Avengers: Endgame Is A Grand, Epic Finale Of The MCU—No Spoilers

Endgame poster

That moment is finally here. Dread it, run from it. Destiny still arrives. The 22nd film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Avengers: Endgame, is a fitting conclusion to the 11-year Infinity Saga.

This will be a non-spoiler review of Avengers: Endgame, the fourth Avengers film which concludes the brilliant set up of Avengers: Infinity War.

Thanos endgame

Without giving too much away, the film revels in the disastrous consequences of the last film where the mad Thanos (Josh Brolin) used the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half of all life in the universe. Our heroes grapple with the magnitude of their defeat in Avengers: Infinity War and how they cope with the Decimation (or Thanos’ Snap) is quite dramatic, emotional and unexpectedly grounded. Some may complain that the pace of the film is slower than usual for an Avengers film, but it is necessary for the epic payoff later on.

The actors portraying Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are at their best in Avengers: Endgame, which has many scenes that allow them to display their thespian skills. Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/Tony Stark), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) form the emotional triumvirate of Avengers: Endgame, as it should since they are the heart and soul of the MCU. Other characters like Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) also have their dramatic moments in the sun. Again, as mentioned above, these emotional beats have a dramatic payoff and underline the desperate nature of their mission.

Avengers in Endgame

This film lasts three hours with three distinct acts that have their own separate tone. As interesting as it sounds, it doesn’t always flow as well as say Infinity War. The previous film had a more consistent and intense feel throughout. This will probably disappoint casual fans expecting Avengers: Infinity War, Part Two, but this fourth Avengers film serves as a love letter to the MCU.

Fans of the beloved MCU film franchise will just be delighted with all the references, cameos and callbacks to the past 21 MCU films, even the mediocre ones, which can now be seen in a new light. The film seems at times to be a Who’s Who of the MCU, but it is never confusing except for an important plot device. It won’t be said what it is, we’ll save that for the spoiler discussion coming soon, but let’s just say that sci-fi fans are familiar with it and have dealt with the headaches it causes. The same thing occurs in Avengers: Endgame and it leads to many questions and plot holes, but honestly by the time the last scene is unfurled no one will care too much.

Instead viewers will be taken aback by the sheer EPIC scale of the film. Avengers: Endgame pulls no stops in its final act with a spectacular battle scene that will go down in cinematic history as one of the greatest, if not the greatest battle scene shown on film. The final battle is confidently and explosively has the scale of an all-out war that is sprawling and visceral! While the pyrotechnics and the effects are a highlight (and better nab this film an Oscar for best special effects!), just as impactful are all the dramatic moments showcased in the finale. There is a satisfying feeling of payoff, whether we’re celebrating or mourning or are left hanging on the edge of our seats. The final act seriously induces tears not just because of the fate of some characters, but because one can’t help but rejoice in the level of glory displayed on the screen. This film truly feels like a work of art to be savored.

Already some are proclaiming Avengers: Endgame to be the best MCU and superhero film of all time. To be fair, it’s too soon to bestow that honor. Let time pass and genuflect on how this film resonates. But it certainly is the most epic superhero film that sticks the landing. That was something this film had to accomplish and somehow pulls this off so powerfully.

Avengers in Benatar

By the time Avengers: Endgame ends, there is a feeling of completion. The story of most of these characters has come to an end. By the way, don’t bother waiting around for a post- or middle-credits scene. There isn’t any, although after seeing the film one will have to agree that none were needed. At the same time, we are left with tantalizing glimpse of how life goes on with an eye towards the next great phase of the MCU. For some this will be a good point to stop following the MCU, but there is so much to look forward to. For now, let this epic event called Avengers: Endgame sink in and permeate our hearts as we celebrate the greatest film franchise of all time.

José Soto

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The Identity Behind Star Wars: Rise Of The Skywalker

 

With the release of the first teaser trailer for the latest Star Wars film, Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, one thing about the title is raising many questions. Chiefly, whom is the title referring to? Luke Skywalker, Anakin Skywalker, Leia Organa? Or is Rey herself a Skywalker?

Consider this, technically there are only two Skywalkers left and their last names aren’t even Skywalker. That is Leia and her son Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. So are either one of them the person in the Star Wars title? Thinking about it, not likely. Due to Carrie Fisher’s untimely death a couple of years ago before this film began filming, her screen presence will be limited. As for Kylo, unless he pulls Vader-in-Return-of-the-Jedi act and renounces the Dark Side of the Force, he isn’t the Skywalker either. Besides he is a Solo.

