Movie Guru: Robert Downey Jr. the best part of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (column)
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on the Marvel comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, comic book by Jim Starlin
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Karen Gillan, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Brie Larson, Tessa Thompson, and more
Guru’s grade: Two stars
The biggest problem with “Avengers: Endgame” is that it’s not really an end.
Yes, the stories of certain characters do draw to an end, but for the larger universe it’s really just a curtain close. The next act will start in a minute, full of brand new characters and moneymaking opportunities. It’s all too easy to see the setup for that. Add all of the callbacks to the past 10 years and giving certain characters suitably irreversible exits, and what you’re left with is much closer to “Avengers: Plot Mechanics.”
Normally, this is where I’d sort of recap the first 10 or so minutes of a movie’s plot, but in this instance that would include spoilers. So I’ll just say that it starts soon after “Avengers: Infinity War,” where half the galaxy has been dusted and everyone left behind is a mess. In fact, you could argue that the entire first 20 to 30 minutes of “Endgame” should have been attached to “Infinity War,” because here it feels like a false start.
What comes after is far more narratively cohesive than most of “Infinity War” was. The original Avengers, with the delightful addition of Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, have a singular mission they attack for most of the movie. There are several callbacks to previous movies, a few of which are deeply satisfying. The end battle is just as big and dramatic as anyone could hope for. There are even a few moments of real humor, thanks in part to Rudd and Mark Ruffalo’s newly chill Hulk.
Except for a few key moments, though, there’s not really a lot of emotion. I cried through half of “Avengers: Infinity War,” which had several moments that just allowed my beloved characters to be themselves. Here, though, everything feels like it’s just ticking along in the service of the larger plot. Things I tend to find important, like well-done character arcs, are largely secondary. (Also, certain plot shenanigans I can’t spoil are so poorly, handled that they seriously damage previous movies.)
The one exception is Tony Stark, who is given a beautiful emotional arc. Robert Downey Jr. makes the most of every moment, always bringing us right into the character’s heart. If you love Stark, “Avengers: Endgame” will move you deeply.
Unfortunately, he’s not the only character in the MCU. Everyone else tends to get ignored or rushed, a fact that is that much more obvious in a movie that takes such care to name check everyone. Steve Roger’s characterization has been a mess for several movies now, but Banner’s new personality also felt off. Natasha (Black Widow) and Clint (Hawkeye) have a few nice moments, but since the movies have essentially ignored their friendship for years it wasn’t as impactful as it could have been.
In the end, most of “Endgame” had that exact same problem.