There are two different ways to approach Endgame. My first viewing, in IMAX 3D, was without knowledge, loaded with years of anticipation, and awaiting the resolution from Infinity War. I even fed the beast (both times) but rewatching the previous movies to capture every small thread. Yes, I was a geek… and no I was not disappointed. As the culmination of all the films and storylines, it is an emotional powerhouse and fully satisfying, while leaving openings for a way forward. In short, it is near perfect for its purpose (and $2 billion in world-wide earnings after two weekends in release speaks volumes as to how it is connecting with audiences).
Then there is the question of just how good is it as a movie. The answer isn’t as straight-forward. My second viewing was in standard 2D and it allowed for a bit of distance as the wow-factor was dialed back. It is a tightly constructed three hours. Episodic, but juggling all the threads to bring us to the finale. The character journeys are complex and, mostly, well executed (with some minor clunking moments as it finds its feet at the top and at the end). Avengers movies always had the challenge of meshing the many styles of the character stories to create a harmonious tune. Part of the fun, of course, is seeing characters with wildly different approaches to the world clash in action and in humor. Pulling off that kind of scope and story without losing your audience is truly a credit to the directors’ and writers’ craft. During the three+ hours, I saw maybe eight people go out for the bathroom out of two packed theaters. Scientific? No, but certainly indicative!
But the movie, as I recognized the first time around, doesn’t stand on its own. There is almost no movie in the full cycle that you could drop and not lose meaning from this concluding chapter. Endgame is exactly that, a final payoff, a gift, to the loyalists and interested. It is the last book in a series, the series finale of a beloved show. No matter how well constructed, it isn’t a great movie on its own. I won’t even get into the details of the plot (which will be divisive for decades to come) as therein lies madness. I will grant the writers, yet again, the tip of my hat for at least not making any of the moments easy for the characters, even if they went to one of the cheapest solutions in the writers’ handbook. And even if it will cause all manner of issues for the MCU down the road.
I am sure I will rewatch Endgame many times over the years…though I’m also sure it will always be as part of a marathon of some sort. And that’s fine. I’ve done the same with Buffy, Angel, Babylon 5, Lord of the Rings, even some of the Treks. But the hyperbole of Best Picture I’ve started to hear, given Black Panther’s run last year, is somewhat misguided and isn’t really looking with clear eyes. There is nothing wrong with being honestly and completely entertaining, nor with paying off a bucket of storylines with aplomb. Endgame is exactly what it needed to be. The first viewing of it is powerful (and do make one of your viewings in IMAX…it was filmed that way and it is completely worth the ticket). Rewatching is just, simply, fun seeing all the pieces getting laid out and put together…with all the humor and action we’ve learned to expect over 11 years.
And, also honestly as many have been whispering for fear of reprisal, don’t look at it too hard. Let the adventure and ideas sweep you away. Squint through the silliness. Close your mind to the potential paradoxes. Near as I can figure, they haven’t shattered anything we are sure we knew, though they may have explained some of what we thought we knew. But I’m purposefully not trying to dissect it as it works so well on an endocrine level that I just don’t want to care. At least not yet.