Avengers Endgame Full Movie Review

By Raul Navedo of the Minorities Report Podcast

“Part of the journey IS the end.” And what an end we’ve been gifted with. We live in a world that has had to endure Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, TDKR, and Justice League. Where your average ensemble film can’t get pacing and structure right because of how many A-Listers have to share a narrative. A place where “spectacle” tends to trump storytelling. It’s no wonder why we walk into things like this with some concern. Worried that we will be let down like so many times before… But I can now say, not this time. This time we can walk out of the theater like Judd Nelson and throw that fist in the air, and I hope some of you do, because our beloved Russo Bros. have brought an epic and satisfying end to one of the greatest journeys in cinematic history.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the breakdown because we all know it and if you don’t, then this is not the place for you. You clicked on the wrong “Avengers” from the wrong decade… Our team is back to kill Thanos and try to correct what he did. Some of our heroes are in VERY VERY VERY low places, and I’m not just talking about their gut; but they have to get it together for a long-shot opportunity to regain the people they have lost while making up for the years humanity can never get back.

Guys, I don’t know if you are aware but our current MCU universe is made up of 28 (from my quick count) lead, non-supporting, characters that make up our heroes. Extend that to supporting and we are at 40, but let’s stick to 28, shall we? To consider what the Russos had to work with to balance screen time to appease the fans of all of these franchises. Breaking down each storyline and finding ways to–not only represent them well–but end them well with a conclusion that is both epic and satisfying. Funny and heart breaking. Some would say it’s too much for one person to handle… Luckily we got two!

The plot was handled so well even though there was so much to work with, and I know it was a three hour film; but honestly, it could have been longer. One of my biggest issues with the film is the pacing in the first hour. It is a bit rushed; but then again, if you consider where they need to get and all they need to do then you understand why it is so. However, if you add another twenty minutes to the film, that first third will feel a lot better. For the general public, a three hour film is too much to handle. So, I get it. The pacing seems to settle significantly once a certain character pops back into the world and puts a plan in motion that, though the risk is high, the reward is, literally, a trillion times better! “We owe it to everyone who isn’t here to try.”

As a kid I used to own a VHS copy of Titanic. I remember it was so long it came in two tapes. The second tape began right as Jack and Rose leave the iconic handprint on the glass. They run out to the deck laughing. The two guys in the crows nest see them getting frisky and then we get the comedic “If that’s what it takes to get warm I’d rather not” line right before we hit the glacier. I remember this because I watched the second half of Titanic easily over a dozen times. I would just pop in the second tape. If VHSs were still relevant this would be this generation’s Titanic. The whole film is great but the second half is so much greater! Kids would know the second half like the back of their hand and their recollection of the first half would amount to lovers standing at the front of a ship with their arms out AND Rose’s boobs. Hopefully you are still tracking with me. Although the first half of this film is great, the second half is what people will keep coming back for.

This is the culmination of 2,448 minutes of superhero excellence, and the pressure was real but the “Endgame” was handled so well that few will have a hard time enjoying these three hours that fly by before you know it.

Besides the first hour’s pacing being a bit off, there was one scene that is truly problematic. I may get some hate for this but someone has to say it! The forced unnecessary-female-empowerment-moment. Not that I have a problem with an awesome kick-ass girl scene but this one is so blatantly forced that it is very difficult to enjoy without mocking. I loved the similar moment in Infinity War but I didn’t have to suspend disbelief to enjoy it. Everyone around me shook their heads–women and men My wife was right next to me saying “So dumb…”

That is truly the worse moment in the film for me, and it wasn’t even a full scene. Just a quick moment. The rest of the film was filled truly great moments where we felt deep joy and heartache that was fueled by some tremendous acting. Everyone did exceptional, but I have to say hats off to Robert Downy Jr who created some complicated emotional moments. The only thing I was left wanting was Captain Marvel. I really like what Brie, the Russo’s and Anna & Ryan did with her character so I expected to see more of her. I mean, it must be tough considering this was shot before Captain Marvel even had a script so they had no idea how well her character would do and how big her fandom would be but I wish they had just trusted that people would jive with her and that her solo film would break a billion at the box office.

All that being said, this is a great film that I will probably see five times in theaters and will surely talk about at length. It is definitely worth the watch that I need to say that, and it will likely end up at the top of my MCU ratings. “Part of the journey is the end” and, as I writer, I believe that it is not only part of the journey but it is the most important part. It is the part people leave with. The part of the story that determines how you feel when it’s all over. Did you know our strongest memories are attributed to emotion? That’s why the end is the thing people will discuss and breakdown most. The part they will criticize or admire the most. It’s the part that keeps them coming back like when Cal is chasing Jack and Rose through the sinking ship while shooting at them…

The end is everything and, in this situation, everything is pretty friggin great!

You can follow the Minorities Report Pod on Twitter! And visit their website to listen to the podcasts. A big thank you to Raul for contributing this article.

