Avengers Endgame – SPOILER TALK

Avengers Endgame is an incredible achievement. Movies have never even attempted this, and this review will ruin the film for you. Do not read on if you have not seen the film, unless you just really don’t care about spoilers I guess. I am going to talk through my favourite moments from the film, basically recapping it and how I felt when it happened. I am sure this is going to descend into me just gushing about what happened, but here goes;

Starting out with Hawkeye is something I had actually read speculation on just a week before, and the way it plays out is a really gut-wrenching moment. Having been set up in Age of Ultron as a family man, he is spending time with his family, helping his daughter practice with a bow and arrow. Then he loses them all. His wife, daughter and two sons are dusted with him completely clueless as to what is happening. Answering any questions we had about what transformed Clint into the brutal ninja Ronin, who is carving up thugs in Tokyo when we catch up to him next.

There are easy questions you can ask throughout this film, but honestly you can make up your own answers in your head for the majority, like “How did Captain Marvel know where Tony Stark and Nebula were stranded?” They sent out a distress beacon, there. I don’t know, the film doesn’t attempt to explain it and it doesn’t need to because the point is to get Tony Stark and Cap back together, to try and figure out what they can do. There are shades of Iron Man 3 here, with Tony a withered, angry, defeated man who is all out of ideas. Robert Downey Jr really does deliver some of the best acting in the whole film in these scenes and you really feel his frustration and the weight of what they have lost.

This is when the movie decides to deliver its first real surprise blow, by straight up beheading Thanos in the opening 20 minutes of the film. It’s a bold choice, and executed brilliantly. It essentially means 99% of the trailers we saw are from this opening salvo, leaving us two and a half hours of movie with very little ideas about what is going to happen. Thanos’ destroying the stones is a great twist, something I hadn’t expected. Captain Marvel shows off her power, and Thor aiming for the head at last really got a pop of shock from the audience. It’s a brutally violent moment, but it’s justified when you think about the events that took place at the end of Infinity War.

The “How” of Antman’s return from the quantum realm is a little bit silly, but I think in a movie with a 3 hour run time its easy enough to forgive and forget that. Once he is back and learns of the dusting, after an emotional reuniting with his daughter that is the first sign of sniffles in most theatres, he goes straight to the avengers and this is the first time when you have to have done your homework and watched Antman and the Wasp. That film sets up, with a single line from Michelle Pfeiffer, that time works differently in the quantum realm and Scott confirming that to Steve Rogers and the rest of the avengers. The first reference to a Time Machine made me smile, because I was not convinced they would actually do it. But wow did they.

The first act is a lot of talking and set up, but after 21 other films we are so into these characters it all works. Imagine this being the first avengers film, it would feel way too slow, and the conversations wouldn’t hold any weight. The next huge pop in the cinema was for Hulk, who is now a combination of Hulk and Bruce banner. Huge and green, but with the intellect and voice of Bruce. It’s an awesome reference to the comics and the old animated show I used to love and the idea that he is now a kind of celebrity that poses for selfies is brilliant.

And then we go to New Asgard, and one of my favourite scenes in the whole film. Thor, despondent from what he perceives as his mistake that cost the lives of half a universe, has gotten fat. He hangs out with Ragnarok favourites Korg and Meek playing Fortnite. It’s hilarious and the fact they committed to him being Fat Thor (Fhor from this point on) for the entire film is just genius. I thought when he goes into battle and has both Mjolnir and Stormbreaker he would become Buff Hemsworth but no, I can finally say, after years of hard work, I have the same body as Thor.

The time-heist portion of the film is some of the most self-congratulatory victory lap stuff imaginable, and I lapped up every second with a huge grin on my face. Not only do the run us through the events of previous films, even Thor The Dark World, but they play with the scenes we know and love and deliver even more awesome moments. Everything in the 2012 New York is brilliant, from future Banners encounter with Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One from Dr Strange, to 2012 hulks anger at having to take the stairs. Iron Man and Antman fail after Scott defends Steve Rogers’ tight buns, Loki gets away with the Tesseract, setting up his new TV series, and Captain America gets the first of his numerous brilliant moments.

