Let’s Talk About Avengers: Endgame

(Update: As of May 29, 2019, Endgame is the second highest grossing film of all-time worldwide. You’ve got some ground to make up there, DC)

We’re back again with another entry in our “Let’s Talk About” series. It feels like we’ve done more of these for Marvel movies than anything else. I’m not sure if that’s true or not (Kevin will rake me over the coals for not double-checking), but it probably has something to do with the fact that we started this blog in 2013. The Avengers was almost a year old at that point and the MCU had grown into a juggernaut that owned the box office and earned all the praise from critics. Even Thor: The Dark World did well later that year, scoring the largest opening weekend in November ever for a Disney movie (that I did look up).

If that piece of crap could do so well, the writing was on the wall that there was no stopping the MCU. To be fair, I own that piece of crap and that’s just another sign of how Marvel has us by the balls: I buy all of their movies, even if I don’t like them that much.

Kevin and I have certainly been fans this whole time and that’s why it seemed fitting that he just happened to be in Denver so that we could see Avengers: Endgame together. Marvel’s behemoth of a finale for its Infinity Saga promised to be epic. It promised to resolve years worth of storylines. But did it live up to the ridiculous level of hype surrounding it?

Now that everyone on the planet has checked this movie out, I think we are safe to dive into some spoilers and nitpick the shit out of this thing. Well, not really. We’re nicer than that and have compliments to give out too, but I promise you that nits will be picked.

Jesse: Alright Kevin, you’ve now seen 22 films over 11 years come to pass. You witnessed the Infinity Saga from beginning to end. How are you feeling? Happy? Exhausted? Or ready for some more?

Kevin: To be honest, I feel over it all. I’m not ready for more and I think it’s time for a break from the MCU.

Somehow I felt more satisfied after Infinity War than I do after Endgame. And yet I feel more alone in that opinion than Tony Stark felt when he was lost and adrift in space. At least he had Nebula! Where is my Nebula?

How about you Jesse? Are you satisfied and ready for more? Did I hear you sniffling during 90% of the movie? Or was that someone else?

Jesse: That was definitely the people sitting behind me who were sobbing for 90 percent of the runtime. I was only shedding tears for 20 or 30 percent. I forget the exact percentage.

First off, I’d like to ask for a moment of silence for your Marvel movie enthusiasm. 18-year old me would have been shocked to know that eventually one of us would tire of seeing our favorite heroes on the big screen. That moment of silence starts now…

…thank you.

Current me is not at all surprised that you feel that way, because on one hand I don’t feel too differently. Endgame was the perfect conclusion for me. If Marvel decided that they had no more stories to tell and that this was their last movie, I would’ve been just fine with that. 22 films covering one saga is more than enough for me whenever I need my superhero fix.

But Endgame just became the second-highest grossing movie of all-time. It’s made $2.188 billion worldwide in just 11 days. Marvel isn’t hopping off of this gravy train anytime soon, if ever, so you’d better brace yourself for another 20-plus films. They’re coming whether we’re ready or not.

And I’m fine with that too. There are enough characters I’d like to see introduced to the MCU to keep my interest for the time-being. Check back when I’m 40 and I’m the only one still buying blu-ray copies of every Marvel movie. But before we dive into the future, let’s talk about that ending. What made you more content after Infinity War than Endgame? Was it the villain winning for a change in the former or the fact that our heroes undid everything that happened and it only cost them a few of their top heroes to do it in the latter?

Kevin: I think I’m bothered because it’s (Endgame) a flawed film. There’s plot holes, questionable decisions, and general fatigue. And I suppose I should have expected those things as the filmmakers had a huge plane to land. But I’m trying to separate those feelings of disappointment with my respect and awe that we are even in a world that has a 22 movie epic saga. But no one seems to want to admit that the movie itself was pretty flimsy. And I don’t think it will hold up when we look back at the film in a few years once all the hype dies down.

