REWIND REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame
For an occasional new segment, Every Movie Has a Lesson will cover upcoming home media releases combining an “overdue” or “rewind” film review, complete with life lessons, and an unboxed look at special features.
Arriving on home media this week from Disney and Marvel Studios is their colossal blockbuster coda Avengers: Endgame starring everyone who’s everyone from the collective Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been built with tidy and patient blueprints since 2008. Time travel tropes aside, you couldn’t have asked for a better swan song of satisfaction than this big finish. Watch for it arriving in physical media form on store shelves Tuesday, August 13th after an extremely successful theatrical run. With today’s money, it finished as the #2 domestic grosser of all-time and the #1 total international performer. This is a pretty customary disc release, and one has to think Disney has something more complete, expansive, and expensive planned somewhere were all 20+ of these gems land in one monster set. Until then, enjoy the basics.
LATE HOMEWORK EXCUSE:
None! I was on the front line seeing this Marvel Cinematic Universe epic in advance, and I’ll re-spin little excerpts from my full review as we go.
ANTICIPATORY SET AND PRIOR KNOWLEDGE:
Arriving in their own proverbial “Pit of Despair,” the movie itself and the hopes of all living individuals are on the backs of those among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes who did not get turned to dust at the snap of the Mad Titan Thanos’s (Josh Brolin) Infinity Gauntlet-reinforced fingers. Twenty-two days have passed and the earthbound survivors, led by charter members Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are joined by Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and War Machine (Don Cheadle), quake under the enormity of their defeat. Drifting in space with exhausted survival resources on the dead stick that is Peter Quill’s former Milano craft, an emaciated Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) do the same light years away with even less hope.
The post-apocalyptic survivors of what has been named “The Vanishing” by the common citizens have to continue their lives and leadership without those who were lost, including many loved ones. Leading MCU series screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely put ample dwelling time towards this profound lament. With resolve, it becomes about accepting loss and growing from it, even with as one character admits “all kinds of stubborn” regressive actions. There is a future and they have to do something with it. Wallowing in guilt is not one of those somethings.
What will have to stand as a limited cavalry arrives in the form of a gone-rogue Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), the paged Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), and an escaped Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who has found an exit from the Quantum Realm he was stranded in during Ant-Man and the Wasp just before the cataclysmic ash. While Danvers brings cosmic might that could make more than a few things right, it’s Ant-Man who may have discovered the real linchpin loophole. His wing-and-a-prayer (call it what it really is: a scheme) involves time travel and represents a chance (an extremely risky one, naturally) for everyone to correct what went horribly wrong.
Folks, with a universe and property this big, we have reached a saturation point and commitment level where fan service is necessary. That’s right. What some have called pandering should actually be seen as one of the many objectives in an invested and vetted blockbuster like this one. It is to a point where the course of things is thematically and tonally misaligned without those inclusions. Not every piece of fandom has earned that. This one has. Avengers: Endgame is unabashedly a three-hour festival of celebrating all the dream fulfillment of past and present for this deep roster of beloved characters. The wow moments come often and hit both the jaw-drop and stand-up-and-cheer levels. Enjoy the hell out of those highlights.
Through the amplified production values, levels of fan service, all of the matched climactic stakes carried over from Infinity War, and the layers of executed denouement occurring here, what you are watching is a true “coda”. For those light on the lexicon, the range of the term’s definition can be merged into “a concluding part of a dramatic work that is formally distinct from the main structure” and “serves to round out, conclude, or summarize.” Avengers: Endgame is not a pivot point, but a grand finale eleven years in the making. True to the blueprint, it is hard to imagine a more gratifying and rewarding summit.
As aforementioned, this first-run Avengers: Endgame home media release is customary. If you translate to “customary” as basic, you would be accurate. With the size of the film itself, all of the bonus features require a second disc. The movie is available in Blu-ray/digital and 4K/Blu-ray/Digital sets with those identification trims and color schemes. Let’s look inside.
The only feature on the main disc with the movie is a spirited commentary from the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo and the writing team of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus. It’s admittedly rare to see a Disney film without ads and trailers, but this behemoth jumps straight to the steak. For the length of this movie, the volume of insights and nuggets is enormous and their collective enthusiasm and expertise comes through after working together for nearly eight straight years across two Captain America films (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War) and now two Avengers flicks (Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame). Their mood and message is quite unified and celebratory. They knew they were onto something special and they show a great deal of respect for the work of others that made the final product soar. This is easily the most recommended feature of the disc release.
The second/bonus disc contains seven short featurettes, a handful of deleted scenes, and a gag reel. Most folks flock straight to the deleted scenes hoping some jaw-dropped deletion could have improved the final film. For this Avengers: Endgame release there are only six deleted scenes included. None of them are longer than two minutes and most are shorter than one. Five of them are little trimmed extensions of existing scenes, like Pepper and Tony in the cabin or Rocket ragging other characters, where a throwaway barb, joke, or aside was cut for leanness. All were wise cuts.
The one deleted scene that will get disc buyers talking is the sixth and final one, “Avengers Take a Knee.” The scene in question has been making the YouTube rounds and shows a different and more immediate tribute gesture, a reverse standing ovation if you will, to Tony on the battlefield instead of the lake funeral later. I think the cabin version works better and is a more unique shot to include more people. This cut was the right call too.
Finally, looking into the creation spaces, the seven featurettes offered on this disc total a slim 46 minutes. The only real attempt at behind-the-scenes insight for this specific movie comes in a brief five-minute spotlight of the Russo Brothers. Their back-to-back shooting ambition made this happen, but you would have loved to see more than five minutes for a true and immersive making-of documentary.
By far, the most endearing one is “Remembering Stan Lee.” Collecting his own interview bits from his many appearances, this seven-minute look back at the self-described “ham” and “common denominator” who started so much of this on the printed page could have easily went 70 minutes with no complaints. To see so much of the filmmaking and acting talent share in his gee-whiz fun and kiss the ring was lovely. The dream fulfillment of all this began with Stan Lee. The second best goes to a quick celebration for the “Women of the MCU.” An all-too-brief five minutes combines the collected brevity of the many actresses that have become inspirations for both representation and their own fictional character strength for gender equality. From Evangeline Lilly and Brie Larson all the way to Danai Gurira and Gwyneth Paltrow, all push the importance with great pride.
After the creative tributes, the final five featurettes focus on single characters and their respective performers. “Bro Thor” gives a short look at Chris Hemsworth getting the chance to try something physically and emotionally different with the disheveled God of Thunder from Avengers: Endgame. The other three retrace character arcs for Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow that go all the way back to their casting (via casting director Sarah Finn) hires with the MCU. Naturally, the top-billed Robert Downey, Jr. gets the leadoff spot with a feature on his unconventional casting and forthright perfection for the role. The largest chunk of time (12 minutes) goes to engaging and moral backbone that was Chris Evans as Captain America. The Black Widow short nicely revels in celebrating Scarlett Johansson’s movie-to-movie shifts of complexity.
Once again, this all feels normal and meager. There has to be a bigger treasure trove of production footage and facts than these assembled. Never the less, this is the big hit many will want it looks pristine on a home screen. Welcome to the big ending and keep coming back to it on your own couch instead of waiting for Disney+ rotation.