Avengers: Endgame Review

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It’s finally here. Endgame marks the end of the Infinity Saga, the story that began 11 years ago with the release of Iron Man. Few could have predicted how massive the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. It is a continuing pop culture event, and Endgame is unarguably the biggest of them all. This movie is the direct sequel to last year’s Infinity War, which had Thanos wipe out half the universe’s life. It was a gloomy ending, and here we are at the endgame.

Avengers: Endgame is an achievement in film, and easily one of the most ambitious movies ever made. The climax is one everyone will be talking about for years to come. There are many fantastic moments that pay off from the previous films. The Russo Brothers have proven to be masters at juggling so many characters with Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War. That continues with Endgame. The film does have some problems however, making it, as a whole, the weakest of the Avengers films. It is a true spectacle, but with some controversial decisions that hurt the experience at times.

The Good

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The film’s first act is fantastic, as a fractured Avengers are now dealing with a world that has lost so many individuals. Steve Rogers encouraging others in a support group was really good. What I personally liked was the overall sad atmosphere of the first act. One of my personal favorite characters was Black Widow, easily Scarlett Johansson’s most compelling performance as the character. We see she was hit very hard by the events of Infinity War, as she considered the Avengers the only thing she had at that point.

Part of the first act focuses on Tony Stark stranded in space alongside Nebula. The scene with Stark recording into the Iron Man helmet for hopefully Pepper to hear was genuinely emotional. Tony was a big highlight throughout the film, and like Johansson, this is probably Robert Downey Jr.’s best performance yet as the character. Meanwhile, Nebula’s contribution cannot be overstated. Her character arc has come full circle here, from being the revenge-driven sister in Guardians of the Galaxy, to hero in Endgame.

Scott Lang was a lot of fun here. There’s a sense of urgency to his character that was really well done. (His wanting Captain America’s respect is also one of the funniest running jokes.) The film’s middle act was certainly unique, and though I didn’t love certain aspects of it, one can’t deny that it was an inventive way to celebrate 11 years.

The final good thing I will mention is the climax. The sudden build-up was excellent, and when all heck breaks loose, the viewer cannot turn away. This is the type of final battle that must be viewed on the big screen. The scope is unimaginable, beating out any kind of climax you can think of, from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, to The Matrix Revolutions. Captain America was at his finest here, showing that he really is the greatest hero of them all. Of course, as you see in the final trailer, the big three – Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor unite for a battle against Thanos. It is as glorious as it sounds.

The Bad

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While most of the characters were on point and engaging, there were questionable decisions regarding two main Avengers. First, we have Thor. After the first act, Thor’s character goes in an unexpected direction, and arguably not a good one. Sure, it will get some laughs, but in retrospect, was the direction good, or was it just played for comedy? Honestly, the trinity uniting was slightly hindered by the way Thor was portrayed, especially after such a great outing in Thor: Ragnarok. Simply put, Thor’s portrayal was more controversial (negative) than the direction Hulk was given in Infinity War. Speaking of Hulk…

Like with Thor, the direction Hulk/Bruce Banner took was unexpected. It was interesting, but once again, it seemed to be played more for comedy at times, though to a lesser extent than with Thor thankfully. After Hulk’s appearance in Infinity War, many were hoping for a character arc where Hulk would come back and face Thanos. That does not happen. In fact, Hulk doesn’t do anything notable in the climax, which was a huge letdown. At this point, it really does seem like Marvel doesn’t know what to do with the Hulk’s character.

So, regarding the middle act, there was definitely something fun and inventive to it. There were a couple of good emotional aspects as well. But, at the same time, it did feel kinda disjointed from the first act. While the first act was somber in tone, the middle had more of a jokey feel. I’m not saying the whole film had to be somber, but the rather lighthearted nature of the second act didn’t mesh well with the serious happenings of other parts of the movie. Infinity War did a better job at balancing humor with the seriousness of the situation.

The Verdict

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Endgame has a great opening act, a mixed second, and a perfect/beautiful conclusion. The film may not be perfect as a whole, but it is satisfying on many levels. The final battle itself is worth paying the ticket for. Many of the characters are at their best. Sadly, Thor and Hulk fans may be left feeling betrayed. Still, their direction shouldn’t be enough to ruin the story. Endgame is a cinematic event, with thrills, laughs, and yes, tears. It has some of the most emotional sequences of any MCU film. The film serves as a great conclusion to a few longtime character arcs. If anyone wanted to step away from the MCU, Endgame does a good job at providing closure. However, the future is bright, as there are many new things to look forward to. Endgame is not only an end, but also a new beginning.