The best way I can describe my feelings is through the box office. You mentioned that Endgame is creeping up to dethrone Avatar as the biggest blockbuster of all time. But what do you think about when you think about Avatar? I bet it’s somewhere along the lines of, “well that was fun but what a flawed movie” and not “a cinematic masterpiece that deserves all the money”. It’s actually pretty shocking looking back that a film with a standard premise and script was able to set a record that lasted over a decade. It was the epitome of a cultural event. Everyone saw Avatar because everyone was seeing Avatar. It was billed the future of cinema, the epic start to a new world, an event that must be experienced.

Endgame shares similar qualities. The only real difference is it’s the END of an epic chapter of cinema history. It’s pure hype but this time it’s created on the back of 22 movies instead of Avatar which came in and dominated on its own. In both situations though, hype was the driving factor and, much like how Avatar is looked back with mediocrity, I feel like Endgame will get the same treatment as the years go on.

Don’t get me wrong, there are moments I loved in the movie. But I can narrow it down to very small number and I’m struggling to come up with more. A few of the time travel scenes and Iron Man’s ending come to mind and not much else.

What do you think about the similarities between Avatar and Endgame? Do you think Endgame will fall victim to the Avatar hype curse and not live up to its hype in a decade? And what moments am I overlooking as I search for things to love about the movie?

Jesse: I would say that Avatar was more of a phenomenon because that was the advent of films being widely released in 3D. As you said, it was hyped as a must-see experience because it was the future of cinema. Theaters worldwide could finally put all their flashy new screens to good use and Avatar more or less delivered on that hype because it was actually filmed with 3D cameras. It was a one-of-a-kind visual spectacle. Once it was removed from that environment, Avatar was just another cool-looking film with a cliché story and wooden characters. It didn’t have a lot going for it anymore and movies that tried to capitalize on its success wound up failing because they didn’t properly utilize the technology and tried to reel in audiences on the 3D gimmick alone (plus they didn’t have James Cameron to help them).

Endgame faces a separate dilemma. Marvel spent over a decade building up to the final showdown with Thanos. They successfully adapted characters that we grew very attached to and always left us wanting more. Sure, there are some MCU films that I could do without (still looking at you, Thor: The Dark World, and since you are sitting there on my shelf, I mean that literally and figuratively), but from an entertainment perspective they’ve mostly delivered the goods. Throw in the fact that Infinity War was a damn good movie and that it ended on the ultimate cliffhanger, and I think that made people genuinely invested in what was going to happen next. You’ll always have a portion of your audience that shows up simply because they want to know what all the fuss is about, and yet I don’t think that’s why Endgame was breaking records left and right. Marvel earned the trust of its fans by delivering quality products and that made this climatic chapter a legitimate must-see event.

But how will it hold up in 10 years now that we all know how it ends? I have no idea. I don’t believe it will go the way of Avatar because it isn’t reliant on special technology to maximize its appeal, and I’m sure that I will still enjoy it, but four years ago I declared that the first Avengers movie was the very best installment that the MCU had to offer: now I don’t think it even cracks my top five. Films are constantly in flux in terms of how we perceive them and how they hold up against their contemporaries, and the ones that follow them.

I did love Endgame though. I loved that Tony’s story came full-circle. I loved that Cap peacefully exited the fight and used time travel to quietly live a normal life with Peggy (although it makes his brief romance with her niece even more cringe-worthy than it already was), I enjoyed the callbacks to earlier MCU films and as usual, the jokes were mostly on point. Fat, drunk Thor in particular was a riot. I loved the somber beginning, where our heroes’ quest to immediately undo Thanos’ snap was another failure and we got to see the consequences and fallout of 50 percent of living creatures being exterminated. And of course, the final battle with all of the remaining characters and returning characters taking on Thanos and his army was a nerdgasm to the highest degree.