A popular and logical theory going around is that it’s Rey. She has no family and her past is mysterious, even to her. The only problem is that according to the previous Star Wars saga film, she came from a family of nobodies. This revelation disappointed fans who were hoping that the mystery alluded to in Star Wars: The Force Awakens would lead to her being a long-lost Skywalker. But given how divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi was, and based on the nostalgic tone of Rise of the Skywalker trailer, it looks like the new film will retcon The Last Jedi to the relief of many. So we may learn that Rey is part of the Skywalker family, but who’s child is she? Luke and Leia with their affinity to the Force didn’t acknowledge her as a relative. But who knows with the new film?

Could it be Luke Skywalker coming back from the dead as an advanced Force ghost? He is very powerful in using the Force and would have the ability to do so as Yoda and Obi-Wan hinted in the past. Or is this person some other lost child (and no this does not mean that slave kid at the end of The Last Jedi) that we haven’t met yet? Doubtful. What if it’s Anakin coming back as a Force ghost to right the wrongs committed by Ren and the First Order? That could happen, but there hasn’t been any reports of Hayden Christiansen on the set of the film.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker could be referring a cause, a movement instead of a person.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi made a big deal over how the Jedi were extinct and even Luke Skywalker wanted the order to wither away because of his failure over Kylo Ren’s rise. But as we know, at the end, Luke had a change of heart and proclaimed that he was not the last Jedi and it was up to Rey to carry the torch. She was shown to have taken the Jedi texts with her so she could learn from them, but she never passed the trials to become a Jedi.

It’s possible that like the Sith, the Jedi are indeed gone, never to return. But in a new and better order will take its place and it will be called Skywalker. Think of it as Buddhism or Christianity. The religions are based on the philosophies of two influential people, Buddha and Jesus Christ. It’s possible that an order called Skywalker will be more about keeping balance in the Force and will spread by the end of the film. Followers of the movement will be inspired by Luke and Rey’s actions as they carry out a crusade to wipe out the First Order and bring peace and justice throughout the galaxy.

This is just a thought, a mere speculation, but keep it in mind when going to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker later this year and by watching the teaser trailer below.

 

5 MCU Films To See Before Avengers: Endgame

Settle down folks, that means all of you celebrating or lamenting the X-Men and the Fantastic Four going to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). We still have Avengers: Endgame to deal with and that monumental conclusion to the MCU Infinity Saga is just over a month away. It’s a given, Marvel Studios and Disney will have our hard-earned cash for the opening weekend and we’re all caught up with the 20+ MCU films. But what about our hapless dates and companions who we bring along to see Avengers: Endgame? What if they have no idea who Rocket Raccoon is or where Wakanda is located? The intricacies of the cinematic universe could be explained, but wouldn’t it be better if they see for themselves? Easier said than done, there are over 20 films to slog through, and not all of them are great. You’d be doing them a favor by suggesting just a few MCU films to watch before Avengers: Endgame, so at least they won’t be distracting you with annoying questions as the Avengers prepare for that final battle against Thanos.

Like last year when we presented 10 films to see before Avengers: Infinity War, here is another list and this time, let’s cut it down to the bone: five MCU films to see before Avengers: Endgame in alphabetical order. Some spoilers will follow.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018):

The concept of quantum realms was first introduced in this film’s predecessor, Ant-Man. But this sequel explores the mysterious realm much more. We learn that there are time vortexes within the miniscule dimension that Hank Pym explores in order to rescue his lost wife. Also, Ant-Man and the Wasp is directly linked to the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War as seen in the mid-credits sequence as the Wasp, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are victims of the Decimation or Thanos’ snap.

Meanwhile, unaware of how directly involved he is now with the universe-spanning event, Ant-Man is trapped in the quantum realm and his time spent there will most likely hold the key to victory for the Avengers as teased in the trailers for Avengers: Endgame. Needless to mention, that the plucky Ant-Man will be a critical player in the coming film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015):

It’s not the best MCU film, but it’s proving to be a vital nexus for what happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe afterwards. There are some plot points that are relevant to the other Avengers and MCU films, which include heroes become obsessed with upcoming threats. Iron Man has visions of Earth doomed by cosmic forces, which leads to his ill-advised creation of Ultron and fractures his relationship with Captain America. Meanwhile, Thor learns about the Infinity Stones and leaves the team to search for them, to no avail.

Meanwhile, Captain America’s visions of his lost love, Peggy Carter, imply his soul is still haunted by their separation by time and as hinted at in Avengers: Endgame, perhaps this will be addressed. We also discover that Hawkeye has a loving family and the latest trailer implies that they are victims of the Decimation. This explains why he takes on the persona of Ronin in the film. It should be noted that there are rumors that the villainous android, Ultron, will return in Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018):

Well, duh! It’s the Avengers film right before Endgame! The fourth Avengers film is a direct follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War and explores the aftermath of the devastating events shown in the third Avengers film. Viewers learn about Thanos, his twisted motivation and fiendish plan to snuff out half of all life in the universe.

