dirs: Joe and Anthony Russo
It’s finally over. Now we can all stop watching Marvel movies. They’ve got all our money; they’re richer than the gods now, so there’s no need to keep putting out movies. The heroes won, the baddies are gone, and now we can all rest easy in peace or in pieces, as the case may be.
It’s about bloody time. We could all do with a rest, don’t you think? We’ve earned it, they’ve earned it, we’re all good.
But… we can’t. Just can’t let it go. They can’t, we can’t. We knew it was only a matter of time. Marvel, and by Marvel I mean Disney, are addicted to money. It’s sad, but it’s true. They’ve got so much already, you think, they’ve taken so much for so long, but past actions, past performance doesn’t stop them from wanting more in the future. It’s the unfortunate way of the world.
When people talk about the death of cinema, or declining audiences etc, some, usually pretentious wankers, complain that it’s because the amount of decent films being put out is ever decreasing; more flicks are going straight to streaming versus the multiplex, piracy and more people spending time gaming or whatever else we occupy our time with in between tormenting strangers online via social media.
Disney sees this. Disney hears this. Disney’s plan of action is: however many or few eyeballs exist to glare at screens, we will own them all. Marvel’s ascent is just a part of the same rise that sees every massive franchise now under their one banner. Ultimately, they’re not going to care about how many or how few people are still going to the movies, because however many it is, wherever it is being watched, the ‘product’ they’re watching, in most cases, will be Disney product.
That’s the shame about all of this, but there are also benefits in these films now being the biggest movies in the world. One of them, I guess, is that maybe this is the natural peak, the pinnacle, the ne plus ultra, after which maybe, just maybe, we can start focusing on something else other than these monstrosities.
I don’t really think I’m ever going to sit through another 3+ hour film in the cinemas. I just find it increasingly hard to justify the time constraint of being forced to sit in a specific place at a specific time in order to see something soon enough such that we’re not exposed to too many spoilers. That’s the only real driver to seeing it near opening day: a fear both of missing out and of having others lord it over you that they saw it first.
Or maybe not. My daughter and I went to see it, and I wanted to see it, but I suspect maybe this is the last Marvel flick we’ll see in the cinema. After a villain gets away with disintegrating half of all sentient life in the universe, and then you watch a 3+ hour film of our heroes trying to undo what was done, nothing else is really going to get bigger than that.
And thus we return to a smaller scale, perhaps even the quantum level, where the tiniest things have the most crucial significance…
I’m not, weeks after the fact, really going to bother trying to craft a spoiler-free review of a film that doesn’t really work or exist as a film in and of itself: there’s no point. Anyone who’s seen it wouldn’t care, and anyone who hasn’t shouldn’t care either. It would be like trying to review the 4,449 episode of Neighbours without being able to describe what came before or since (the number of Neighbours episodes stands currently at 8,100 I shit you not – the world’s appetite for Neighbours episodes can’t ever get no satisfaction).
It is what it is: an enormous and complicated endeavour trying to undo what Infinity War did in a dramatically compelling way that feels earned, while also trying to keep things light and self-referential to belie the fact that half a universe was murdered and we call this popular entertainment for the kids and shit.
The film opens just seconds before the finger snap heard around the universe, with Hawkeye and his family in the country, just about to have lunch. He’s showing his daughter how to use a bow and arrow, just for something different. His boys are probably throwing around a baseball, a football or maybe an actual apple pie from a Norman Rockwell painting. Hawkeye looks away for a second, and they’re all gone, and he has no idea why.
It’s a harsh, cold open that reminds us that, oh yeah, half of everyone is gone.
Cut to Tony Stark starving to death in space, aboard the Milano, which, I guess, was the spaceship the Guardians of the Galaxy used to fly around in. It’s just Tony and the evil smurf Nebula (Karen Gillen). Tony’s recording a final message to Pepper, because he’s pretty sure he’s a goner. He, like a lot of confused people, perhaps, never saw Captain Marvel a couple of months ago or before Endgame, because if he had, he’d understand where his salvation is about to come from.
I don’t know how it works or why it shouldn’t, but he’s back on Earth along with Nebula, and the remaining Avengerers have some kind of plan, now that they have a location on the big purple doofus who snapped away Black Panther, and some other less important people, into oblivion at the end of the last film.
Thor, Hulk, Captain Marvel, Nebula, um, other people, attack this gentle purple man as he potters around his shack and makes soup using locally sourced organic produce, and he tells them that the thing they wish most, to get the Infinity stones back and to unclick his click with a click of their fingers, is infinitely now beyond their grasp, because a couple of days ago he wished the wishing stones out of existence in order to prevent such an occasion from ever happening. The heroes are horrified at the evaporation of their last chance at redemption. Thor cuts off Thanos’s head out of frustration with not being more on point *last* time when he could have saved half the universe, but it’s not like it even matters anymore. What’s done is done and can’t be undone now, no matter what. As if they didn’t fail hard enough before, as if we didn’t feel bad enough at the end of Infinity War, now he rubs our collective faces in the failure, to make us all feel like fools for even hoping or trying.