But you’re right, Kevin. This is a flawed movie. I want to hear more about your gripes and if I’ve pointed anything out that you overlooked on your list of moments you loved. (Also, all this talk about Avatar makes me curious to take a trip back to Pandora and see if it really is as overrated as we think it is. That might come in a future post.)

Kevin: Well my biggest gripe has to do with Hawkeye. For some reason I’m not that connected to the character and yet here he was as a major focal point of the biggest Marvel movie ever. It’s like the Russo brothers heard the internet complain that he wasn’t in Infinty War and decided to feature him.

I enjoyed the opening scene of his family turning to dust. I thought it was an appropriate way to remind everyone of the serious impact Thanos had. Although it did feel like a post credits scene just dropped in the beginning but I think it mostly worked.

What I didn’t like was, and maybe I need a rewatch, how important he was overall. Why was it Black Widow and Hawkeye who went to retrieve the soul stone together? Are they really that connected? I mean, any more so than any of the other Avengers? It felt like an odd choice (and also they should have known one of them had to die, Nebula knew what happened to Gamora and I think she would have told them). And their little sacrificial fight didn’t make me emotional. It made me mad because I didn’t care that much about Hawkeye.

Maybe this is a personal issue. Maybe I’ve overlooked his impact in the MCU but I wasn’t invested. I didn’t care and it took a lot of the air out of the movie for me.

And don’t even get me started on the “we are making our own rules for time travel and then breaking them and not explaining anything” plot holes of the movie. I’m holding that back because arguing about plot holes is reductive.

I will complain about Steve Rodgers leaving the Avengers to go back in time though. He deserved the break for sure but I just don’t believe he would stop being Captain America even if he believes in Falcon and Bucky.

Honesty the only persons story I’m happy with how it ended was Iron Man’s.

Now Jesse. Please tell me how wrong I am about Hawkeye and my complaint.

Jesse: I’d hope that you know I have more respect for your opinion than to just come out and say that you’re wrong. I’m totally with you on it not making any sense for Nebula to withhold info on how to retrieve the Soul Stone. If they knew about that ahead of time, maybe they could’ve found a loophole in that “soul for a soul” theory. Also, we’re really going to pass on an opportunity to put Cap and Red Skull on screen together again? That was a letdown for me.

Now, the Hawkeye argument is tricky because he absolutely should have been in this movie. He’s one of the OG Avengers after all and even if he’s your least favorite, he’s still part of the team. That’s more or less how I feel about Mason Plumlee on the Nuggets. I guess the question is what else do you do with Hawkeye if you don’t have him retrieve the stone with Natasha? I’m on-board with their connection because it’s the one thing they’ve established about Hawkeye in each movie he’s appeared in: he and Natasha have an understanding of one another due to their shared history, and that makes their friendship a little tighter than the other Avengers. I felt that the moment before Natasha’s death was earned, but if you don’t give a shit about Hawkeye and are annoyed that he made it over Black Widow? I could absolutely see how that moment might fall flat for you. I also know that your celebrity crush is Scarlett Johansson, so it was probably just deflating to see her character bite the dust.

I think Cap’s exit had a little more to do with Tony’s death than he let on. Sure, he believes in Falcon and Bucky to carry on without him (which I’m pretty sure is going to be a series on Disney+, so now they’re going to start hitting us on the streaming front too), but Tony gave his life to save everyone from Thanos. Maybe Cap felt he wouldn’t be doing his friend’s sacrifice justice if he didn’t try and live a normal life for a change. That could just be conjecture on my part, but that’s what I got out of it.

So I think we’ve established that we felt differently about Endgame, but where does Thanos rank now in terms of comic book movie villains? And what could the MCU do in the future to get you excited again, Kevin? Would a Spider-Man/X-Men crossover do the trick or are you still hoping that one day Howard the Duck will get his chance to shine?

Kevin: Okay, fair points. I think I should rewatch some of the Avengers to reassess my understanding of Hawkeye’s importance. And your point of Cap helps alleviate my concerns that he would abandon the future of the world (however I still found his ending more cheesy and ‘cute’ than satisfying).

