Infinity Saga Full Review
A few months ago, I rewatched the majority of the films in the first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic universe, collectively referred to as The Infinity Saga, in the name of review and comparison. I did not do this out of some illusion that they are the greatest movies ever made, but it is at this point undeniable that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the biggest movie franchise in human history on nearly every metric, and it is notable that each film has a coherent role in a grander story arc. In this review, I will go through each film and give my thoughts, along with my personal ranking from best to worst, with 1 being the best and 21 being the worst. The middle 8-10 become a bit muddled in their precise ranking, and some may be interchangeable, but some thought was given at the very least. These reviews will be far from comprehensive, and will mainly portray my surface thoughts after watching them. Additionally, I will be listing them in the order that I watched them, which was roughly release order with very notable exceptions. In the relevant entries I will list my reasoning for watching a particular film in the order that I did.
This introduction is already longer than I would like, but I wanted to make some important disclaimers before I proceed. These may upset some of you, but I would like to note that I am someone who usually takes care in being a completionist, and these exceptions do not actually bother me.
- I have still not seen The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton. I have not heard it is particularly good, maybe decent for an entertaining first watch. There is no major storyline I feel I am missing out on, it was not available on any streaming services I have access to, and it avoids the confusion of remembering two actors playing Bruce Banner. From what I have heard about it from others, the only reason it really fits into the MCU at all is because Tony Stark shows up in the post-credits scene. Maybe I will see this one eventually, but I don’t really feel the need to.
- This list does not include Spiderman: Far From Home. I’ve seen it, I have opinions on it, but I feel comfortable not including it in the Infinity Saga story arc. The film very much felt like the start of something new, and the only reason I can think of Kevin Feige slotting it into Phase 3 was the timing of its release.
- I have never read any comic books. They were not present in my life growing up, and I will not be comparing how the storylines in these movies relate to the comics. I firmly believe that a film’s or film series’ storyline and continuity should stand on its own merits. I of course have complete respect for the role comics played in the creation of the films, their stories, people’s interest in them, and frankly their entire existence, but this review is purely coming from the place of an aspiring film critic who appreciates film’s role in society and popular culture.
- This is not really a disclaimer, it is more of a final footnote before the review. Apparently Black Widow will be set during the events of the Infinity Saga, but it is considered a Phase 4 film. I am curious to see how the timeline will be handled in the film, as a flashback etc., to see if I would place it as an Infinity Saga film. Perhaps it will be far removed from the saga somehow so that it would actually not be coherent to place it with the rest of the Infinity Saga, which would be quite interesting if true.
#1: Captain Marvel
Watch order notes: I foresee many of you wondering why I watched this first, but it honestly makes perfect sense to me. Chronologically, Captain America happens first, but I like to think of Captain America being told in flashback format, with the start of the movie finding him frozen, and the end of the movie with him meeting Nick Fury. Watching Captain Marvel first introduces you to a lot of important events, details, and characters, like Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Ronan, and the Avengers name. Additionally, not seeing Captain Marvel again until Endgame makes her a sort of bookend for the saga, with both this film and Endgame offering explanations why she is not in the rest of it.
As for the film itself, I felt it was pretty solid. The middle section of the film from her crash into the Blockbuster to when she and Fury enter the S.H.I.E.L.D. base was really satisfying to watch. I enjoyed how the film teases you with information you don’t know, and revealing the information to you in the end and finding out how everything is connected is probably my favorite aspect of the film. The truth of the Cree/Skrull war was a fantastic subversion of expectations. There were just so many facets to the plot and I felt they all made sense and meshed with each other well, although in some of the facets the film does take slightly too long to get to the point.
I can understand some viewers not appreciating this movie as much I feel it deserves. Overall it is a good origin story but not an exceptional one, and I do feel the action set pieces as a whole were not as grand or common as we usually see in Marvel movies. The vitriolic hate and disregard people have for this movie I am convinced is rooted in sexism, though. A lot of people find Brie Larson annoying in general, but I really enjoyed her performance. She was funny and confident without being awkward. Anyone who sees Captain Marvel who is being honest with themselves needs to at least admit it is a middle-of-the-road film and a decent enough Marvel film.
