Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Rated PG-13, 3 hours 1 minute
I’ve long (and lovingly) referred to films in the MCU as a “soap opera for nerds.” I’m not wrong. All the things iconic daytime soap operas do with their beloved characters – playing around with death, love, villainy and heroics – Marvel does too in their own spandex-suited way. And unfortunately, they both bring characters back from dead, which means there’s no meaning attached to death sentences. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ended on powerful imagery of a whole slew of our favorite characters crumbling into dust, only to float away in the gentle breeze. But with a bunch of sequels already greenlit, some of us weren’t quite as emotionally impacted by this cliffhanger as others.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME, however, takes the expected fallout of the first film, and turns that sorrow and defeat into a thoroughly unexpected, wonderfully rousing, hope-filled feature that delivers cheers as well as chills. The deeply affecting sentiments woven through this decade-long, double-double-digit cinematic journey culminate in a way that feels earned, innovative and engaging. Not only do directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely carve nuance and dimension into the characters’ relationships, they also find these precious facets within the jaw-dropping spectacle. Servicing fandom is one thing. But when the filmmakers execute that in tangent with character drive, gravitas and pathos, it makes for a winning combination.
The sequel picks up on a changed world – one struggling to make sense of Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) wrath. Morale is at its lowest point. The Avengers have failed to do their one job – protect the universe from evil – and it’s sent them into a tailspin. In this altered reality, the heroes who survived the snap are left searching for their purpose. It unites some, like Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans), who’s leading a support group, Natasha Romanoff/ Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who’s searching for a long lost friend (going so far as to wear an arrow necklace close to her heart as a tribute), and Bruce Banner/ Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who’s reconciling his identity with a new look. For others, the heartache over personal anguish and loss of control divides them. Clint Barton/ Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) goes rogue. Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) adopts a denial-lite coping mechanism. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) numbs the pain in a harmful (but hilarious) way. Yet while the devastation looms large, their heroic calling beckons them all to undo what Thanos has done.
Outside of exploring the palpable psychological toll, there’s a good emphasis placed on moments of humanity in times of tribulation. Whether it be something small, like the simple act of compassion and encouragement through adversity, or something far greater, like irrevocable self-sacrifice, these demonstrative acts hammer home profound themes and commentary. Characterizations of these sentiments are fully realized. The denouement carries a tangible weight that burrows deep down into the head and heart.
Tonal balance is important in any film, but especially here where levity is just as much a necessity as the serious notes. None of the comedy undercuts the pressing urgency of the solemn situations. The filmmakers layer in the jokes, many of which are trusted to Hemsworth and a scattering to Ruffalo, with great craft and care. If the patterns of the previous pictures are repeated, they are given refreshing, revolutionary new meaning that propels the narrative in a wholly gratifying manner. These callbacks are buoyant and exhilarating. No moment is wasted. Even the few loose ends left waving in the wind serve as springboards for possible spin-offs.
Visually, this follow-up packs a punch. Similar to the franchise’s growth in its approach to storytelling, the aesthetics have perfectly matured. With the generic CGI and pixelated gray matter gone, the climax is easy to track and induces gasps, giggles and goosebumps a’ plenty.
In short, AVENGERS: ENDGAME will melt your face off – or, at the very least, coat it in tears.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME opens on April 26.