Endgame rewards fans by honoring their beloved heroes' beginnings and new endings

Daphnelly Delacruz | The Ticker

Daphnelly Delacruz | The Ticker

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

As the 22nd entry in a series of movies with many larger-than-life superheroes, Avengers: Endgame is a surprisingly small movie, considering its runtime of over three hours and plenty of references, cameos and storylines to tie up including the results of the events from Avengers: Infinity War , spoilers ahead, when half the universe’s population was reduced to dust.

Throughout Endgame, directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely indicate that their priority is a focus on character, not spectacle — a decision that makes Endgame one of the better Marvel movies released.

Certainly, there is plenty of spectacle to go around, but other than in the inevitable, climactic battle, the action is limited when compared to previous Marvel movies.

Endgame has a great collection of strong actors with characters who have been developed to varying degrees over the past decade. Endgame makes use of its pre-established characters and relationships in a dramatic counterpoint to the failings of Infinity War, a movie bogged down in seemingly endless action and missing its mark when it came to its Easter eggs and references.

Like Infinity War, Endgame should not be watched by viewers who haven’t seen previous Marvel films; payoffs and relationships come out of what has been shown before.

It’s the way Endgame pulls upon all these threads that makes the movie so much more valuable for fans familiar with the films.

Scenes wherein the Marvel movies give their heroes room to breathe tend to be the most compelling, more so than any displaysof superpowers could be.

Conversations and quiet moments are the real gems Marvel has to offer. Superheroes argue over lifting a magical hammer  in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Nick Fury plays with a cat in Captain Marvel, Thor and Loki bicker to no end in Thor: The Dark World and Captain America and his best friend, Bucky Barnes, share warm, sidelong glances throughout the movies.

Action, wish-fulfillment and serialized storytelling may be the supposed reasons to go see every new Marvel movie, but the small moments are the lifeblood of the series.

Aside from Endgame’s small moments being fun — Black Widow threatens to throw a peanut butter and jelly at Captain America, Hulk takes a selfie and dabs and Ant-Man loses a taco — they’re part of a story that cares about its characters.

Through lows and highs, Endgame brings a large number of characters through emotional journeys that are based on the characters they’ve been and the narrative arcs they’ve each been working through.

For example, Thor’s journey has been a rocky one. He’s lost his powers and earned them back, thought his brother was dead at least three times, lost every living member of his family and his home world and failed to kill the being that destroyed half the living things in existence.

Endgame lets him feel that pain, wallow in it, and work through his family trauma.

In Infinity War, he got a new weapon because it would be powerful. In Endgame, he retrieves his old weapon via time travel, and it’s proof of his merit; Thor remarks, “I’m still worthy.”

The line can get a laugh, but it’s also a small, touching reminder of everything Thor’s struggled through.

There are surprising moments, and the narrative itself is not along the beaten path for Marvel films — even as it retreads the steps that previous Marvel films have taken.

Ant-Man was supposedly a heist film, but it mostly stayed within the superhero genre, and Doctor Strange used time travel sparingly, but Endgame offers a “Time Heist” that returns to the times and places of previous Marvel films. It gets weird, but it also works.

The time travel is a solution to the problem of Endgame, a solution in and of itself to the problem of Infinity War.

In Infinity War, half the universe’s population was killed by the snap of the villain’s fingers and the use of six infinity stones.

Logically, all that would be needed to undo the damage would be to snap again, so Thanos, the villain, destroys the stones in Endgame.

The time travel is a somewhat ingenious way of creating a new goal that makes the solution to mass extinction less straightforward and easy — the movie shifts the focus from the snap to the heist and avoids making the viewer feel like any specific ending is a foregone conclusion.

The time travel is impressive, especially in the production team’s coordination of integrating past movies into a 2019 release.

Actors and Hulks look different by now, costumes have changed, and there are off-screen scenes that take place outside of the storytelling of the movie, but still happened. Marvel makes sure that its time travel is convincing and seamless.

Of course, more problems arise from the time travel: Is the future being affected or are alternate timelines being created? Have Marvel movies of the past been canonically changed or did they already contain the changes that were being made? 

To think and discuss the logic of Endgame’s time travel requires some circular thinking, which doesn’t always make sense.

One thing abundantly clear in Endgame is that it is out to please the fans.

While Infinity War ended on a cliffhanger, killing off fan favorites and leaving its story incomplete, Endgame gives fans 20 minutes of coda, resolving various plot threads and setting the universe up for its next phases and films.

Endgame has its crowd-pleasing moments and lines, but they sometimes go over the top, to the point of being too self-congratulatory.

Whether it’s the bits of battle with innumerable heroes against a seemingly endless supply of villains or the credits featuring the original Avengers’ signatures over their title cards, the film looks back at times with a sense of nostalgia and self-pride that can take a viewer out of the story.

For some, the moments are worthy of cheers, and, of course it’s fair to enjoy them.

Since Iron Man’s post-credits tease, the Marvel movies have been leaving fans hanging.

Teases and references have continued to point toward some eventual satisfaction, but often, the respective filmmakers chose to leave off from finishing their stories completely.

For the first four years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans were waiting for the Avengers to team up.

In the same movie the Avengers teamed up, director Joss Whedon also set up the introduction of Thanos and the next seven years of waiting.

Endgame offers no post-credits or mid-credits scene that the other Marvel movies have been known and expected to have.

There’s more to come from Marvel, certainly — Spider-Man: Far from Home premieres on July 2, less than three months after Endgame’s release — but Endgame brings a 22-movie saga to a satisfying conclusion.

It’s not that the stories have to all be over — conclusions are so often satisfying even when they promise possible future adventures that won’t be filmed — but, for once, there is no plot-line hanging over the Marvel series.

There are still loose ends and plot threads that were set up, including the character Adam Warlock and a Guardians-esque group led by Sylvester Stallone, the rogue sorcerer Mordo from Doctor Strange, Wakanda’s role in the world, Loki’s disappearance and other potential time travel consequences.

There is also the question of what happened to all the Netflix shows within the Marvel universe and what the superheroes’ world will potentially look like after the five-year span of half of Earth’s population being dead.

For a franchise built upon the foundation of teases and setting up eventual payoffs, the situation is not bad.

Endgame is a confusing movie to reckon with, packed as it is with character moments, time travel conundrums and stories to satisfyingly conclude.

It’s not all done right, and it’s sometimes done with a distasteful self-assuredness, but it manages to rectify the disappointments of Infinity War and conclude what Marvel is referring to as the Infinity Saga.

Its purpose is more like that of a TV series finale than of a movie, but it does a good enough job, and offers a fun time to be had. All it really needs is an intermission.

Daphnelly Delacruz | The Ticker

Daphnelly Delacruz | The Ticker