8.5/10

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Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

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We are living in quite an interesting era for the comic book film landscape. Spider-Man got his first film all the way back in 2002, 15 years ago. When Marvel launched their Cinematic Universe, the idea of the Webhead fighting alongside the Avengers was nothing but fan fiction at that point. But, in an unprecedented event, a deal between Sony and Marvel allowed Spidey to join the MCU. He debuted in Captain America: Civil War to critical acclaim. To put it simply, it was surreal and a dream come true. Now here we are with Spider-Man’s first solo outing in this continuity and also his fist solo outing since 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. So, with all this pre-hype excitement out of the way, the question has to be asked: Is Spider-Man: Homecoming the best Spidey film yet? It is not, but Director Jon Watts’ film is still fun from beginning to end.

The opening act takes place eight years ago, during the aftermath of the Chitauri Invasion. It’s an interesting way to set up the story, and in this case it’s setting up Adrian Toomes’, (known to comic fans as the Vulture) rise to villainy. I’m all for antagonists getting this kind of treatment in the beginning (and we all know villains in the MCU need to be better) but there’s something hammy to Michael Keaton’s portrayal in this first act. It takes a bit before the Vulture becomes an engaging character. It’s interesting when he brings up how rich people like Tony Stark rule, while working people like him have to eat off the scraps. It’s a solid motivation for him; it’s a shame the writing didn’t do a better job developing that in the beginning. To give some credit, Toomes has some good scenes toward the climax. In the end, Vulture doesn’t solve the ongoing problem of mediocre villains in these films, but he’s a step above villains like Darren Cross and Malekith. As a bonus, the suit design is genuinely menacing.

Of course, the primary reason why one would watch this is to see Spider-Man. For some, this is the first time seeing Spider-Man on the big screen. For others, this is the second rebooted Spider-Man film. Either way, I believe most will be satisfied with Tom Holland’s portrayal of the famous character. Holland portrays this energetic young Peter Parker well. Some particularly strong scenes are when he busts the fake Avengers robbery and when he tries to save the Staten Island Ferry. The writing does a good job bringing the story to street level. An example is the montage early on with Spidey helping the common citizen. (There are plenty of humorous scenes throughout the film, but my favorite comes from this montage – the brief clip of Spidey giving an older woman directions.)

Tom Holland’s portrayal is mostly great, but it can border on the annoying side in a few instances. The video clip early on for example was a bit much after awhile. Also, if one is used to the more adult incarnations of Spider-Man, it could be tough getting used to this 15 year old version. But, I think it’s possible since the writing does a solid job at making this about him discovering how to be a mature hero. One of the most powerful scenes was Tony taking away the Spider suit. Peter claims he’s nothing without the suit. Tony replies, “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” Speaking of Tony, Robert Downy Jr. steals the show every scene he’s in. He doesn’t appear too much, which would have taken the spotlight away from Peter. Iron Man appears for just the right amount of screen time.

There’s plenty of fun, fast-paced action. Though, there’s no truly notable battle sequence. Yes, the climax finally featured Spidey dealing blows to the Vulture, but before that the fight scenes were mostly brief. You won’t walk out of the theater saying, “Wow, that was one great action sequence.” Some of the more well done action pieces weren’t fights. The scene where Spidey breaks into the Washington Monument and the one where he attempts to hold the Ferry together were intense. Also, I’m sure longtime fans will appreciate seeing a famous comic scene adapted near the climax. (Personally, I think that particular scene would have been better saved for a future film.) The soundtrack isn’t bad, though not too memorable outside a couple of themes.

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As for the other characters, the most major is Jacob Batalon’s Ned. He was fun to have around; he worked well as a friend and later “guy in the chair” for Peter. Laura Harrier as Liz wasn’t bad. She wasn’t much besides a love interest for Peter. But, to give some credit, she wasn’t devoid of personality. The romance angle wasn’t terrible. In the end, it doesn’t really go anywhere, but without it, it would have been hard to have the well done car scene with Toomes. Zendaya as Michelle was one of the most interesting characters with her unique, quirky personality. It looks like the writing has plans for her in future installments, which is good. Out of all the supporting characters, ironically the standout wasn’t a human – it was Karen, an A.I. built into the Spider-Man suit. One of the best scenes is when Spidey talks with her while being stuck at a base. Oh, we can’t forget Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May. The writing really tries to make her the complete opposite of the original trilogy’s May. It mostly works, but the last scene went a little too far.

Overall, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a solid addition to the Marvel film library, Tom Holland’s energetic outing in Civil War takes the center focus here, and it’s mostly well done. As he should be, Peter is portrayed as an upbeat kid. At its core, the story is about Peter becoming the hero we’ve seen throughout the years in comics. When Tony takes away Peter’s suit, Spidey is forced to reevaluate himself. The Vulture is a decent enough antagonist. There’s enough solid material to avoid calling him a mediocre villain. The action is fun, but it feels like there should have been one more important fight scene. But, despite any negatives, Homecoming remains an engaging watch. By the end, it makes the viewer anticipate Spidey’s future appearances.

8/10