During its theatrical run (which lasted many months), I watched Titanic on the big screen three times. I believe I may have done the same for The Dark Knight Rises, Clerks II, and possibly a few others, but Titanic was the first to grab me by the obsessives. That was when film was still projected on film mind you, meaning that showtimes still had to be manually set up and broken down. Things may stream off of computer servers down to the exact second now, but every once in a while, a movie manages to break from the data mold and require screenings throughout the theater, throughout the day and night, keeping a staff up for all hours. That movie is Avengers: Endgame. And, in its case, this is a film that represents the most unique scenario.
“It’s just fan-service,” some say. Hasn’t it always been? I mean, comic book movies (and even comic books in general) are fantasy power-plays, the new legends, meant to inspire with feats of the extraordinary. The great filmmaker and magician Georges Melies understood just how imagination inducing the visual palette of cinema could be, producing images burned in our collective memories. His stories were incredibly basic, but the thrills and trickery afoot, colorful back before color was mainstream, made for such awe in audiences. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, born a century or more after Melies’ time, doesn’t just grasp these notions and elements, it exploits them to a degree seen only in comic book form before. Anthology franchise-making, this is.
Whether or not I give Endgame a good rating or not doesn’t matter, as you’re likely to sit through its leg numbing three hour running time anyway. However, know this for the rest of my review: I will not divulge spoilers. So, at the very least, feel safe to continue reading.
Two and a half hours of plot for thirty minutes of magically divine statuesque iconography that’s, surprisingly, worth the seat. I called the first Avengers miraculous at the time, for being able to maintain its multiple threads while having its own and starting a few new ones. Endgame is big-picture-minded with its eyes on both the individual and the collective story and character arcs. There is heart between the seams, but the seams that do pop open are dangling throughout. Not necessarily “holes” in the logic mind you, just… after over twenty movies, you’re bound to catch on to the fact that not only is Santa not real, but he’s been bought out by Coca-Cola. With Endgame, it is indeed manufactured to a fault, designed to grab your tears as much as your money. It isn’t sterile, but some moments feel as though they were crafted first for merchandising, then for the fans, then for the script.
It’s a business, people. Now, I don’t want to be an anti-capitalist downer, as when it comes to record-breaking first of their kind mega-movies, Endgame is the monolith that it all was destined for since Iron Man. For sure, there is much cleverness left to be had, even as the overall story concludes for a few major teammates. It’s absolutely satisfying on every level possible. It boggles my mind how someone starting high school when the first of these films came out could now be a parent with a family, about to pass on this series to their kids. Honestly, I never thought I’d see cinematic storytelling match and top the original Star Wars trilogy, but here we are, even as new Star Wars movies come out. We’re through the looking glass now.
Endgame goes for broke, leaving not a dry eye in the house or a mind unhopeful for tomorrow. It is beyond feature-length soap opera storytelling, spanning film upon film upon film. I don’t doubt that it’ll become the highest box office grosser ever and very quickly, but I am curious as to its eventual home release watchability. Will it succumb to the noise of content or be as hotly anticipated as say Titanic was when it came out on VHS? Fans visited cemeteries of real Titanic victims and took pictures to celebrate. For Endgame? Cosplaying, I guess. Are we barreling towards a Ready Player One dystopia, worshipping the made-up over the actual? To be fair, most of Titanic was “made-up.” To be even fairer, weren’t people just as thrilled by a train being screened before them in the early days of cinema?
They mean something, certainly, these legends do. From campfire tales to popcorn munching gawking, these are the moving pictures that’ll get us, well, moving. And that’s more than ok. That’s what it was meant to do.
RATING: 4 / 5
Avengers: Endgame is now playing just about everywhere. Check your preferred theater’s website for ticket information.
Bill Arceneaux has been an independent writer and film critic in the New Orleans area since 2011, working with outlets like Film Threat, DIG Baton Rouge, Crosstown Conversations, and Occupy. He is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved.