This is the 22nd installment in the film series known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I suppose that a person who hasn’t seen any of them could walk in cold to this one and get some enjoyment, but I’m not sure the emotional impact would be the same as the people who have seen them all either in theaters or elsewhere. This film rewards those who have gone through this 22-film and 11-year journey. If you’re not a fan or someone who has gone on this journey either partially or all the way, what helps is that this movie is in many ways a walk down memory lane. The structure of this film is such that it reminds the audience of that 22-film and 11-year history almost by design. If one is familiar with finales of TV shows, most often the finale will be a way of reminiscing over the course of the whole series. That’s essentially what this film does in an entertaining way and providing good character or emotional moments too.
The criticism is that basically this movie is a literal rerun of the previous film. It’s like they simply rewound the last film and did practically everything all over again. The last film was Avengers: Infinity War. That film saw the group of super-heroes, known as the Avengers, come up against an alien super-villain, known as Thanos. Thanos had a plan to collect six gems called the Infinity stones. Once he had the stones, he would be able to snap his fingers and wipe-out half of all life in the universe. Avengers: Infinity War was Thanos accomplishing that and the heroes trying to stop him. Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely simply find a way to rewind the clock and have Thanos and the heroes go through the same thing all over again.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, aka the Russo brothers, don’t have as much action as they did before, aside from an epic battle at the end that is very much comparable to the epic battle at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Yet, here it’s beefed up slightly to encompass what looks like hundreds of characters on screen. It looks similar to epic battles from films with huge war scenes. We just had one more recently in Aquaman (2018). The difference here is that over the course of 22 films, we know pretty much every character on that battlefield almost intimately and that’s what makes the film rewarding. For the uninitiated, it’s just a group of random people colliding with each other. Yet, it’s the fact that we know these characters that makes it rewarding. As such, the Russos do give time for the characters who are more in the forefront to be intimate with us or give us that much more.
There are a lot of characters here, so it’s a lot to juggle. The characters who are in the forefront are the characters who have been in the forefront going all the way back to the first Avengers movie, simply titled The Avengers (2012) and that would be Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk. If you’ve followed these characters throughout the 22-film run, then this film will be the conclusion to their arcs. It’s a way of saying goodbye to each of them or allowing them to move on. Moving on is kind of a theme or maybe even the major theme of this movie, at least as it stands in the beginning. The takeaway though, might be that one can’t move on if it’s in the wake of a huge injustice, namely genocide, and it’s not possible to move on until the wrongs of history have been righted.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Iron Man, the genius who flies around in a robotic suit. Chris Evans plays Captain America, the super-strong Boy Scout. Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, the god of thunder. Scarlett Johansson plays Black Widow, a reformed and well-trained, Russian spy. Jeremy Renner plays Hawkeye, the very-skilled archer and assassin, and Mark Ruffalo plays the Hulk, the scientist-turned-green skin he-man. All of them give great performances and thankfully the film gives them the space to do so. It might make the film run a little too long, but the Russo’s direction and editing keep the whole thing moving at a rate that doesn’t drag.
The comedy helps to shuffle things along. The funniest gags actually have to do with body humor. There’s one joke that’s literal toilet humor, but the rest are just weird body humor. One in particular pokes at the beefcake shots that are endemic to these MCU films. In every Marvel movie, there’s a scene where we’ll see the male super-hero without his top. He’ll go shirtless so that the film can show off how the actors nearly kill themselves in the gym, building up biceps and abs. The one particular joke pokes fun at that, giving us what is probably the best beefcake shot of them all, if you’re one who’s prone to dad bods. Another gag pokes fun at the ridiculous suits these heroes wear, especially the one on Captain America and how it may or may not highlight his backside.
The crème de la crème is of course the epic battle scene at the end, which probably runs for a half-hour, if not longer. There is a sequence in the middle of the film that is more of an Ant-Man style heist, which is also more of a literal walk down memory lane, but the real action is saved until the very end. It’s all-out, controlled chaos and it’s mere multiplication of what ended Avengers: Infinity War, but unlike the end of that film, this one has outcomes and ramifications that will last. That alone probably makes it the best MCU movie, as some have suggested.
In that battle, there are a lot of exciting and iconic visuals. There’s one shot in particular that has a group of women gathered together that I found to be amazing. It shows the women working together. The shot is quite brief. It’s not as long as the shots that have the men gathered together and fighting along side one another. We’re even meant to cheer for a moment that sees Captain America team up with some of the guys, ones from whom he was estranged in the previous films. It’s a great moment, but it didn’t give me the kind of hope that seeing the women together did. Seeing Captain America interact with someone who’s gay, briefly gave me more hope than anything in that whole epic battle, which again was fun.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, and some language.
Running Time: 3 hrs. and 1 min.