That’s the hero gig. Part of the journey is the end.
Well, where to start? This movie is very, very different from Avengers: Infinity War and yet much of what I said about that movie could also be said about this movie: a grand achievement; fittingly emotional; jaw-droppingly awesome; astonishing balancing act. All of those things are certainly true of this movie. It feels kind of weird to simply throw those things out at the beginning like I’m kind of shrugging them off. Okay, grand achievement, jaw-droppingly awesome, yeah, yeah, sure, whatever.
I feel like this movie is a bit lesser than Infinity War; this isn’t a slam against this movie, which I truly love, just a knee-jerk “which one do I love more?” reaction. This movie has fewer characters and yet it kind of pulls off a less satisfying balancing act. It kind of felt like everyone was getting moments in Infinity War, but some characters barely register here. I had hoped this movie would make me love Captain Marvel, a character I’m still a bit chilly on in much the same way that Infinity War made me love Doctor Strange, a character I was chilly on prior to that film, for instance, but she’s underused and the only wow moment she gets is when she gets punched across a battlefield. Still, most of the characters get their brief moment to shine and the final battle is filled with moments you kind of can’t believe you’re seeing: Steve wielding Mjolnir, that shot of all the female heroes, T’Challa’s run with the gauntlet, Scarlet Witch facing off against Thanos and kind of kicking his ass, Sam’s quiet “On your left” to Steve. And this is to say nothing of the climax of the battle/film with that final moment of sacrifice and the slow, mournful aftermath. Anyway, so much for the action which is great, typical of the Russos.
Some of the performances/characters are given more time to really land than others, but the acting is top notch all the way around, as expected. Karen Gillan once against steals every scene she’s in as the bitter, angry Nebula. Josh Brolin brings the same spark to Thanos as he did last time and the final shot of Thanos in this film is exactly as you want it and Brolin nails it. Downey Jr. and Evans absolutely kill it with some of their most nuanced work; Evans, mainly just because he hasn’t been as good as Downey in the past, is of special note – he’s definitely giving his finest performance here. Hemsworth . . . well, I wasn’t initially particularly high on what they did with Thor in this movie, but it’s grown on me and, whether you’re a hundred-percent on-board with the Lebowski-ing of the God of thunder, there’s no denying that Hemsworth is fully committed and gives a great performance, once again reinventing Thor from the ground up and doing things he’s never done before. I mean, how could I even start going through the ensemble? Paltrow is the best she’s been in this series; Tilda Swinton is once again delightful; Rudd is as fun as he always is; Renner and Johannson have a killer scene together at one point; Ruffalo abandons everything to have fun with a completely ridiculous Professor Hulk. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is back; Robert ******* Redford comes out of his retirement long enough to make a quick cameo; Hiddleston’s briefly back as Loki. Hell, the movie dares to bring back Ty Simpkins from Iron Man 3 for a single shot. Yes, this is fanservice like no fan has ever been serviced before, but I can’t find it in my heart to hate it. I mean, they’re great. They’re all great.
The film is, I think, somewhat less thematically coherent than Infinity War, but the movie definitely gets a lot of emotion out of the notion of the past and what it holds for us when we revisit it. Here they get the chance to revisit the past literally (kind of; it’s also a future version of the past, not actually the past . . . but who the **** even knows?) while the audience can only do so in our minds and in our hearts. But the film sees the past as a place of healing. Rene Russo is pitch perfect in a really beautiful scene with Hemsworth and a lengthy sequence of Tony and Howard Stark interacting in the seventies is really wonderful. And Steve as well finds something in the past that he thought he’d lost forever. The mechanics of the time travel is as dodgy and silly as ever, but time travel in film is basically a vehicle for metaphor and symbolism and that’s what it is here. While the film preaches a gospel of moving forward, of not giving up and having hope for the future, it also sees that that hope itself comes from our past. And not just our individual pasts; we find the team in this movie ultimately drawn closer together in the aftermath of their shared tragedy and, as in a lengthy sequence that takes place behind the scenes of the original Avengers movie, we see that it’s a communal past that holds the strength our heroes need to move forward.
Anyway, there’s more, so much more to talk about, but I’ll wrap it up this way. The film is a satisfying enough ending that I honestly worry about the MCU going forward. It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t that many movies ago I was thinking I didn’t really want to see Doctor Strange again and, honestly, not that many since I felt like Thor was a really uninteresting character. So, yeah, I think the MCU still has places to go, but I guess my point is that this movie really brought all of the original cast together so perfectly that my affection for them was just off the charts by the end and I was wondering if I would ever care about any MCU characters the way I cared about Steve, Tony, Thor, Natasha, Hawkeye, Banner, Nebula, Rocket, Groot . . . sure, some of these characters will be back, but others won’t be, at least not in any substantial ways and that’s deeply sad for me. I’m glad that the film didn’t bring back the characters killed outside of the Snap in Infinity War; this whole story needed to feel like a bigger deal than anything in the MCU before and I hope a couple of the deaths from this movie stick as well – there’s nothing wrong with having real cost in a comic book movie after all. But then there’s Spider-Man, T’Challa, Sam as the new Cap, Nakia, Doctor Strange, Wanda . . . these characters will hopefully stick around and take up recurring roles in the way that original Avengers cast has for years now. I’m highly invested in them as it stands, so the sadness is tempered with hope, as, I suppose, the movie wants it to be. As it is, this movie feels as epic as it should and that’s really saying something. And, oh, yeah, three hours? Just flew by. Yeah, this thing is really, really something and it’s a film that I expect to unfold more and more, get better and better with each rewatch. And, anyway, name a better twenty-second film in a franchise. What a time to be alive. 4 stars.
tl;dr – suitably epic, emotional, awesome & brilliant as it should be, which is really saying something; fanservicey to the max, but agreeably so and never less than engrossing and entertaining. 4 stars.