You can catch Ryan most weeks at Studio Movie Grill Tampa, so if you’re in the area, let him know and you can join him at the cinema.

Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter!

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“Ben-Hur” (2016) movie review

BenHurJust as epic a story today as it was during Hollywood’s golden age! Paramount Pictures and MGM Studios present the reimagined classic historical drama of Ben-Hur. Appropriately released by two of the most recognized names in the industry harkening back to the early days of cinema, Ben-Hur plays out almost as well as it did decades ago. Sitting in the auditorium last night, I wondered what it was like to see a larger-than-life nail-biting story on the silver screen when the original was released in 1959, just before the final decline of the former powerhouse of motion picture production, the studio system. The grand experience of this film is only overshadowed by the unusual pacing. Typically epic stories require a minimum of two hours, and often come close to 3-hour runtimes in order to do the story justice and tell it visually and emotionally in the most impactful way possible; however, this film is just over two hours. This moderately quick pacing hinders one’s ability to really appreciate the foreground and background stories. The grandeur of the Roman Empire fails to show as prominently as it should have in this film that bares a striking resemblance to Ridley Scott’s Gladiator in many respects. There are many sweeping shots of the Circus (chariot racing arena) that are disappointingly mostly CGI’d. Still, there is something remarkable about this story. Whether you are approaching this film from a historic standpoint (historic in an appreciation for classic Hollywood stories), religious perspective (forgiveness and sacrifice), or simply for the bad ass racing of chariots in a grand arena, you will likely find something to enjoy about this movie.

On the backdrop of the final years of the messiah, Ben-Hur is about a Jewish prince named Judah Beh-Hur (Huston) who is falsely accused and betrayed by his adopted Roman brother Messala Severus (Kebbell). Sentenced to a life of perpetual rowing of Roman galleons in battle, Ben-Hur endears harsh treatment and near-death experiences in order to one day seek his vengeance. Meanwhile, Messala becomes a war hero and favorite of the people and the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. When the destruction of his ship opens the door for escape, Ben-Hur finds himself washed upon the shore to be picked up by a wealthy African (Freeman) who races chariots–or pays for young men to race chariots. Striking a deal between them, the wealthy African and Ben-Hur work together to train for Ben-Hur to defeat Massala in the circus in order to reclaim his name and truly hit the Romans where it hurts–losing at their own game.

One of the most unique aspects to this film is the parallel plot between the background and foreground, the plot and subplot. At the end of the day, the message of Ben-Hur is one of forgiveness. The forgiveness between brothers and the forgiveness of Christ. Although this is not a film based upon the story of the messiah (or passion), the character of Jesus is an important element in the journey from vengeance to forgiveness. On three occasions, Ben-Hur encounters Jesus, not knowing who he is. Each of these chance meetings can be read as symbolic of the different acts (or stages) in the film itself. As the story of the passion of the Christ is one that many recognize (even those who are not Christians), it helps to get an idea of what is going on in the background at the same time at the story at the forefront of the film.

Cinematically, the film was a little disappointing. It feels like a lot of potential and opportunity for incredible cinematography and production design was wasted. Although there are many wide or establishing shots, the majority of the film consists of American medium shots. It would have been exciting to see more of the physical world of Jerusalem and the Roman Empire but instead we spend a lot of time indoors or in close proximity to our cast. Likewise, I would have liked to have seen more in the way of physical production design. The world on screen should have been one that I could have almost felt. Furthermore, I find that the pacing of the film was not adequate enough to actually tell the story in the manner in which it should have. It’s mostly like there was a 2.5-3hr movie condensed into a typical 2hr runtime. Sometimes epic films are guilty of way too much exposition, but Ben-Hur definitely could’ve benefited from additional development and exposition. Everything just happens too quickly and with minimal challenge.

Chariot racing. That is synonymous with Ben-Hur. And you will get plenty of horses, chariots, and crashes. Not unlike NASCAR of today, chariot racing was all about the violence and crashes. Thousands of spectators gathered to watch heroes battle it out on the ground of the circus (or race track) to see who will be the “first to finish…last to die.” Many early films were more concerned about the spectacle of cinema more so than the story or message. After all, MGM’s famous logo states Ars Gratia Artis (latin for “art for art’s sake”), meaning the goal of cinema was to contribute to the world of the visual and performing arts. Not necessarily to entertain, although that is certainly part of it, but to create beauty, intrigue, and push the boundaries of the mind and eye. One of the most mesmerizing elements of the original Ben-Hur was the chariot racing. Likewise, the most exciting parts of this new incarnation are the sights, sounds, and spectacle of the chariot races.

Although there are certainly areas of the film that disappointed me, as I have mentioned, I highly recommend for anyone who appreciates historic dramas that wax nostalgic the days of the golden age of Hollywood. And who doesn’t love a great chariot race???