New from A Reel of One’s Own by Andrea Thompson: Fan Service and Character Abound in ‘Avengers: Endgame’

By Andrea Thompson

Some movies can and should stand on their own, but for every ironclad rule (pun kinda intended) there’s an exception. It’s not only impossible to look at “Avengers: Endgame” out of context, it shouldn’t be done. It exists to tie up the story of not just “Infinity War,” but years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Well, and set up a few things for Disney’s new streaming service, but that’s a whole other thing.

So there’s going to be deaths, major changes, and plenty of nerdgasms. “Infinity War” was rightly accused of being little more than a prequel, with an ending that existed to launch an even bigger climax. Still, it got a bunch of now iconic characters to meet for the first time, and now that the intros are over, clearly even more action is needed.

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios

That’s where “Avengers: Endgame” gives us the first of many surprises. For a movie that’s all about defeating the ultimate Big Bad, “Endgame” would rather give us an affectionate rumination (and in some cases, farewells) on many of the characters and movies we’ve come to love. Sometimes that means overdoing it a bit. We didn’t exactly need to be reminded of the shocking, monumental losses many Avengers have had to cope with, but in most cases it acts as a segway into the various ways people cope with loss itself, whether it’s of loved ones or a fight we thought we couldn’t afford to lose, yet did.

This is after all, the first time many of the heroes have lost, especially on this scale. While Thanos and the ramifications loom large over the film, what the good guys are really grappling with is death itself, and ultimately how much more they still have to lose. In some cases, people are literally face to face with who and what they’ve lost, with the full knowledge that they are still unable to change anything. It all builds to a larger question, interestingly one this week’s episode of “Game of Thrones” also grappled with. Death is a horror in itself, but you could make a good case that someone truly dies after they’re completely forgotten. Thanos wiping out half the universe with a literal snap of his fingers was devastating. But when that universe and everything in it risks being wiped away without a trace, it means losing history itself. It’s the difference between not existing and never existing at all.

Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios

While the MCU has done many remarkable things, that “Endgame” is able to include all this without losing its trademark optimism, wit, and humor may just make it one of the most remarkable films Marvel has ever made. At its heart, this franchise has always been about that optimism, with many of its heroes not only embodying our best qualities, but using those qualities to actually make a positive impact in our world and beyond. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that some of the most affecting losses are stripped of some of their power since we know at least some won’t be permanent.

Much has also been made of “Avengers: Endgame” clocking in at three hours, but chances are only your bladder will notice. The film may be slightly overstuffed, but the movie uses its epic runtime to keep its numerous characters not only busy, but done justice, occasionally even in ways that will surprise you. So lay off the soda and get ready for a shocking amount of feels, especially for a comic book film.

Grade: A-

from A Reel Of One’s Own

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