MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is kintsugi in cinematic form
Avengers: Endgame, on paper, has all the makings of a terrible film.
Virtually inaccessible for anyone who has not seen Avengers: Infinity War and the twenty other films that comprise the entirety of the so-called Infinity Saga, Endgame banks on the audience’s foreknowledge of its protagonists–their personalities, their powers, and their priorities–to establish an emotional connection with each of them.
Exacerbating this further is the sheer number of characters to keep track of throughout the movie. Even after the events of Infinity War, there are still over a dozen players with significant roles to play in this story.
Not only that, but Endgame toes the line when it comes to showing instead of telling. In its attempt to simultaneously tackle numerous dangling plot threads and provide a satisfying follow-up to its precursor, Endgame relies on exposition, a lot of which is deeply rooted in the tropiest of science fiction tropes, to quickly address any potential questions that might diminish the overall experience.
Generally speaking, Endgame has an unenviable task. It must resolve Infinity War‘s cliffhanger ending, provide a sense of closure, and follow the same formula that has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe a global success. It must take the shards of the franchise and put them back together, all within the span of its three-hour running time.
Endgame should be a bloated, incoherent, and ultimately unsatisfying mess, for all of the above reasons. Miraculously though, it isn’t.
Rising above expectations, Endgame works in spite of all these obstacles–a unique and engaging cinematic experience that can only come from meticulous planning, painstaking world-building, and a genuine love for the source material.
Some film critics and fans are calling it the best superhero film ever made. There are arguments that can be made both for and against that claim–and personally, I wouldn’t go that far–but one thing’s for sure: Endgame is a worthwhile payoff to the Infinity Saga, and a love letter to anyone who has ever been (and continues to be) enthralled by superheroes.
As soon as Endgame starts, it wastes no time in twisting the knife that Infinity War stuck in the heart of the Marvel fandom. Roughly a third of the film is devoted to showcasing the state of the world in the wake of the Decimation; to call it “bleak” would be an understatement.
Still, for those who were left behind, the battle is far from over. And when an unexpected stroke of good fortune seemingly presents an opportunity to make things right, the Avengers soon find themselves in the fight of their lives.
Superhero films have often been criticized for being predictable. The harshest critics argue that in such movies, the outcome is inevitable–good will always triumph over evil–and thus, boring. While this argument isn’t entirely without merit, it also completely misses the point of storytelling: that’s it’s not just the destination that matters, but also the journey.
Endgame takes its characters through the emotional wringer, and unapologetically pulls the audience in with them. Losses are suffered, fates are decided, and sacrifices are made–and the audience feels every second of the entire journey, from beginning to bittersweet end.
Marvel has made it clear that from as early as Phase I, the films had been building up to a massive conclusion–one that shakes the cinematic universe to its core. And if the company’s impassioned call against spoilers weren’t already enough of a clue, Endgame delivers quite a few game-changing bombs, fittingly marking the end of a decade’s worth of movies (and perhaps, setting the stage for another).
By no means is Endgame a perfect movie. It has its fair share of logical loopholes, inconsistencies, and even moral and ethical dilemmas. However, the fact that it succeeds so well in what it sets out to do is undeniably impressive in itself, given its scope.
Looking at the Japanese art of kintsugi, I couldn’t help but see some parallels. An ancient tradition of repairing broken pottery, kintsugi artists use gold-laced lacquer to hold broken pieces together. The result doesn’t look exactly the same as it used to, which is the point. Kintsugi translates to “golden joinery” or “golden seams”–a reflection of how its practitioners make no effort to hide the damage, but instead emphasize it to enhance the object’s aesthetic appeal.
Endgame utilizes the brokenness of the post-Infinity War Marvel movie landscape to tell a rich, emotionally charged story about spectacular characters in extraordinary situations. It rewards the fandom with grand endings and promising beginnings, taking viewers through a veritable rollercoaster ride alongside characters they’ve loved and grown with over the last ten years. It takes the most fantastic aspects of both comics and film to craft an explosive end to a cultural phenomenon, on a level that isn’t likely to be replicated anytime soon.
Any film that operates on the same grand scale as Endgame would fall prey to the same problems it suffers from. Thus, one couldn’t be faulted for being amazed that Endgame doesn’t collapse under its own weight.
The reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe succeeds where other similarly ambitious undertakings have failed is simple. It was neither an attempt to capitalize on a trend nor a kneejerk response to a competitor’s success. From Iron Man to Endgame, it had a single goal: to tell a story.
Lovingly crafted by steady hands, the ceramic vase that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga was decorated with the numerous films it encompasses. Then, Captain America: Civil War came along and cracked it; after that, Infinity War shattered it.
And now, Endgame is holding the pieces together: streaks of gold, scattered across a mosaic of modern-day myths.
Superheroes remain as popular as ever on the silver screen, despite self-styled doomsday prophets preemptively mourning the death of superhero films. And while Endgame concludes the Infinity Saga, the Marvel movie train is far from over. The overwhelmingly positive reception to Endgame attests to the fact that the Marvel movies are more than just soulless cash grabs; they’re reinterpretations of beloved characters and stories, in a format that more fans can easily enjoy.
The truth is… Endgame is proof that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a heart.
P.S. Go back to the beginning of this review and read the first letter of every paragraph for a mild spoiler. Surprise!