#2: Captain America
Watch order notes: I know I said I liked to think of this as being told in flashback format, and if I were being consistent then I would have had to watch Iron Man first. I watched Captain America first mainly because I liked the idea of watching Iron Man and Iron Man 2 one after the other, but I would agree that chronologically this film would come after Iron Man.
This film introduces a lot of important ongoing arcs in the MCU, like his friendship with Bucky and his relationship with Peggy. Overall, this film was fine, but a lot of parts I wasn’t really interested in. The origin aspect itself was enjoyable (the MCU in general does origin stories really well), but everything after that lost my interest. I understand and appreciate the importance of HYDRA’s role in the rest of the saga, but something about the 2nd half of the film just made me not really care about the plot. Maybe it was the action itself, maybe some performances were unconvincing, I can’t really put my finger on it. I did not dislike watching it, and despite everything I have said it’s a film you will remember for a long time.
#3: Iron Man
I think I’m going to get a lot of grief for ranking this lower than a lot of people would, but I will submit that Iron Man is probably not as good as you remember. The origin sequence itself is phenomenal, the various suit-up scenes are cathartic and iconic, and the final scene in the film catapulted the MCU into what it is today. That being said, all three Iron Man movies have this underlying B-movie feel to them that makes it hard for me to take them seriously. The final act where Obadiah just kinda loses his mind is goofy and unconvincing. I don’t really know what else to say, everything else was pretty average.
#4 Iron Man 2
We come to it at last, the first of four MCU films in this list that I actively disliked watching. I’ve heard rumors that they shot this film without a script and boy does it show. I could not take Mickey Rourke’s villain seriously, or really anything that happens. There were a couple scenes I guess I liked. I liked the Stark Expo. I liked when Sam Rockwell’s character acted like a dumbass. I liked Black Widow and Fury. That’s pretty much it. I did not find the B-plot of the arc reactor slowly killing Stark to be convincing. It was supposed to add some tension but there were really no stakes involved there. As I mentioned, there’s just an awkward feel to these movies. Maybe all Phase 1 films were like that? I would watch it again for laughs and the occasional oddball scene, but that is pretty much it.
Two films I actively disliked watching are both in Phase One, imagine that. I think we can all agree that the character of Thor did not come into his own in this movie, which is depressing because that seemed like the goal of the film. All of the scenes on Asgard were fine. All of the scenes on Earth were boring and awkward. I really do not want to talk down on his trio of human friends in this film and Thor 2. Some people have said all sorts of bad things about them but my main relevant argument is that they detracted from Thor being the star of the movie as I feel like he should have been. Unrelated to that, it was really anticlimactic for the bifrost bridge to be destroyed at the end but then that has no impact in future films and it’s just completely fixed the next time we see it with no explanation that I can remember. Sif and The Warriors Three are completely inconsequential whatsoever. Maybe this movie is not that bad and I’m unfairly comparing it to the better films in the saga, but probably not.
#6: The Avengers
For those of you who do not remember, this movie was huge when it came out. Nothing like this had ever been done before, at least not to this level of popularity. It was known for some years that a crossover film was going to happen, but seeing it executed is such a manner cemented in people’s minds that the MCU was a thing and was going to be for a long time. The plot gives us the first taste into the storyline of the entire saga. The Battle of New York is flawless. Seeing all of the core six Avengers working together for the first time is as satisfying now as it was in 2012. I personally like this being the introduction to Bruce Banner in the MCU. This film is not perfect though, and just one scene in the movie brings my ranking down. When all of the Avengers are in the room with the staff arguing and bickering with each other, there is a shot centered on the mind stone staff where the camera spins. I felt like this was supposed to give the impression that the mind stone in the staff was causing the Avengers to turn on each other, but that is not really explored at all, and if that was the case, it was slightly too subtle to the point where you cannot be sure that is what happening, and that damaged the scene. It seemed like Joss Whedon in this film and in Age of Ultron had some sort of obsession with having subplots where the Avengers fight with each other, but I didn’t really like that. I understand the concept, that the Avengers greatest danger is themselves or whatever, but in my opinion it detracted from what should be the main focus of the film, which was the Avengers coming together to solve a problem. That nitpick aside, this timeless film broke a ton of ground and was a successful proof of concept for the entire series.
