“Avengers Endgame” is three slow hours of fun and sorrow

Summary: Endgame was an interesting film for reviewers to watch. Otherwise it would have been a waste of time. Disney will feed us junk entertainment so long as we buy it.

Avengers: Endgame

At the end, I and many in the audience had one complaint about Endgame: it was slow. Fan fiction slow, 3 long hours. Since a time machine is its deus ex machina, the producers should have used it to fix this flaw: send themselves this paragraph from Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film.

“The first test screening of “Young Frankenstein” was a disaster. The movie ran well over two hours, and the audience was restless. Brooks told them: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve just seen a two-hour-and-22-minute failure. In less than three weeks, I want you back here to see a 95-minute smash-hit movie.’ The director then locked himself in the editing room and pared every scene until the movie clocked in at 90 minutes. And the audience loved it.”

About that use of time travel – Louisa at Screen Zealots nails it.

“I’ll wager that half the adults in the audience will be confused by the inconsistencies of the varied time travel explanations. …They’re the two most dreaded words in a blockbuster movie that’s written itself into a corner: time travel. Can’t figure out a solid ending? Go the cheap ‘let’s go back and rewrite history by transporting ourselves through the space – time continuum’ route. The film plays with time in a way that is less fanboy fun and more lazy storytelling. It’s so similar to the Star Trek reboot and Back to the Future that it feels like a cop-out rather than a well thought out solution to the Thanos puzzle. Once again, fan theories that have peppered the internet in the last year prove to be more exciting and interesting than the actual movie.”

Much of the film did not make sense. Stories using time travel seldom do. For example, much emphasis is put on the necessity of not changing history. But important objects are shifted through time (Thor’s hammer, Cap’s shield), with no comment or consequences. Important events in the past get changed, without remark. Also, characters sent back to literally save the universe repeatedly almost wreck the mission for an opportunity to chat with a loved one.

That points to a major feature of the Marvel universe that is the opposite of the excellent season one of “Smallville”. In the Marvel films, superpowers are randomly distributed, and people usually rise to become worthy of them. That is a pleasant story for children. “Smallville” is about people receiving great powers, most of whom are either ruined or corrupted by it. The rare ability to resist both outcomes, instead standing for the community’s good, is what makes one a superhero.

On the other hand, the acting and cinematography were excellent. Writing was, as almost always the case with superhero films, the weak link. Some of the dialog was amateur-night level, like bad fan fiction.

Avengers: Endgame - Black Widow

Other comments by reviewers

Most loved it. I agreed with those who did not.

“It’s a dull, reheated hash of stale humor, over-the-top portentousness, swirled in a blender of gray CGI …”
Katie Walsh at Tribune News Service.

“the mega-franchise’s biggest fans will likely embrace the waterlogged sentimentality that pervades the entire three-hour affair.”
David Bax at Battleship Pretension.

“So even if I could muster the strength to defy studio marching orders on plot details, there is no point. There is little in Endgame that is worth spoiling, given how its core is spoiled rotten to begin with.”
Barry Hertz in the Globe and Mail.

“About two hours and 45 minutes of the three-hour running time, to be exact {is} filled to bursting with goofy one-liners, aching stares into the middle distance, and lots and lots of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey digressions.”
Keith Uhlich at Slant.

“Instead of creatively addressing the ellipsis they bunged onto the end of Infinity War …they simply hit a button marked ‘time travel.’ …It is the equal worst plot development in a superhero movie since Christopher Reeves spun the earth backwards in the original Superman. …{T}hese onerous and intellectually lazy blockbusters – which serve up plates of visual gibberish and laugh at the very idea of concepts such as narrative efficiency – prove the studio has no nadir. Nothing it won’t stoop to.”
Luke Buckmaster at Daily Review.

“Puppyish Paul Rudd’s Ant Man and Chris Evan’s Captain America indulging in the sexual objectification (“That’s America’s ass”) that #MeToo Captain Marvel won’t tolerate.”
Armond White in the National Review. I’ve never heard hetero men talking about the shape of their asses.

Also, parts of the plot are absurd or sloppy writing. I did not see an explanation to the central mystery of Dr. Strange’s actions during Infinity War, when he gave the Time Stone to Thanos. It takes Tony Stark one day to make the greatest technological leap in human history (it took even Tom Swift a few weeks to build his spaceship). The stones themselves do not do anything specific; they are pure macguffins. Thanos is defeated because he did not have superglue or a competent jeweler (a scene that was especially dumb).

The characters

Captain Marvel was crudely shoehorned into the plot, and  used only intermittently. Understandably, give the disparity in power – she is much more powerful than the entire Avengers team combined (including Hulk and Thor). It is unclear why she does not defeat Thanos by herself. The writers continue to degrade Thor from the great hero of his first film.

