing, as in the case of Natasha’s ultimate sacrifice in order to obtain the Soul Stone. Perhaps it has to do with the Russo brothers’ melodramatic approach that doesn’t feel impactful enough to justify her sacrifice. I have seen the movie twice and each time I saw this particular scene, it somehow fails me to evoke an emotional response.
The All-Hell-Breaks-Loose Payoff
It’s not every day we get to watch a Hollywood blockbuster that stretches to a 3-hour length. Sometimes, such a length can make or break a movie, particularly if all the buildups only led to a huge letdown.
But that is thankfully not the case for Avengers: Endgame. The Russo brothers ensure that your time invested over the course of the drama-heavy plot is justified well enough with a satisfying payoff during the elaborate third act. From here, it’s a dream comes true for (every) Marvel fan, with the surviving Avengers along with the rest of the heroes that have previously dusted are all finally back in action. Despite the CGI overload and some of the likewise inconsistent special effects, the extended fight scene is thrilling enough to offset those flaws.
Here, almost every hero featured during the climactic huge battle against Thanos and his army has their moments. But I particularly enjoyed Captain America’s never-say-die fight the most, complete with a memorable scene where he finally manages to lift Thor’s Mjolnir.
“I am Iron Man”
Remember the scene where Tony Stark finally declared himself “I am Iron Man” in the first Iron Man movie back in 2008? The same memorable callback has been repeated for the last time in Avengers: Endgame, where Tony delivers the iconic line after he put on his makeshift gauntlet before snapping his fingers. It was both a noble sacrifice and a fitting farewell for Robert Downey Jr.’s iconic role over the last 11 years.
Some Of The Characters Are Reduced To Wordless Cameos
Yes, it is understandable that giving every single Marvel character featured in Avengers: Endgame a worthwhile moment obviously means a 3-hour length will never be enough. But I still wish some of the characters would at least give a proper sense of closure, namely Samuel L. Jackson’s appearance as Nick Fury. Besides, he is one of the instrumental figures who helped put together the Avengers team in the first place. Which is why reducing him into a wordless cameo by simply featuring him in Tony’s lakeside funeral scene is more of a disservice to his character.
Steve Rogers/Captain America’s Heartfelt Resolution
Although I’m sure most of the audiences felt more emotionally invested over Iron Man’s death during the climactic third act, the Russo brothers did a better job wrapping up Steve Rogers/Captain America’s story arc.
Following his task to restore the Infinity Stones back to where they belong (a questionable moment that somehow doesn’t add up, like how is he going to return the Soul Stone anyway?), he doesn’t return immediately like he supposed to. Instead, he chose to stick around and grow old like any other normal human being with the love of his life, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
It was nevertheless a satisfying conclusion, while a genuinely affecting moment where Old Man Steve returns to the present time and decided to pass his Captain America’s shield over to Falcon (Anthony Mackie) is easily the best pass-the-torch scene since Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake during the closing moment in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
A Once-In-A-Lifetime Event Movie
For all the flaws that surfaced in Avengers: Endgame, the Russo brothers did an overall great job wrapping up everything here in a 3 hours’ worth of an epic blockbuster. They are no doubt the best filmmakers in the MCU, even though Captain America: The Winter Soldier remained their finest works and still the best Marvel movie so far.