#7: Iron Man 3
Iron Man 2 and 3, and Thor: The Dark World were the three MCU films I had not yet seen when I started this journey, and I approached this one with an open mind. I was disappointed, this movie is really frustrating to me. The A-plot was whatever, it was pretty much the same as the other two Iron Man movies; he somehow or another screws over a guy he used to work with or is associated with, the guy gets pissed off, tries to kill him. That is not super interesting to me, but it’s fine in concept. Two of the subplots kind of ruined the rest of the movie for me. Tony realizing he has PTSD from the Battle of New York introduced strong potential for exploring the depths of the character, but then pretty much nothing happens with it. He has a couple of flashbacks and then…that’s it. They don’t really address it further. Another theme this movie tried to pull off is that he was grappling with his creations kind of taking over his mind, and a Darth Vader-like “more machine than man” scenario starts to play out. That culminates in him destroying all of his suits and work at the end of the film. That would be a great way to set the stage for future films, but then the next time we see Tony in Age of Ultron, he has all of his suits back and it’s just business as normal for him. In Age of Ultron it’s just hand waved away as “Ope, well I tried to but I couldn’t.” I guess that is technically not this movie’s fault, but that just further adds to this movie’s core flaw that it has no reason for existing. There are other films in the MCU that don’t really interact with the overall Infinity saga plot, but they at least have characterization. I feel like Iron Man 3 has none. There were some cool moments, such as rescuing the people falling out of the plane. His escape from the basement where he puts on parts of his suit as they are launched at him is actually really fun and one of my favorite scenes in the MCU. Those do not save the frustrating abandoned plot threads I feel this movie had. There were other more minor noticeable flaws but this entry is already long enough.
#8: Thor: The Dark World
Watch order notes: I watched Iron Man 3 first because I knew it had mentions of the Battle of New York in it so I thought it would be best to watch it right after Avengers, but this actually immediately follows Avengers a bit better because of Loki’s trial, so I would change the order here if I were to watch the Infinity saga again.
This is ranked pretty low on my list, but overall I did enjoy it. I am actually a fan of the villain. Revenge was a partial motivator in his actions, but mainly he wanted to plunge the universe into darkness because that is simply his nature. His primary motivation is just making the universe how he thinks it should be. Thor once again did not have a whole lot of characterization, which is a shame, but we did see his relationship with Loki fleshed out a lot more, and I would argue Loki is the most convincing part of the film. The movie really wanted an emotional punch when Frigga died, but the buildup and execution didn’t land. The final battle was really engaging and directed well in my opinion. All of that being said, pretty much every scene on earth was really boring, his three human companions are just annoying. I don’t want to dislike them, I really don’t, but they are just not interesting. Overall it was a fitting enough introduction to the reality stone, and pretty much every scene with Loki was good. Tom Hiddleston was casted well, what a huge shock to absolutely no one.
#9: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I am actually having a really hard time figuring out why I love this movie so much. I think a lot of it ultimately comes down to technical aspects. It is certainly true that by and large the Russo brothers MCU films are generally my favorite ones. I love the action scenes’ choreography and direction. I love the Winter Soldier music. I love Nick Fury being Nick Fury. I enjoyed Falcon and Black Widow’s characterization. The plot and token Captain America speeches are good, but not what I would point to as liking the most about this movie. I guess I’m realizing that there was not really anything I disliked about the film. Some people have said that this was the MCU’s delve into spy thrillers. I would agree to an extent, but it is still more action movie than spy film in my opinion. I wish I had more to say but it just hit all of the buttons in my head and I really cannot put it into words.
#10: Guardians of the Galaxy
Watch order notes: There are a couple places in a watch through where you could put the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but you should watch them one right after the other. By my understanding, Vol. 2 almost immediately follows the first one, and there is a five year gap between Vol. 2 and Infinity War, so I chose to put it earlier. Also, this provides a decent buffer between exploring the storylines of the main Avengers and Age of Ultron.