Captain Marvel is an example of the disparity in acting skill among the superheroes. Disney’s original crew – Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Gwyneth Paltrow – are all, probably by luck, awesome. The next generation, not so much. Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) appears like a block of wood when playing with the others. Paltrow had a few minutes of screen time and made a bigger impression on me than others that had much more.

This creates a serious problem for Disney. Endgame was the transition of their superhero franchise to a new generation of stars. They are not of the same quality. Combined with the big deterioration of writing quality, this suggests a big drop in their profits. Studios have forgotten how to do other genres profitably. They are hooked on superhero flicks like an unemployed steelworker on fentanyl. This might not end well for them.

Avengers: Endgame - Captain Marvel

About grief after disasters

Much of the film shows the people of Earth traumatized by the loss of half its people. Lots of moping and therapy. The writers seem unaware that such calamities have occurred throughout history. The Plague of Justinian killed an estimated 40% of Constantinople’s population in the first round, perhaps the equivalent of half the area’s population in a century, and 1/8 to 1/4 of the world’s population over two centuries (concentrated in the eastern Mediterranean). Regions have been almost totally destroyed by natural disasters. Those people did not mope around. Life went on.

Why do we love these superhero films?

Look through the old classic films. They tell stories about our lives, even if magnified on the big silver screen. Films like Endgame are the equivalent of empty calories. They are opiates, giving a quick thrill but nothing else. My guess is that these will not age well. Our kids will watch most of them, baffled at why we found them interesting.

Posts about our addiction to films about superheroes

  1. Are our film heroes leading us to the future, or signaling despair?
  2. We like superheroes because we’re weak. Let’s use other myths to become strong.
  3. We need better heroes. They are there, in our past.
  4. Where we can find the inspiration to fix America?

For more information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all film reviews, reviews of films about DC comics, posts about heroes, and especially these …

  1. “Justice League” is the film we need, not the one we deserve.
  2. “Black Panther” will be the most interesting film of 2018.
  3. “Avengers: Infinity War” is boring. Watch some anime instead.
  4. Aquaman rocks. Also, the future of superhero flicks.
  5. Alita, the Battle Angel, fights her feminist critics.
  6. Captain Marvel – fun for kids, swill for adults.
  7. SHAZAM! It’s fun indoctrination for kids.

Trailer for Avenger’s Endgame

10 thoughts on ““Avengers Endgame” is three slow hours of fun and sorrow

  1. I’m not watching it. May see Alita Battle Angel because my daughter is a manga fan.

    When I read the hype concerning demand for Avengers, I thought how empty and desperate the crowds are for fantasy and fantastic heroes.

    I’m with you 100% concerning Disney.

  2. “Also, characters sent back to literally save the universe repeatedly almost wreck the mission for an opportunity to chat with a loved one.”

    That is my pet peeve in so many movies!
    At the moment when “everything is at stake” – you know, that larger world that you and the loved one count on for existence – everybody else’s lives become expendable while they work through relationship baggage.

    It happens in TV too.

    It’s a really bad narrative problem … so much so that it starts to be like propaganda.

  3. The lead female character has a hard, obstinate, self-righteous look on her face. I’ve noticed young women emulating this attitude more and more. Propaganda works. I don’t want any of my boys ending up with a woman like this, though that may be all that’s left.

    I haven’t been to the movies more than once this past decade. I saw the movies in the previous decades and the new ones are all re-runs so I feel like I’ve still seen them all.

  4. I just just finally watched Infinity War, and I’m torn–watch this at the theater, because seeing the special effects on the big screen is about the only reason to bother, or save my money and experience the narrative disappointment on the small screen later.

    Are there any decent fight scenes in Endgame, at least? Infinity War was a huge disappointment for me on that score. A shame, since Starlin’s ‘Infinity Quest” showed Thanos pulling all sorts of cool stunts with each stone as he got it. It’s not like they didn’t have good source material to rip off.

    Your statement that the Dr. Strange strategem of ‘give him the stones’ gets no payoff reduces my desire to see this latest outing to almost zero. I felt like if I had the time stone I would have 1) told Thor to aim for the head, 2) found a way to put Star Lord out of action for the whole film. Problem solved. The resolving personal conflicts while saving the universe stuff is insufferable.

    I think I’ll go re-read Gaiman’s “Eternals” mini from about 10 years back, far better than any of than any of the Infinity War related films….

    Hopefully, Game of Thrones will have a better conclusion than the end of Marvel phase one.

    1. Chistopher,

      “Are there any decent fight scenes in Endgame, at least?”

      No. The big big battle at the end was a chaotic blur, with every superhero given his or her 15 seconds. The disparity of their powers makes the scene ludicrous.

      “Thanos pulling all sorts of cool stunts with each stone as he got it.”

      In Endgame, like Infinity War, the stones are macguffins. Never used as individual tools. People just shoot lightning or beams (in different colors) from their hands or weapons. This continues the lack of imagination shown in Dr. Strange, where magic means using swords and shields. The immense array of magic attacks and defenses in the comic never appear.

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