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The biggest movie of the modern era, Avengers: Endgame, made $357 million in the U.S. in its opening weekend, the most of any film in history, besides the previous Avengers: Infinity War and that one Star War. But what is this sequel like in stupid-expensive 4DX ($30 per ticket), with all the elements—water, wind... well, some of the elements—coming at you live in a theater in various dimensions? On Thursday night, 10 members of the Jezebel staff—many of whom had no idea what an Avenger does and had never experienced 4DX, which is essentially a low-level 3D amusement park ride—went to see Endgame, the final film in this Marvel Cinematic Universe box-set. Here is our story. Spoilers ahead.


The Plot

The surviving Avengers want to un-disappear half the living creatures Thanos made disappear in Infinity War, so they need to find and defeat Thanos again. They do, but then they have to do it again, which means they’ve encountered this beautiful maniac in deathly fashion thrice and killed him twice by the end of the Avengers franchise, sacrificing lots of people along the way. A large chunk of Endgame’s first half is devoted to exposition to catch people up post-Infinity War and maybe initiate those who’d never seen parts of the individual Marvel components—meaning most of the Jezebel viewing crew. Questions like “What does Ant-Man do?” (He shrinks!) and “Why is Scarlett Johansson so sad?” (Her buddies are gone, and she’s the boss now) are easily answered. Others are not. Like, time travel.

Time travel was the only plot device that would have made the sequence of events from Infinity War to Endgame make sense. The logistics are actually impossible to understand, which helps the writers get away with implausible storylines. (Is there a lost chapter of Captain America miraculously replacing all the Infinity Stones at the end at precisely the right time?) The survivors couldn’t have saved the world without each Avenger’s grief fueling their desire to fix everything. They needed Ant-Man and Iron Man to confuse the audience with quantum talk and for Scarlett Johansson to be so sad and empathetic for Hawkeye that she sacrifices herself for a stone. This was my second time seeing Avengers: Endgame and my third 4DX viewing, which I feel like is next to godliness in terms of a theater experience. Infinity War had a tighter story and more of Thanos’s dark existential quotes. The main idea here is that teamwork does make the dream work and makes Thanos dead-dead. —Clover Hope

The Acting/Performances

For the first hour of the movie, Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) were virtually indistinguishable, despite being two separate men endowed with the wildly different powers of shrinking and impersonating metal, respectively. But Avengers: Infinity War is a film filled with handsome white men, who go about their handsome-ing with ease—a delightful setup, probably, for those of us not stricken with mild face-blindness.

Once identified, Downey gives a powerful performance of a man thoroughly gutted having made a mistake at work, with lots of squinting and penetrating staring. It’s impossible to say whether my nausea was empathy induced by Downey’s watery tears, or the gentle vibration of the seats, which swayed backwards in cadence to the emotional climax of each monologue.

Nonetheless! Everyone did a great job of fulfilling their respective roles: Captain America’s chin dimple seemed extra chiseled, and Scarlett Johansson did her most serious Elizabeth Holmes voice. Mark Ruffalo—an improbable casting!—played the Hulk as a surfer type, who’d probably popped an edible recently, a direction I fully endorse. And though Thor’s beer belly and slack greasy locks did most of the work of channeling grief for Chris Hemsworth, the disconnect was riveting.

I especially liked the raccoon. —Alexis Sobel Fitts

Image: Marvel

The Villain (Thanos)

Going into this film with absolutely zero understanding of 99 percent of the characters (I have seen Black Panther and the first Iron Man, and that’s all I was going on), I didn’t know what to expect from Thanos. I knew he was a bad man, and a particularly buff bad man. I knew he was purple, for some reason, and maybe because of this, he is perhaps a descendant of the Kool-Aid man sans the glass pitcher, and frankly given how much I was thrown around during our 4DX screening and pounded on the back by our chairs, I’d believe it. I don’t know if I find him “hot” as some fans do, because he looks like a bowling ball and probably feels like one to the touch. But what I didn’t know is how god damn lazy he is.

Yes, when the film starts he’s wiped out what seems like half the Earth’s population in a Leftovers-style exodus, but I don’t know how the hell he did it, given he moves at a snail’s pace. While he’s lounging around his sunny planet picking fruit, he barely puts up a fight when Thor chops off his head like no biggie. But what really did it for me is how he made his daughters do all his bidding; they fight for him, they kill for him, they go to fetch the stones while he sits on his big ass in the middle of a battlefield (um, hello, can you maybe move?) Sure, Thanos is clearly, physically strong, but I’m not sure he’d be the powerhouse “villain” he is without his daughters. Are they getting paid for all the work they do for him? I hope so. —Hazel Cills

The 4DX

This was my first 4DX movie, so of course my main question was: would I barf? Playing with fire, I entered the theater already a little queasy due to a very strong margarita I drank only half an hour before the movie began. The hot dog I ate during the previews, and the mini Cinnabons I wolfed down during the opening minutes of Endgame didn’t help either. Luckily for Ashley and Clover, who were sitting next to me on either side, I did not barf, and in fact, some of the 4DX experience was pleasant—the times when the chair gently rumbled, the rhythmic pounding during some of the fight scenes, meant to simulate being punched in the back. In other words, massage chairs are good. Every movie theater seat should be a massage chair, and this is something I would gladly pay an extra $5 for.

What is not pleasant is having water sprayed in your face when all you’re trying to do is follow what’s happening on screen. Take the early scene set in Tokyo, where Hawkeye is going on his grief-filled rampage of extrajudicial killings. Guess what—I knew it was raining! How did I know? Because I could see it happening on the giant screen in front of me. If the rain falling on me was supposed to make me feel like I was immersed in the story, I found the opposite to be true—at several different moments, I had to take off my 3D glasses to wipe the rain off of them. (And let’s not even talk about my horror when I realized that in a couple of situations, the water being sprayed at me was meant to be BLOOD.) (Ed Note: There’s an option to turn the water feature off.)