What’s fun to watch are the interactions, appearances of and team ups with the MCU’s finest, from Spider-Man to Doctor Strange to the Guardians of the Galaxy. This was a true epic crossover film that ends with Thanos triumphant and half of the MCU heroes turned to dust. It only makes sense to see this film before Avengers: Endgame to at least see the set up before the fourth Avengers film and understand the high stakes for the surviving heroes.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011):

The first Captain America film has one of the earliest appearance of one of the Infinity Stones, the Space Stone and of course, features the star-spangled debut of Captain America, aka Steve Rogers. As shown in the Avengers: Endgame trailer, unlike the last Avengers film, he will be more vital to the film’s main plot.

Just as important, Captain America: The First Avenger explores the relationship between Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter. The tragedy of their budding romance is that it was never fulfilled, something that haunts Rogers (see Avengers: Age of Ultron and the other Cap films). As hinted in some Avengers: Endgame trailers, this lost relationship could be a major plot for Captain America in the film. Perhaps, a clue to his final destiny?

MFing Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014):

As stated in last year’s post, this film not only boasts the fabulous debut of everyone’s favorite cosmic misfits, but clearly explains the Infinity Stones and the background to the Infinity Saga. Rocket Raccoon, the anthropomorphic and snarky raccoon, debuts here and is one of the main heroes in Endgame as the sole surviving member of the Guardians. In addition to introducing viewers to the Guardians of the Galaxy, this film has the first full appearance of Thanos, who appears as a background boss, but already exuded a malevolent presence.

Guardians of the Galaxy also debuts Nebula, who is Thanos’ daughter. We learn of her complicated relationship with her adopted father and sister, Gamora, and why she wants to kill her father. This obviously will be her main driving force in Endgame, which is only natural after she saw firsthand the effects of the Decimation.

avengers first team up

Miscellaneous:

See these films if time permits. They are not crucial to watch and didn’t make the list of five essential films to see before Avengers: Endgame, but do add information and context about the beloved characters and situations of the MCU.

Ant-Man (2015) is the first MCU film to feature quantum realms and other dimensions and of course, debuts Ant-Man, a major character in Avengers: Endgame.

The Avengers (2012) introduces the superhero team and how they get along with each other, while featuring two of the Infinity Stones. Bonus point: Thanos makes his first appearance in the MCU in a cameo.

Captain America: Civil War (2016) is more of a prerequisite for Avengers: Infinity War. In this film, we see how the fragile relationships between the members of the Avengers, especially Iron Man and Captain America, come apart. The dissolution of the team is why the heroes lose in Avengers: Infinity War.

Captain Marvel (2019) of course, features Captain Marvel, who will be one of the major characters in Endgame as seen in the film’s mid-credits scene.

Doctor Strange (2016) has the Time Stone, possibly important to the fourth Avengers film since the film’s plot is rumored to involve time travel.

Iron Man 3 (2013) explores Tony Stark’s fragile psyche in the aftermath of the cosmic events of The Avengers. It helps us understand his state of mind in future films, culminating in Endgame.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017) heavily features the cosmic side of the MCU and Nebula, a key player in Avengers: Endgame, as she transitions from a villain to an anti-hero.

Thor (2011) marks the first MCU appearance of aliens, the cosmic portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the God of Thunder himself.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) is one of the weaker MCU films, but has one of the Infinity Stones, the Reality Stone, a major macguffin in the second Thor film.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) sets up Avengers: Infinity War towards its end and provides context for Thor’s state of mind in the final Avengers films.

José Soto

 

The Challenge of Alita: Battle Angel

As people flock to theaters to see Captain Marvel and rave or criticize the film, there is another woman-centric sci-fi film that has caught the admiration of many others. But that film is not pulling in the box office dollars of the MCU film. That is not an indication of its quality, however. In fact, many who have seen Alita: Battle Angel have come away convinced it is the better film that deserved a better fate.

Right now, even though the Robert Rodriguez film has been out for over a month, it is too soon to declare Alita: Battle Angel a box office disappointment. To date it has grossed nearly $400 million dollars. Sure that is peanuts to what other films have pulled in, but it is not that bad. The film’s supposed budget was $170 million, so technically it made its money back and has a tiny profit. So, is that enough to get a sequel?

Fans of the cult film (and that is what Alita: Battle Angel is at this point, though it is worthy of that honor) are clamoring for a sequel, especially given how the film sets up future films. The problem is that the amount of money it has earned probably won’t be enough for a sequel to be greenlit. There is also the fact, that as of two days from now, 20th Century Fox, the film studio that released Alita: Battle Angel, will belong to Disney. Who knows if the House of the Mouse will be interested in pursuing a followup film. They have other properties that will generate more money for them.