Guardians of the Galaxy is not bad by any means, but I did not enjoy watching it this time as much as the first time I saw it. I think this is one of those movies that is a treat to watch the first time around but doesn’t hold up after multiple viewings. Also, like Avengers, this film broke a lot of MCU ground, so I think the excitement of it being something new and unique makes it stand out and be remembered in people’s minds a lot more. The visuals are gorgeous and the infusion of 80s music is inspired. The main characters are by far the strongest part of the film, as they should be. This is the 2nd film after Avengers to give us some sort of insight into Thanos and his plans, and I do appreciate it for that. In summation, it is aesthetically gorgeous with strong characters, but I found its rewatchability surprisingly lacking.
#11: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Remember in my Iron Man 3 review I wrote that some MCU films do not contribute to the overall story arc whatsoever but at least have characterization? I was mainly talking about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This movie is nothing but the Guardians coming into their own and getting to know themselves and each other better, and I enjoyed every second of that. I ranked the first one higher on my list, but in a lot of ways I could talk myself into liking this one more. Unlike the first one, it doesn’t try to be more than what it should be. The visuals, music, and overall aesthetic adequately match the first one, but did not have quite the shock value of the first one. The arrow scene on the Ravager ship is easily in the top 10 scenes in the entire series, I could watch that over and over. I think I gave Vol. 2 a lower ranking for two reasons. First, Vol. 1 was more relevant to the Infinity saga arc itself. Secondly, it seemed like the culmination of the film was the death of Yondu and his redemption with the Ravagers, but I did not really feel emotionally as tied to Yondu as the movie wanted me to be and I certainly did not take the Ravagers seriously at all, so the weight of that fell short for me.
#12: Avengers: Age of Ultron
This is a painful one. I had not seen Age of Ultron in a very long time when I started this journey, and I remembered not liking it when I first saw it. There are a lot of things that happen that are fundamentally important to the Infinity saga story arc, so even if you hate it, you cannot really justify skipping it. With that in mind, I approached it with an open mind doing my best to remove any previous biases I had about it and I still did not enjoy this movie. It is the last film on this list that I actively disliked watching. I should be a bit fair, some of what I disliked is not the movie’s fault. I really do not like Joss Whedon’s obsession with plots that revolve around the mind stone making the Avengers turn on each other. Movies like this do not require a ton of escapism to be enjoyable, but these plots removed all of my escapism and investment. That’s not the movie’s fault per se, it is mainly just my preference. Also, every time Ultron talked all I could picture was James Spader and it was really distracting. Again, not the movie’s fault. I think my dislike ultimately comes down to a lot of little things that would be exhausting to document. As far as characterization goes Hawkeye was the big winner, he is probably the most realistic part of the whole movie. This is also the only MCU film where Vision does anything interesting, whatever that is worth. I don’t dislike Joss Whedon in general, and I am not sure of the details regarding why he was dropped from making more Marvel films, but I think it was the right decision.
Watch order notes: It feels a bit uncomfortable to me from a narrative perspective to put a film between Age of Ultron and Civil War, but unfortunately this is really the only place to slot this movie in. It does not fit before Age of Ultron because the Avenger’s base is not set up, and Ant-Man needs to be introduced before Civil War. I suppose it works well enough considering Civil War does not technically come right after Age of Ultron, but the stories flow into each other well.
I probably love this movie more than I should. It breaks ground in a similar but opposite way that Guardians of the Galaxy does. Instead of taking the MCU into the craziness of space with zany adventures, this movie brings the MCU back down to earth and makes a hero that can actually be relatable to a lot of people. This movie has both goofy fun and ominous tones, and it balances the two surprisingly well. I will point out one flaw that does bother me. In a throwaway line, someone mentions that Cross’ mind is going whacky due to too much size changing, but that never happens to Hank Pym, Scott, or Hope, so that continuity doesn’t really follow. If they had just made Cross hilariously evil for the sake of it that honestly would have been better. That aside, I did not know I needed a superhero heist movie with Paul Rudd and a Thomas the Tank Engine action sequence but I am glad that I learned that I did.