Okay, so that’s half an hour gone, and there’s two and a half hours or more to go. The rest is just filler, surely. Surely there’s nothing that can be done other than come to terms with the insurmountable grief? Counseling for everyone, margaritas for the pain, wine for our sorrows? Please don’t tell me all the winemakers faded away after The Snap?
Five years pass. Five goddamn years.
Anyone who didn’t watch Ant-Man and the Wasp, and that was probably a lot of people, could be perplexed as to how Ant-Man comes back into things five years too late, but ultimately the Gods of Marvel decided he would be the conduit through which a possible solution could be found to their dilemma of how to undo what now can’t be undone.
Ant-Man was stuck in the quantum realm at the end of the last film because, due to the Snap getting rid of Wasp (Evangeline Lily), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), there was no-one there to flick the switch and bring him back. As luck would have it, which is a phrase you don’t really like to see in something as intricately and intensely plotted and workshopped to death as this, a rat accidentally walks over a button which brings him back. But for him only five hours have passed, leading him to intuit that when someone goes into the quantum realm, all sorts of plot convenient time warping can occur.
It’s probably not a big deal to most other audiences, but it felt kinda special to me, what they did next: Scott is baffled by what’s happened in the world post-Snap, and goes down to a strange memorial built to honour the deaths of presumably half the population of San Francisco. He scours the alphabetically-ordered list of the fallen, dreading to find the name of his daughter Cassie, and instead he finds his own, being Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). He is now even more baffled when he rocks up to a house and finds that she’s pretty much played by a woman in, I dunno, her 30s or something.
The bafflement continues. The world as we knew it, which was meant to be just like our world except now everyone knows there’s superhumans and aliens bouncing around all over the place, is kind of post-apocalyptic, but things are okay? Everything looks abandoned, but the power and water are still on, and many people, at least the ones we see, are okay with things, kinda.
When what happened is explained (somehow) to Scott, he somehow decides that if he could only just explain about the magic of the quantum realm, something could be done, and his loved ones, and everyone else’s loved ones, and probably a lot of people and creatures mostly hated by everyone else, could be brought back, if only he could explain it all to the remaining Avengerers.
And who is left behind? Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton (Jeremy Renner) has gone, to use the technical term, fucking nuts after losing his family, and just basically travels around the world murdering criminals, like that’s going to help anything. Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) leads the Avenger remnants, trying to keep order in a world where order doesn’t seem to matter that much. Cap (Chris Evans) attends group therapy sessions and lies to people about the way forward being through letting go, knowing full well there’s no way he’s letting go of anything.
Iron Man has moved on from losing half the galaxy, and has more than he ever hoped for, in the form of an actual home life with Pepper (that wonderfully Goopy lunatic Gwyneth Paltrow) and their daughter Morgan, who’s all kinds of adorable. When people start agitating and hinting that there’s something that could be done about the parlous state of the universe; that there is one final last chance to undo all that was done, Tony’s not down with it. Sure, flying around in a high tech suit and blasting them with beams and such is fun and all, but messing with time could undo the only creation he cares about more than his own facial hair – his beloved daughter Morgan, who loves him 3000.
Hulk’s still there, but he’s like a milder version of the Hulk now, always big and green, but articulate and chill. Mark Ruffalo is there with the voice all the time, but the CGI him is the one that we see ongoing. He, being the big science-y guy that he is, tries to do the quantum magic with Ant-Man, but considering the ginormous fingers he’s using to activate controls and such it’s a miracle the flick doesn’t end with them creating a black hole singularity and killing everyone else on Earth who survived the Snap heard around the universe.
Which would be grim, but funny. Instead the film takes a much more convoluted path for its middle section, being the Time Heist: whereby Our Heroes have to travel back in time to the places where they know the Infinity thingies are, steal them, bring them to the present, undo the snap, and then take them back to whence they came from in order to not fuck up the timeline.
Does it work? Well, yes, I guess it’s amusing enough. If you think about it for more than three seconds no time travel plots should ever work (however much they reference Back to the Future or, which would have been way better, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), but the point is they establish the ‘rules’ of what they’re trying to do, and what the possible repercussions are, and then conveniently ignore ALL of that shit when it isn’t convenient. Even better, EVEN BETTER is that they found a way to resurrect two characters in a way that has nothing to do with the finger snap, and it’s hilarious for it.