Stepping into a lift filled with hydra agents exactly like he did in The Winter Soldier. In that scene from a few years ago, he kicks everyone ass in a breathtakingly cool action scene. I fully expected them to repeat that, but no. He announces he is taking point on this one. Then when everyone is uncomfortably shifting and getting ready to throw down, he leans over to whisper “Hail Hydra”. This moment is an incredible pay off for the entire Winter Soldier film, and a brilliant reference to a very controversial comic line. To follow this up with him walking straight into 2012 Captain America is a stroke of absolute genius, and the fight ends with Steve confirming that it is indeed America’s ass.

Clint and Natasha’s trip to Volmir is a part of the movie I didn’t think I would really enjoy. If I’d have known it existed before viewing the film, I’d have picked this as prime toilet break territory. In actual fact, it’s a brilliant acted and choreographed scene that results in a shock, as Natasha sacrifices herself to save her best friend and let him see his family again. The fact that I and everyone in the cinema gave a crap about Hawkeye and Black Widow is testament to the brilliant world Marvel has built.

After a detour to the 1970’s for a few cameos from a young Howard Stark, Caps love Peggy Carter, a de-aged Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, and of course the man who created these characters, Stan Lee, they have all the stones. Another bit of plot convenience when Tony’s iron man technology can handle the power of the stones has to be ignored again here, considering Thanos had to get dwarves to make the gauntlet from the heart of a dying star. That minor point aside, Hulk takes the gauntlet, being the only one close to Thanos’ power and therefore able to use the stones without dying, and snaps to try and bring back everyone who got dusted at the end of the last film.

Job Done. Let’s all go home.

Actually no, let’s have the most incredible hour of cinema I have ever witnessed.

Nebula, whose robotic parts meant Thanos in 2014 found out about the plan, has been replaced by the evil Nebula from that time period. She brings Thanos and his entire giant ship through time from 2014 to the future. Just after the avengers realise the Hulk snap worked as Clint is on the phone to his previously dead wife, Thanos’ absolutely fucks their day up with artillery fire all over the base. It is carpet bombed into a devastated mess. Conveniently again, nobody is fatally wounded, but everyone is in different levels of peril.

The avengers are scattered about, Rocket Rhodey and Hulk are pinned under a load of rubble with water rising. Hawkeye awakes with Gauntlet, stones and all, just feet away, and a load of enemies on his tail. Iron man, Cap and Fhor find each other, and all three of them confront Thanos, who has been sitting, thinking about the victory his future self achieved, and planning how to improve on that. He settles on the idea that the balancing of the universe can never work whilst there are still those who remember what there was before. He wants to snap everyone out of existence, and create a new universe that doesn’t know any different.

Of course, we can’t be having that, and the three heroes charge at Thanos. This fight is epic, and it just consistently builds. Thanos, without any stones backing him up, is comfortable fighting 3 very powerful avengers. He knocks out Iron Man, throws Cap aside, and goes toe to toe with Fhor, armed with both Stormbreaker and Mjolnir. Thanos manages to make him drop Mjolnir in the dirt, and gets hold of Stormbreaker, pushing it into Fhor’s chest.

Then the Hammer lifts off the dirt, and smacks Thanos onto his (Antman free) Anus. Mjolnir then returns to the right hand of none of than Captain fucking America. This moment for the loudest cheer I have ever witnessed in a UK cinema. This moment put a huge smile on my face, as it confirms to me my theory that Cap could have picked it up in Age of Ultron, but chose not to, because he didn’t want to take it away from Thor. Cap then proceeds to deliver an ass whooping to Thanos with his shield and Mjolnir, only to be disarmed of the hammer. He then battles Thanos, a man who beat the hulk in a one on one fight, and his shield gets smashed again and again, eventually being shattered down to just half of the shield we recognise before he is hit back 30 feet and he lies there.

Thanos starts monologuing, like any good villain, but of course a beaten down Cap just pulls himself back up to his feet, tightens the half a shield around his arm, and stands to face Thanos and his entire army. This is when I come the closest I ever have to crying tears of happiness. That crackle of a radio and Sam Wilson’s voice bursts through. “On Your Left”, right on cue we see the familiar fizzle of sparks from a certain sorcerer’s portal. Remember just before this fight, when Hulk snapped and brought back all our dusted heroes? Well here they are. More and more portals open up, more and more familiar characters; every one of them gets a cheer from the audience. Cap stands at the front, and for the final time in the MCU, he says “Avengers Assemble”.