Then again, we have seen cult favorites build enough of a following to convince studios to take another crack at the property. One recent example is Pacific Rim. That film was released in 2013 and was not a hit film, but it quickly developed a fan base, not unlike Alita. As the film did well in home media, it picked up more fans and demands for a sequel increased. Last year, a sequel was finally released, Pacific Rim: Uprising. Although the film was way inferior to the first Pacific Rim, it did demonstrate that we can always hold out hope for followups to non-hit films. This has happened with John Wick, The Boondock Saints, and others.

Bear in mind that this is not a guarantee. Films like Serenity and Dredd had devoted fans that tried to push awareness of the films so that sequels could be made, but they never came to be. Plus, while it is important to see the James Cameron-produced film in theaters now, it is equally, if not more important to buy the film when it is available in home media. That would demonstrate the lasting appeal of the cyberpunk action film, which is surprisingly faithful in spirit to the manga that inspired it. That would be a critical challenge for Alita: Battle Angel. The fan base has to be persistent and vocal. Then there is the matter of getting James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, Rosa Salazar, and others to return to the stunning futuristic world that they created. Another issue is that if a sequel is commissioned will it get the same care and budget of the original? An easier way to convince execs to finance a sequel is if its budget can be controlled. That might mean that Alita’s next adventure might have to take place in the floating city of Zalem, which would look eerily like modern-day society. It might work given the decrepit state of the world below shown in Alita. In that case can it be as faithful to the manga as the original?

This is all speculation at this point. Go see the film if it is still playing. Despite its narrative flaws Alita: Battle Angel is a stunning cinematic experience that better captures a hero’s journey much better than the other superhero film out now in theaters.

Prejudging Dark Phoenix Before Its Release

20th Century Fox has released a new trailer for the last, proper X-Men film, Dark Phoenix. What is most interesting and disturbing, depending on one’s point of view, about the trailer’s release is the reaction from fans. While some enjoy it, and look forward to the X-Men film, others are reacting with indifference or downright negativity. This is somewhat baffling to witness and is evidence of how divided fans and our culture at large has become. We’re seeing this everywhere with vitriol hurled at Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek, DC, the MCU and other franchises for many reasons. But the negativity towards Dark Phoenix before the film has come out is just going overboard.

There are many reasons to be skeptical for the upcoming superhero film and it’s not just because the director is a newbie. The film essentially retells a major subplot from X-Men: The Last Stand, which adapted parts of the famous and beloved Dark Phoenix story from the comics. However, the film was subpar and the trailer to Dark Phoenix uncomfortably reminds some of that film. While this is unavoidable, the new film will focus on the Dark Phoenix story and Jean Grey’s struggle. True, it won’t be a beat-by-beat adaptation of the comic book story, but what live-action adaptation of a comic book story is completely faithful? A couple of them are considered among the best superhero films of all time.

Then there is the anger that some have towards Fox for being neglectful towards the X-Men franchise. Fox’s track record with the X-Men films is admittedly mixed. For every Logan there is an X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The last X-Men film, X-Men: Apocalypse was not received well, though personally, I thought it was enjoyable and had an epic tone in its last act. The poor reaction to X-Men: Apocalypse has fed the negativity toward X-Men films going forward.

But we have to give the studio some credit. If not for them, the superhero films as we know it would not exist. Kevin Feige, the Marvel Studios guru, got his start in superhero films with the Fox X-Men films. He gained valuable insight and experience that helped him launch the successful MCU. Also, Fox released high-quality productions like Logan, Deadpool and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Still, many feel that the Fox X-Men films have run their course and a much-needed break is due. Or rather a radical reboot that is faithful to the comic books, which Marvel Studios can only produce.

As we all know, Marvel Studios will reboot the X-Men films since Disney has acquired the film rights to the X-Men. At this point, many are more than ready to move on from the Fox version of the X-Men and are eager to see how Marvel Studios reimagines and recasts the X-Men films. For them, Dark Phoenix feels redundant and think “what’s the point?” of this film since the Fox X-Men franchise is coming to an end. Some are angered that based on what is known about Dark Phoenix and some negative early screening reactions that the film is destined to be a stinker and don’t feel the need to see it.

This is unfair towards the film and the efforts of the cast and crew. In the end, it may wind up being as bad as many believe and a terrible way to end the Fox X-Men films. However, it’s best to keep an open mind and being objective towards this film. Hopefully, it can be a decent wrap up of the X-Men saga. After all, it will be the last X-Men film for a while given Marvel Studios’ crowded plate.