Last year I wrote about Avengers: Infinity War: “It is a bold move to see some of our favorite characters suddenly vanish from existence. It is also nice that Marvel is trying to change things up by subverting its reputation for cookie-cutter climaxes and villains who never have any chance of winning. But we also know a lot of these big stars are still under contract (and that their franchises are still actively gushing money) and there is no way they are gone for good. We know they are coming back in the sequel, and we know that the heroes will ultimately team up and defeat Thanos. We can also be pretty sure that Tony Stark will end up sacrificing himself so that the rest of them can live. On a broad level, this will probably work once it is all assembled. The heroes are down and out now, making their inevitable comeback and victory all the more satisfying (you will notice all the original Avengers are still left standing at the end of the film, meaning they will band together one last time to bring their friends back and overcome Thanos).”
Well, that wasn’t really a hard one to call. The question, which was still open-ended last year, was whether it would work once it was all put together. And now we know the answer: kind of?
I was a bit underwhelmed. Which is a weird thing to say about a movie that exists basically just to whelm you until you’ve overdosed on whelming. There were some good things. Given that all the other heroes are gone, the narrative space is slimmed down more so that the original Avengers get a lot more room to breathe and go through their shit and figure out how they feel about each other and the world in this movie, which is an improvement over the 100-mile-a-minute pace from Infinity War where everyone was simply crammed into a moving spaceship at breakneck speed. Also, it was widely theorized that Scott Lang and the Quantum Realm would in some way be responsible for bringing everyone back, but the Back to the Future visiting some of Marvel’s greatest hits was certainly a pretty clever and inventive idea. In theory. Its execution left a bit to be desired because for me it still felt a bit rushed. People kept spouting out nonsensical gibberish and exposition as they went through the motions of this plan that was, let’s be honest, just an excuse to move the plot and characters from Point A to Point C.
Again, this movie is so BIG. There is so much spectacle. There are so many characters. There is just so much stuff. And in all that overwhelming sound and fury, a lot of what made Civil War or the original Avengers so good gets lost. The thrill of seeing all these characters thrown together and play off one another has been diluted. By the time the climactic battle was on, I just could not have cared any less about what was happening. And even in that final battle, why was it staged in such a drab and uninteresting environment? Surely given their budget they could have done something more interesting, less boilerplate?
The battle itself was just a big orgy of noise and nonsense. And so, when it was all done, I felt vaguely unsatisfied with the film as a movie. However, as something bigger than film it was and is a deeply fascinating phenomenon. Just as with Infinity War, every movie theater in Yogyakarta was showing only Endgame on all screens for an entire week. The theaters were packed. Indonesians were showing up at malls dressed like fucking Spider-man. The box office has been amazing. The fact that this series has become what it has become, this shared experience that has built on a steady stream of successes over a decade and that it has found such a receptive audience throughout the entire world, that is really something to marvel at.