It’s ridiculous, cheesy, and incredibly geeky. But this whole fight scene is just so perfect. We get characters we have never seen interact fighting side by side. Everyone gets a moment, and then as Scarlet Witch is about to pull Thanos into bite size chunks, he calls for another carpet bombing of the area, showing again his ruthlessness to achieve his goals as he kills half his own army by doing this.

The guns turning up to fire at something else threw me off I have to be honest. I was worried/excited for a second something like the Silver Surfer was going to turn up, but no, it’s the newest member of the MCU, and by far the most over powered, Captain Marvel. She takes out the giant ship with ease. After more fighting, Thanos eventually gets the gauntlet back on his hand, and as he is about to snap, Carol is there again to stop him. There is an awesome moment when he head butts her, a tried and tested technique for dealing with avengers, but she doesn’t move an inch.

There’s another moment here when I was worried they was going to have her beat Thanos with ease, and that would have been a bit of an cheap victory for me. As it is, he grabs the power stone and punches her miles away. It isn’t going to be her. He puts the stone back in the glove, but Tony Stark is right there to try and stop him, grabbing onto the gauntlet seemingly trying to take it off. He doesn’t do it. Thanos throws him aside, says “I am Inevitable”, before snapping his fingers.

Thanos snapped, but he didn’t have the infinity stones, ya boy Tony Stark has them. He looks Thanos dead in the eye, and the final line we see Tony say in the MCU whilst alive is “I. Am. Iron Man.”. This moment is stupid. It’s about as subtle as a brick in the face. Its fan service at its most obvious. And it works completely perfectly because Marvel earned it. Eleven years ago Iron Man launched this franchise, a series of films that all led to this moment. To Tony Stark sacrificing his life to save everyone.

That sacrifice would be a fitting end, but the film then goes onto give another MCU stalwart a fitting send of in another way. Chris Evans made Captain America an interesting character, and as I said he has some incredible moments in this film. The end of this whole 11 year saga isn’t the death of Tony Stark, as emotionally fulfilling as that is. It’s the passing of the torch, or should I say Shield. The character of Steve Rogers has always been a man out of time, a man who doesn’t fit in the world. So once he has returned the Infinity stones to the times they got them back from, he doesn’t come back to the modern day. He goes back and gets that dance with Peggy, a call back to the final line of his own debut film.

None of this film really works without the other 21 films before it. 11 years ago Marvel stopped treating comic book movies like kids films, and decided to play the long game. The Dark Knight might be the greatest individual Superhero based film, but even that masterpiece can’t compete with the MCU anymore. This saga has surpassed anything in cinematic history. Last year it delivered the Empire Strikes Back for a new generation, with Thanos Winning. This year, it went beyond “Return of the Jedi” or even “Return of the King” and delivered the most satisfying end to a franchise ever.

What is even more incredible is that while this is a definite end to one story, it leaves the door wide open for countless more. It shouldn’t have been possible, but Marvel did it.

And they could do this all day.

Think that last line is too much? Yeah it felt like too much to me too.

SPOILER FREE – Avengers Endgame Review

10 years, 21 films, over 38 hours of cinema. All of that in an effort to set up one film. That film is Avengers Endgame and the fact this even exists is enough to put a smile on my face. Did Marvel actually manage to land this incredible, decade long journey?

It kind of goes without saying at this point, but you should not watch this film without doing your homework. Without the supporting 21 films, this really doesn’t work at all. However this film does have the 21 supporting films it needs to be able to tell the finale of a story its audience is completely invested in. Characters we have loved for 10 years, with nearly all the same actors in the roles (Terrence Howard must be kicking himself) allow this movie to forego with setting up the protagonists. Last year’s epic Infinity War set up Thanos, and paid off on the promise of his looming presence over 10 years with a simple snap of the fingers.

So, all the characters are people we know and love, allowing Endgame to just be all action three hour romp right? Well, no it doesn’t. Endgame starts quick, and then kind of slows down to a brisk walk as it sets up the events of the film. I am being as vague as I can, as there is so much that could be spoiled. The first two acts are a slow build, very much like a piece of music. It puts into place all the elements needed before breaking out into a breathtaking crescendo that lasts an hour and will make nerds happier than when they have their first child.