The key one resurrected in the most diabolically cheap manner is the glorious Tom Hiddleston as the even more glorious Loki. The other, well, let’s leave it to someone else to spoil. Surprisingly, this resurrected Loki plays absolutely no part in the story, existing only long enough in the narrative in order to disappear offscreen in order to get ready for his own series on Disney’s streaming channel. Imagine me saying this in my most pseudo-Eastern European deadpan accent “I can’t wait for that one”.
All these time travel shenanigans are mostly played for light fun, I think for two main reasons: it’s pointless busywork that kills a lot of time, and it’s meant to be a homage to Marvel’s own movies, and what magic they’ve wrought on the cinematic landscape. It’s not a coincidence that almost all of the excursions to the past coincidentally allow the characters to slot into other Marvel movies, either ones they were already in, or ones they shouldn’t have been anywhere near. It allows Thor (Hemsworth) to say goodbye, in a way, to his mum (Renee Russo), it allows Captain America to fight himself, admire his own arse, and freak out the Hydra traitors lurking in S.H.I.E.L.D’s midst, and it allows Tony to have a moment to bond with his onscreen dad Howard Stark (John Slattery) over the shared joys of parenthood.
Is it fan service or actor / character service? At this stage, is there any real difference? Surely these actors, all of whom should now be as rich as robber barons, are glad that these movies have made them richer than everyone else who works for a living, and as such surely they’re grateful to have been associated with these flicks? If not, they’re churls, I tell you: ingrate churls.
Sorry for the harsh language. The other big thing it allows for, through the magic of quantum entanglement, is a way for the Big Bad who’s dead in the present, to come back into the story in a rip-roaring fashion.
So, yeah, other than the triumphant locavore we saw at the beginning, who got what he wanted and died, this is a Thanos who’s completely invincible and who hadn’t destroyed the universe yet because he was just, I dunno, streaming too many Netflix shows and smoking too many bongs.
So, yes, even once they get everything they need in order to undo the undoable, Thanos reappears, with all his armies, with his incredibly powerful Black Order alive again too, and even more armies, and everything he needs in order to do a thing again that he hasn’t even done yet.
Even with, and I’m not saying this is what happened, even with everyone ‘back’ from the Snap, Thanos goes out of his way to show that, you know what? He is strong enough to kill everyone on his own. He is absurdly, monumentally powerful, and sets about bitch-slapping everyone without much difficulty. It makes a fairly solid point that, given enough time, Thanos could have personally wandered around the universe and killed half of everyone even without the aid of the Infinity thingies, because he’s just that powerful, and no-one could really have stopped him.
And then it all comes down to the actions of one person (I mean, after the actions of tens of thousands of people across multiple timelines). One person making One Choice that sets everything to right, but in order to get that pesky thing done, it’s going to incur a pesky price.
Three hours of this was pretty hard on my system, I have to say. Watching this, for the first time, so close to the day it came out, really, to be honest, I just wanted to get it out of the way, get it done. If I ever watch it again it will probably take days. Everyone does everything you expect them to do, and it still bloody well works. There are some cringeworthy scenes, and a few so token it’s almost insulting (I’m think of the Girl Power scene, which felt like way too little too late).
Much has been made of the superficial treatment of mental illness, depression and fatphobia in the flick because of how Thor is treated by the rest of the cast because of how he looks after the five year jump into the future. He becomes a depressed alcoholic gamer who cares naught about anything other than his own failures.
On the one hand, it kinda felt bad that his own compatriots would hardly be able to conceal their disgust at how he looks (with the aid of ratty hair, rattier beard and a fat suit), and would make regular insulting comments about his weight. On the other hand, it’s just a movie and we should all be chill about it. On the third hand, though, it feels kinda personal, because the thing is, to render Chris Hemsworth into a pitiable figure, one that would be mocked by his own friends and allies, and one that we in the audience would laugh at, they sorta made him look like me.
Cue my awkward laughter in the cinema. Yes, ha ha, isn’t he, um, gross? Isn’t it hilarious when they take someone gorgeous and make them look ‘terrible’, truly horrible, eurgh. Thank the gods he doesn’t really look like that, yeah? That he can take off that wig and latex, and return to his usual state of awesomeness?
It was…strange. But it hardly matters. In the scheme of things, I don’t really give that much of a fuck, and there was so much more going on in this week long summer camp and deathfest.
People die. The characters, some of the major ones, die, and they ain’t coming back, no matter how much we cry about it. But the most important thing is that they brought back Black Panther, so I was happy with that at least.
This is too much of a movie, and way too full of itself, but it’s a nice way to end these particular stories. Whatever comes next, I don’t think people are going to care as much, but you never know.
People care about all sorts of stupid things.
7 times I needed both a walk and a lie down after watching this 300 hour film out of 10
“You could not live with your own failure. Where did that bring you? Back to me. I thought by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive, but you have shown me... that's impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those, that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.” – I bet he just wishes people would listen to him and stay off his lawn for once – Avengers: Endgame