#14: Captain America: Civil War
I wrote in the Avengers and Age of Ultron reviews that I did not enjoy the Avengers vs Avengers themes. My love for this movie and the high ranking I gave it may seem hypocritical, however Civil War, unlike the other two mentioned, made that sort of plot organic and compelling by making the cause of it completely mundane. Start to finish, I just feel this movie in my bones. I have not made a final opinion of my pick for One MARVELous Scene, but the final encounter with Steve, Stark, and Bucky is a strong contender. The emotion and tension that had built up the entire movie was tangible, the entire climax I found absolutely riveting. I have always referred to Civil War as Avengers 2.5, and in my opinion it accomplishes a lot of what Age of Ultron failed to do. Like Winter Soldier, maybe it comes down to the Russos’ directing and storytelling style.
#15: Black Panther
Watch order notes: I think the ending of Civil War segues well into Black Panther because of T’Chaka’s death and the implication that T’Challa goes home at the end of the movie, so I watched this right afterwards.
I truly do not want to take away the importance this movie carries in our society and the effect it had on our culture. It was the first MCU film to star a Black character and the first to be nominated for Best Picture. Those are both pretty damn important. That being said, I had a lot of trouble relating to this movie and the character of T’Challa. When it comes down to it, it was probably not meant for me, and there is nothing wrong with that. I thought Klaue was the most interesting character (the same games for Age of Ultron too, to be honest), and I strongly believe that T’Challa had a more compelling character arc in Civil War. If I am wrong I am fully willing to accept that, because this is one film I do not think I have the experience to analyze objectively. Still, at the very least, I found it enjoyable to watch.
#16: Doctor Strange
Watch order notes: The next three movies, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Spiderman: Homecoming, you can pretty much watch in any order before Thor: Ragnarok. I don’t know why I chose the order I ultimately did. I had some kind of reason but it wasn’t a very important one.
Spoiler alert, the MCU does origin stories really well. The first half of Doctor Strange thoroughly held my attention, the story of a staunch man of science transitioning to the realm of the mystic and unnatural was brilliantly done. Benedict Cumberbatch is already great on his own, but he was cast very well for this role. The A-plot with the dark dimension cultists was nothing particularly interesting, but the villain’s actions made sense, and the climactic scene with Dormammu is as iconic as any scene can get in the MCU. My level of investment with the rest of the film dropped dramatically after the first half, but my investment with Strange remained throughout, which was enough to keep me interested. Besides Strange himself, the point of the film was to introduce the time stone to the saga, which was done successfully.
#17: Ant-Man and the Wasp
Watch order notes: There are a few times in my altered watch order where the mid and post-credit scenes upset my reasoning, and I overall just chose to ignore the significance they would have to the watch order. This is as good of a spot as any to point out that this watch order is not necessarily the best one for someone who has not seen the MCU before, although it could be if one were to avoid the credits scenes.
The tone and feel of this movie is pretty much identical to the first Ant-Man, which would be great, except the positive shock value wore off, and the movie lost its footing a bit juggling between maintaining the humor of the first Ant-Man and introducing more serious plotlines. The film had three villain aspects to it, and none of them were interesting enough to me to focus on, so it seemed like random stuff was happening half the time. The only real investment I had was whether or not Janet would eventually be rescued, so her return was satisfying, although using the quantum energy to “heal” Ava was really contrived. The entire point of the movie was to set up that quantum realm magic exists for Endgame, so this certainly contributed more to the Infinity Saga arc than the first one did.
#18: Spiderman: Homecoming
Like Winter Soldier, there was not really anything I disliked about this movie. I loved the friendly neighborhood Spiderman aspect. I loved the references to other characters in the MCU casually put in. I loved all of the side characters. The scene where Peter learns that Liz’s dad is Vulture seethes tension and is fantastically executed. I put this movie lower than others because overall I did not have a visceral enjoyment of it like I did other films, but the flaws in it are few and far between. You have probably noticed that on some of these reviews I like to break down the film’s contribution to the overall saga, and in my opinion this film’s main contribution is the relationship that forms between Stark and Peter. Phase Three did not have an Iron Man standalone film, but this film and Civil War in a way provide two halves of one that do not quite create a whole.