The actors we have watched for 10 years are all excellent. Chris Evans consistently portrays Steve Rogers perfectly, and believably, although he shouldn’t have shaved that beard. Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson are all great and all get their moments to shine in ways we haven’t necessarily seen before. Top of the performances for me though are split between 4 people. Robert Downey Jr is of course amazing as Tony Stark, he started all this and is maybe the most accurate casting in history.

Less expected, at least to me, was Paul Rudd as Ant Man, he is genuinely funny, and also seems to have that giddy excitement about being an Avenger. Jeremy Renner returns as Hawkeye, and he is given more to do and a better arc than any of his previous outings. The biggest surprise of all though is Karen Gillan, as daughter of Thanos, Nebula. She has been an odd, very one note character throughout, but for some reason in this film I got it. The character makes sense more than she ever has during this film and she is slowly becoming more human the more time she spends around the heroes.

There isn’t much I can talk about in this spoiler free review, except to say that I was hooked for 3 hours, and I felt incredibly satisfied with the ending. This is much less like a film, and more like the finale of an epic TV series. One with 22 feature length episodes, and more characters that you care about than most TV shows. If you are a Marvel fan, you are in for a great end to the “Infinity Saga” that started 10 years ago. This is an impossible film that works, and pays off a decade of hype in a satisfying way.

Good: Marvel fans will adore this film, and it will bring some nerds to tears, whether that Joyous or Sad tears I will let you decide.

Bad: As a standalone movie watched on its own, it makes very little sense, but nobody should go into any franchise at episode 22.

9/10 – They did it. Again. 

 

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 16-20

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. Doing all 21 films at once is madness, so I’m breaking into four and this week is the bottom of the barrel. The worst the MCU has coughed up. You will notice from the title I am only ranking 20 movies, not the full 21. That is because I am leaving out Avengers Infinity War, as in a lot of ways that and Endgame are two halves of one whole and also because it would be No 1 easily, but only because of the groundwork done by the previous 20. So here goes, bottom of the list:

This post contains spoilers for every film, some major, some minor, so reader beware!

20 – Thor: The Dark World

There’s only one film I think could take this spot, and it’s a film nearly everyone agrees is “meh” at best. Taking the foundations of the first film and making Thor an even less relatable character was an odd choice, and that for me is where this film falls down. There’s also the forced relationship between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth on top of some comedic beats that fall flat on their face.

All that being said it’s got some redeeming features, the actions exciting, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is entertaining at all times and he’s given plenty to do in this film. What I think could have been utilised more in Dark World is Thor’s companions like Lady Sif, and the Warriors three. They’re relegated to side roles and I think this could have been a better team up movie than it was, although I do wonder if we’d have got the magnificent Ragnarok, which is essentially a team up movie, without getting through this faltering effort.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World combines some of the worst elements of the MCU movies and doesn’t do enough of the good elements to keep its head above the average line. Arguably the franchise’s biggest waste of an actor is with Christopher Eccleston as one note villain Malekith is the biggest sin of all, and that pushes this film to the bottom of the MCU list for me.

19 – Thor

I can imagine some people harbour fond memories of this film, as it has a lot of fun moments, but if you go back and re-watch it, this is the most glaringly obvious evidence that marvel was still very new to this during Phase 1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into an excellent character, but here is stiff, unrelatable and at times simply unlikable. He acts like a Shakespeare character taken out of time and plonked into the real world, but he’s actually from a world that is far in advance of Earth’s technology.

I think Thor is the film that time has treated the worst in the entire franchise, as to me it feels very dated now. The character has changed and developed so much over the years that the over-confident, cocksure brute we see here just doesn’t seem like he is cut from the same cloth. As an individual film, it does work quite well, that Shakespearean thing working as a kind of genre unto itself, but it doesn’t fit the MCU as a whole for me. The actions decent, The humour lands better than in its direct sequel, and it does get credit for being a Thor film that people actually took seriously.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge this film by today’s standards, but as you will see later in the list, that doesn’t automatically put a film down the rankings. Thor is a near hit, just the right side of 5/10 compared to The Dark world. Perhaps I am being harsh, and you think this should be heralded as the introduction to debatably the MCU’s most powerful hero. I can certainly see why some people rate it, but when compared to the rest of the MCU, it just doesn’t measure up.

