The juggernaut of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in three phases over the last decade, ended with a crowning of the latest Avengers movie that devastated the Box Office, and brought the cinema franchising upside down. However, what are the remnants of its impact? Let’s take my point of view, as a modest little comic fan that has been overlooking the evolution of the superhero movies from the getgo.
The ‘Endgame’ story continues from where ‘Infinity War’ had left us, in a post-apocalyptic Earth, the remaining super-heroes in pieces after Thanos’s ultimate victory. After a pretty long time, a mere mouse, like a God Ex-Machina, clicks buttons on the device that had Antman trapped in the ‘Quantum Realm’, realising him. Antman then runs off to offer a solution to the remnants of the Avengers. It is but a classic ‘time travel’ solution, in order to gather the Infinity Gems (from the previous films) and use them to bring back everyone lost to the ‘Infinity War’. Naturally, the mission is going to become trivial by the anticipated ‘shenaningans’ that may happen in such an attempt, with direct references and homage to the classic ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy. Everything of course, leads to the mandatory epic final battle.
First, let’s be frank that both ‘Endgame’ and last year’s ‘Infinity War’ are parts of a whole that not only share with each other but also with all the other MCU films. It is almost impossible for someone whithout knowledge of the rest, to watch these two films, especially the last one. This is a “love letter” of a film to the true fans ( of the movies, rather than the comics). Ιn fact, any story overturn is negligible despite the humongous three hours length of the film, which underlines what was mentioned above about its target group.
It is also very easy but unfortunate to spend time nitpicking about whether the scripts, scenes and scenario development are analyzed satisfyingly. The editing and pace of the film are already problematic, given the plethora of characters, overarching and sub- story lines. As a result, the weakest point in the film is its pacing especially in the first hour, marked by a slow advancement, trying to extort the feeling of loss and despair, something already noted from the previous film, which I think was parable even for the most hardcore fans. The second hour of the film is probably the most interesting with the actual development of the script and the visit to older movies of the franchise, through the time travel. The final part, of course, with the battle and its aftermath, has gratifying action sequences, albeit the many cliché (and obviously hastly made cgi).
To be honest I was expecting a much worse result, as both the Russo brothers seemed to have put themselves amongst directorial ‘Clashing Rocks’. The same goes for writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who ultimately managed to remain faithful to the MCU’s heritage, avoided story gaps, while maintaining consistency with older films by utilizing a multitude of tropes in their narrative. Their solution was to try to attract the viewers’ attention to the central characters, the original Avengers group and leave the rest in the background with short appearances. Indeed, the result justifies the interpretations of the main actors and it is they who really manage to give an authentic feeling of completion and substantial closure to most of the arcs that had been overarching the Marvel movies. At the same time they leave open space for the continuation of the rest of the franchise. Besides, the robust character outlines are Marvel Studios’ special edge compared to other competitors in the genre.
Personally, I consider the Russos vision kind of inferior (theirs is a pretty dull direction of photography concerning the super hero genre) to the original Avengers director Joss Whedon (his moving of the lens is much more dynamic and characteristic), but I suspect that their formulaic approach, for their present endeavour, helped to avoid the worse results. I hope that Marvel’s fourth cinematic period shall be bolder in terms of creativity, especially when reminded of already existing talented directors such as James Gunn (Guardian of the Galaxy) and Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok). What role Disney is going to play in this franchise, of course, is open to interpretation.
Something I really want to stress, is what is really left for all of us, who were reading these stories long before the cinematic ‘Big Bang’. I’m sure comic fans around the world still remember the days when comics and super heroes were not mainstream and it was even a reason for one to be marginalized. From the very beginning of the comics movies becoming mainstream, we experienced a release of expression when, for example, among other things, we would no longer be the focus of strange looks when we dared to wear relative t-shirts or to read comics in public etc.
Especially here in Greece, our sub-culture is finally tolerable to society and we can search on comics much easier, while publishers are becoming more active in the field. For us, the value of the films by themselves is inconsequential, since movies are in no way comics as a creative medium and we were the first to be excited and disappointed with their various interpretations.
So, regardless I feel the need to express a little ‘thank you’ to the ‘family’ of Marvel Studios, because in their own way they offered so much to the comics community. This is what a little sound at the end of the ending credits made me think of, that made me well up with emotion. It was the sound of Robert Downey Jr.’s hammer as Tony Stark, while forging his first armor in Iron Man’s first film, closing the cycle from the Year of our Lord 2008.
PS: Thank you also to Jim Starlin for his ‘easter egg’ presence in the film, reminding me that the great creators did not become extinct with the late Stan Lee.