#19: Thor: Ragnarok
Watch order notes: This should be watched immediately before Infinity War.
This film was fantastic and you cannot change my mind. It took the zany space adventure style of Guardians of the Galaxy and slotted it into a character we were more familiar with. Thor’s arc of being completely stripped down to his component parts only to rise back up is exactly what the character needed to stay interesting, and is a level of complexity the first two Thor movies never achieved. Hulk and Banner were treated perfectly start to finish. All of the side characters were perfect except Karl Urban, he really didn’t do anything besides act as a Mary Sue with Hela. Honestly though, I will take Karl Urban however I can get him. Loki was not particularly interesting in comparison to previous films he was in, he mainly just did Loki things, but that is nothing to complain about. In summation, Thor: Ragnarok is just nonstop wacky fun with strong and important character arcs and we owe pretty much all of that to Taika Waititi.
#20: Avengers: Infinity War
Avenger: Infinity War is the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I hold that opinion with a high degree of confidence. The plot is a conglomeration of every storyline in the saga, there are probably a dozen new main character interactions we had not seen before, all of this laced in with brilliant action scenes, and it all meshes together beautifully. Infinity War takes the excitement and satisfaction of different heroes coming together that the first Avengers gave us, and elevates it to an entirely new level. Thanos is inarguably the most fleshed-out and ominous villain in the entire saga, as he should be. Thor’s hero’s journey provides even more necessary development for the character, and is probably my favorite part of the film which is saying a lot. Up until this point in the watch-through, I only kind of liked Iron Man, he was ok, but this movie made me love him in so many new ways. Another strong contender for my choice of One MARVELous scene would be the Thanos vs. Doctor Strange then vs. Iron Man sequence. I could go on and on about how emotionally engaging Infinity War is, the acting, how intimate the action scenes are, and many many other things, but I think the main takeaway is that the Russos balanced all of these things out to create a legitimate masterpiece of a superhero film.
#21: Avengers: Endgame
In my opinion, Endgame was disappointing but enjoyable. To be a little fair, my expectations for this movie were very high, but I would contend that they had every reason to be. This was the most anticipated and hyped movie in a decade, and ended up being the biggest movie of all time. It had basically infinite resources for its production, and I would think that it would have had the best writers that money could buy. It had the same crew and directors from its showpiece of a predecessor. I frankly do not think expecting perfection from this film was unreasonable. Unfortunately, it was quite far from perfect.
The first of my major problems: Thanos. 2018 Thanos’ head getting chopped off was actually one of the most shocking things I’ve ever seen in a movie theater. However, then the movie created a problem for itself of who the villain was going to be. There was effectively not even a villain for the majority of the movie, which would be fine since that hole was filled by other things, but then we are expected to care about 2014 Thanos all of the sudden. I understand that his motivations probably had not changed in hundreds of years, I understand that he read Nebula’s memory to be pretty well updated on everything that’s going on, but 2014 Thanos was not the Thanos that we, the audience, had come to know. The Thanos we came to know was 2018 Thanos, the one that a good third of Infinity War was dedicated to characterizing. 2014 Thanos not only seemed different, more untamed, but he also had no stakes set for himself to make us sympathize with him. 2018 Thanos killed his own daughter who he loved, lost all of his leaders, and fought tooth and nail personally to accomplish his ultimate goal. 2014 Thanos had not done any of that, he just managed to slot himself in. 2018 Thanos was the one who snapped his fingers, not 2014 Thanos, and I think that is a significant difference. In the final battle it felt like there was a fake villain. There are two times this movie seemed to be oddly self-aware of its flaws. When Scarlet Witch says “You have taken everything from me,” and Thanos gives the immortal meme-worthy response of “I don’t even know who you are,” that is a frustrating admission that the emotional stakes here are so aggravatingly low. Like hello, movie? Do you see the problem here? Please tell me you see the problem here.