18 – Iron Man 2

Iron Man is, and always will be, the gateway to the MCU. His first movie (we will get to it eventually) is an astounding film, breaking new ground and putting a B list marvel character on the map. His second outing took that same character, turned down the likability a touch, upped the snarky attitude, and then let Mickey Rourke shit all over the film.

I don’t really enjoy railing on an actor or actresses performance as I genuinely believe the vast majority of them put in a decent amount effort at the very least. As Iron Man 2 villain Whiplash, I think we see an example of a role Mickey Rourke took purely because of a big pay cheque. He puts on a lazy russian accent, and delivers his lines with all the passion and gusto of a tired teacher in front of an unruly, disinterested class. The film overall is actually quite good, features some insanely cool easter eggs (Peter Parker!) and some of the best action in any of the phase 1 marvel films.

The F1 race scene is brilliant, and the suitcase armour is one of the coolest moments in the MCU. On top of that, the end fight is actually well done, with Iron man and War Machine teaming up just as they did in the TV shows I used to watch. Sam Rockwell often gets lumped in with Mickey Rourke for being the villain, but I actually think he is decent in the film, but he’s wasting his time trying to play off of Rourke’s Whiplash character. Damn this could have been brilliant. I bet Mickey wishes he took this role seriously seeing what the MCU has become.

17 – Antman and the Wasp

Okay here we are, the first of the tough decisions I had to make figuring out this list. The bottom three picked themselves, but every one of the films from here on in are movies I really enjoyed. Antman and the Wasp is a film that I think is a prime example of a modern-day MCU movie. It’s fun, it’s got clever action unique to the hero, and the villain is more promising than we experienced in Phase 1 and 2 of the MCU.

What puts it so low on this list is that I can barely remember what happened, why I cared, or if anything major happens except about 3 lines of dialogue and the after credits scene. Just 2 entries ago I mentioned how age has affected the movie, and Antman is the first entry that I think falls into the bad timing category. This film came out a few months after Infinity War. Nobody, me included, was really that invested in what Antman was doing during the events of the epic movie that released months prior.

It’s not bad, and I think repeat viewings might raise it up the rankings a little, but as it is, today, ranking the movies, This one just couldn’t spark anything in me to make it sit higher. This is essentially the benchmark for a standard MCU movie, and the next few entries aren’t necessarily better films, but it just doesn’t have that magic moment that the next few films did.

16 – Captain America: The First Avenger

This was, when it released, a film I honestly couldn’t believe I was seeing. Captain America was always something of an enigma to me. He would show up in the odd Spiderman cartoon, save the day by chucking his shield about and then leave after a cheesy, overly patriotic line about freedom. This film took that goody too shoes, near infallible character and made him feel real.

This captures the character of Captain America so well. Steve Rogers is a very good, honest and unselfish guy. I mention moments earlier, and I think that’s a theme that will continue in these mini reviews. I remember the “I can do this all day” scene, partly because of its impact in Civil war and Winter Soldier, but also because it was iconic immediately when he picks himself up off the dirt. The moment that really sells me on this film, and sold me on the entire character of Captain America, is the scene with the “Grenade”.

Whilst discussing the potential of the men in the company, the sergeant chucks a dummy grenade to prove a point and show he should pick his preferred option. The grenade hits the floor, everyone dives away to save themselves. Steve doesn’t do that, he dives straight onto the grenade and yells for everyone to get back. In this moment, I understood what Captain America is all about. He is not just a symbol for America, he is there to save anyone he can, and will sacrifice anything to save someone else regardless of the situation. It’s a characteristic that has stuck with the character throughout 3 Avengers films and his own trilogy, given even more of a highlight by his fierce loyalty to his childhood friend Bucky.

The film actually makes a bit of a hash of the Red Skull character in my opinion, and there’s a considerable lull in the film with the montages of the war for me, but its a solid start for a character that, to me, is the centre of the best MCU films to date. Sorry Tony Stark.

So there we are, the bottom 5. Starting this list has reminded me how many good to great films Marvel has produced. Fan’s of this kind of stuff should count themselves lucky, I remember a time when X-men was as good as it got. You probably have fond memories of that film, go back and watch it now, it does not hold up. I can’t wait to go through the next 5, and from this point on its just going to be like listening to a greatest hits album of your favourite band. Thanks for reading as always.