As for Thanos, I have to give two separate grades because we essentially had two separate Thanos. Infinity War Thanos is the number one MCU villain without a doubt (Loki doesn’t count because he’s too likeable and more of a pain in the ass).

Why is he number one? He stole the show in Infinity War, a movie without 10,000 stars. He had a philosophy behind his plan. He had a vision (not the Android dude). He had history and roots. And he succeeded. Fully, 100% succeeded.

Think about it, when he died shortly after retiring, he died being accomplished. He wiped out half the universe. He defeated the Avengers. And he managed to leave an impact for the rest of the universe’s time. All the other stuff, the reversal of the snap, didn’t happen on his watch. And the good guys had to jump through crazy time traveling hoops to get everything (and lose other things) back.

The dude was basically the Warriors of the MCU. He dominated and his domination was held for a long time. He changed the game.

Now Thanos from 2014 in Endgame in the year 2024? Pfft, that dude barely registers on my rankings. For real, he crashes through the time vortex to bring back a bunch of generic bad guys from the past? No thanks. It felt like generic Thor villain-ry.

It’s weird because like I alluded to earlier I almost felt more settled with the “ending” of Thanos being killed after succeeding in his plan. Like I subscribe to that story and ignore the absurd comic book esque ending of time travel and alternate dimensions and happy endings. Maybe that speaks to how little I’ve read the source material. Because these plot tools that seem disingenuous to me are pretty standard comic book motifs. I’m battling to explain that I enjoy a fictional world filled with gods, super soldiers, and talking raccoons but I can’t enjoy time travel and alternate dimensions. They should go hand in hand but I feel like the latter just cheapens the meaning of everything.

And that leads to me wondering when I will jump back on board with excitement for the MCU. I feel worn out right now and it’s partially due to my knowledge of what’s in the pipeline. We know we have more Spidey, more Guardians and Black Panther. We know we have more new superhero’s that some of us have never heard of. We know that Disney has taken over the world and will soon have seasons and seasons of every sidekick and 2nd tier superhero. We know Disney will introduce the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. And we also know that someway, somehow, Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans will come back in some capacity (even if it’s only a minor cameo in an alternate universe of an episode of Nebula and War Machine’s Excellent Adventure).

I guess you could say I’m feeling overwhelmed by the meaninglessness of it all. We had finally hit a peak and live in a world full of superheroes and while everyone is celebrating, I’m starting to turn away. Because I don’t see an end in sight. And even if there was one, they would just have the Avengers travel back in time to undo everything again.

This is all a simple way to say, we both know I’ll be watching Spider-Man: Far From Home the day it hits theaters. Because I’ll be chasing that elusive high that the MCU used to give me and still gives every one else.

Jesse: We live for the chase, my friend. That’s why I’ll be right there with you when Far From Home comes out. I mean, not literally because you went back to Cleveland after we saw Endgame, which means I only have about 11 years to go before we see another MCU movie together. I’m calling it right now: you’ll still have all of your hair and I’ll be bald.

I do find the name Endgame somewhat ironic, because of course there is no end to this cinematic universe as long as people like Kevin and I keep paying to see its movies. Will we ever get so exhausted that we finally stop going? It’s doubtful. And if either of us ever have kids, they’ll grow up in a world where having all of these superhero films has always been the norm. It’s crazy to think about.

But before I go off too deeply into a tangent, let’s wrap things up by saying that Endgame was an incredibly ambitious effort and that all of the cast and crew who worked on this monstrosity are to be commended. The same goes for all the talented folks who made the MCU what it is today. And even though Kevin and I may feel differently about Endgame’s qualities as a film and a film alone, we appreciate what it set out to do: inspire us and people all over the world.

We see you, MCU, and we’ll keep writing and you’ll keep making movies. That’s really how this whole thing started anyway.

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