The second of my major problems: Time travel. I try my best to avoid dismissing time travel plots out of hand (I do enjoy Doctor Who after all) but they often seem like a copout. I don’t feel the need to go into details, but in the months leading up to its release, I thought of at least one possibly two main plots there could have been without the use of any time travel. The concept of it was set up with the Ant-Man movies, but it just felt out of place. The main reason for its existence was a catalyst to brute force last-minute characterization for most of the core six Avengers to make the climax and finale more satisfying. It partially accomplished that goal, but I would have preferred to see that happen in a different way. On this same topic, the reveal that Endgame Captain America who went back in time to return the stones (How did he return the soul stone?? How did he put the mind stone back in the staff?? Did he inject the reality stone back into Natalie Portman?? Did he recreate the Tesseract?? Please send help) had lived his entire life parallel to the main story viscerally upset me. It is not readily apparent that is what happens, but that makes sense when you think about it, and it was later confirmed by the Russos.
The third of my major problems: Hulk. Bruce Banner/Hulk had a solid arc that started in Thor: Ragnarok and continued through Infinity War, and like a lot of other things in the movie, the conclusion of the arc was rushed and incomplete. He then has no other character defining moments, and no, I do not think him doing the snap counts, because I am not sure what that is building off of. The other part of Endgame where the film is puzzlingly self aware of its flaws is when Valkyrie tells Banner “I liked you better either of the other ways.” Me too, Valkyrie. Me too.
Something that was not a major problem but more of an annoyance, and I would consider an inconsistency: the Infinity Gauntlet at the end. The gauntlet up until Endgame was treated as a legendary artifact. It required masterful dwarven smiths harnessing the power of a star to craft. A fake one was in Odin’s treasure room. In Infinity War the gauntlet had even more personality and aura surrounding it than the stones did. When the Avengers just happened to cook one up offscreen with no explanation that seemed really cheap. My sense of mysticism and universal wonder vanished.
I have a point to all of this. Every other scene in the movie aside, the good ones and the bad ones, everything came down to the last climactic battle. The way I see it, everything that happened beforehand in the film paled in importance to the last 40 or so minutes. Because of the scope, score, emotion-tugging, and the fact that it was the climax of the most popular film in history, I do not think it is a stretch to say that the portals scene will be remembered as one of the most iconic and well-remembered scenes in cinematic history. However, my first time seeing it in theaters and every time I’ve seen it since then, something felt off. All of the elements I have mentioned in previous paragraphs, mainly Thanos and the time travel, took me out of the scene. After the monumental buildup and the supposedly epic clash, I realized that I didn’t really care what was happening anymore, because the sequence of events that got us to that point was kind of ridiculous. Seeing the Avengers combat Thanos and his army did not feel like anything new, and for reasons I mentioned earlier it seemed like a cheap villain with a thinly strung attachment to our main characters. This is all on the back of time travel magic, which I felt to be cheap writing. Tony’s sacrifice felt like a sacrifice, but it also felt like it was shoehorned in. In addition, the battle itself was clunky, disjointed, and geographically absurd. Even my concerns about my investment aside, the large-scale sequences were choreographed poorly.
I do not know how many of these problems can be attributed to the Russos. I hope it is not many, but it probably is. The overall direction was really good. The Russos film small-scale 1v1 or 1v2 fights masterfully, and Endgame is no exception. The only part of the last 40 minutes I really felt anything was when Steve, Iron Man, and Captain Marvel each had their little 1v1 scraps with Thanos.
In conclusion, for all of the reasons I listed, Avengers: Endgame could have been and should have been much better. The seamlessness and ability to tell a dozen different stories that Infinity War had was lost here. The movie was exactly what it needed to be, but in terms of story it was not anything special beyond that.
For ease and summation, this is my ranking of the films in the Infinity Saga from best to worst:
- Avengers: Infinity War
- Thor: Ragnarok
- Captain America: Civil War
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- The Avengers
- Captain Marvel
- Doctor Strange
- Spiderman: Homecoming
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Iron Man
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- Black Panther
- Avengers: Endgame
- Captain America
- Ant-Man and the Wasp
- Thor: The Dark World
- Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Iron Man 3
- Iron Man 2
Thank you for reading my review! Do not have any fear reaching out to me for any discussion or rebuttal you may have. I hope at the very least you found it entertaining, ideally you found it edifying, but I am just happy you took the time either way.