A few other stray thoughts: the wind was nice (who doesn’t like a gentle breeze). I was disappointed there was no fog, as I was happily looking forward to vaping my way through the movie.

My verdict: 4DX is mostly bad. Massage chairs are good. —Esther Wang

The Script

My bias coming into this film is that I assumed Avengers: Endgame would go the route of The Leftovers, and the real reason this movie is the length of your average heart surgery is that the script was going to include a lot of uncomfortable, grief-stricken dialogue. Since we were seeing it in 4DX, complete with water features, I expected to feel the tears (as someone else has surely pointed out, the water was used almost exclusively for blood splatter.) However: The writing was pretty decent, considering there are approximately 10,000 superheroes in the Marvel Universe and 50,000 in this movie, I almost kept them straight despite having only seen one film prior. (I’m also sure this is taken from the original comic books and not the screenwriters, but I am curious to know why all the planets sounded vaguely like IKEA furniture: Morag, Vormir, Asgard, etc.)

Thanos had the best lines by far: “I used the stones to destroy the stones.” “The work is done. I won. What I’m about to do, I’m gonna enjoy it. Very, very much.” “I am inevitable.” And my personal favorite: “I don’t even know who you are.” There was a lot of cringe-y, expository dialogue I needed to know to understand what the heck was going on (bless Paul Rudd as Ant-Man’s constant neurotic questioning of “Huh? What? Where? What’s in New Jersey?”). But the only writing that felt especially lazy were the jokes at Thor’s expense, about his gained weight. I mean, a Cheez-wiz gag because he developed alcoholism post-trauma? Come on, y’all. I’m not precious, but let’s raise the bar a little bit—at least, let’s get it off the ground. —Maria Sherman

The Audience

The theater didn’t start cheering until the third act, which was surprising. The way fans talked about this movie leading up to its release made me expect a rowdy (but occasionally teary-eyed) and highly participatory crowd. But for the first two-thirds, I heard nothing more than a few polite chuckles at some well-timed jokes. Then the big battle happened, and it was as if everyone was pulled out of their cavernous, extremely comfortable (when they weren’t punching you in the back) 4DX leather recliners and remembered the extremely high stakes of this movie and franchise. There was cheering when Chadwick Boseman showed up, and Brie Larson, and especially Tom Holland. There was so much cheering, because one or two people would start and kind of keep going, even if no one else joined, that I lost track of who exactly was inspiring such warm receptions. When Iron-Man died, I think I heard someone cry. Ashley later reprimanded me for laughing during a sad part, but it was only because Jon Favreau, a man I confused for James Gandolfini, appeared unexpectedly, and he (Favreau, I mean) genuinely delights me. —Frida Garza

The Battle Scene

The best way to describe the big battle scene is “balletic,” which is both good and bad. It was impossible not to compare it to the big Game of Thrones smackdown earlier this week, which focused on combat as a confusing, physically exhausting slog. It made Endgame look particularly choreographed, like one of the fight scenes in West Side Story but with more robot super-suits. Superheroes each got their moment alone with Thanos, or occasionally teamed up against Thanos, engaging and disengaging and wheeling around for another go as their various character arcs demanded. Everyone got their pas de deux, to an extent that was almost comical. But also, I love ballet, and I’m not mad at it!

Also, it ruled when all the formerly snapped-away heroes started popping out of golden gateways. That’s literally what I came for, and I was not disappointed. Gandalf appearing in the nick of time at the Battle of Helm’s Deep is corny and I do not care, I love it! —Kelly Faircloth

The Superheroes

My only sources of information about this generation of Marvel movies come from years of memes and GIFs, internet friends who ship “Stucky,” and this lovely 38-minute recap of all the movies and major characters that I watched a couple of hours before seeing Avengers: Endgame. I have only watched Black Panther in full, but I still came into this with a set of expectations about these characters that the film actually upended. I wish I got to see my expectations upended through something other than those headache-inducing 4D glasses (my eyes, my poor, poor eyes), but anyway...

Anyway, I thought Iron Man would be one-dimensional, but he actually had some depth! (The whole having-a-daughter-with-Goop thing probably helped.) I expected Captain America to be a little more engaging of a character but found him pretty stilted and boring when he wasn’t kicking someone’s ass or reminiscing about his girl Peggy. I didn’t expect Hulk to have a sense of humor, but he did. I didn’t expect to even see War Machine, but he was... there, and harmless! I thought I’d hate Rocket because I have an aversion to anthropomorphic animal creatures, but found him delightful. And I anticipated Hawkeye to be boring because he was just “Jeremy Renner shooting arrows” in my mind, but I actually felt for him when his family got confetti’d and found his motivations compelling. Don’t get me started on that scene when he and Black Widow had to literally fight to decide who would end up sacrificing themselves to retrieve one of Thanos’s stones. My eyes almost got misty.

The superhero I enjoyed watching the most—besides Captain America’s physical ass—was probably Thor. I don’t know if he was always used as comic relief, but I didn’t mind him being one here. Naturally, the angsty bits were good, too, but the comic relief outweighed his brooding. Also, I was actually pretty attracted to thicc Thor. Like, he obviously let himself go, but I’d still hit it. I also liked Ant-Man, and not just because he’s Paul Rudd. He just felt the most down to earth of the lot. Every superhero crew needs some normality—it’s probably why Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is so beloved—and I feel like Ant-Man is sort of the everyman superhero. And honestly, his superpower might sound kind of wack, but it’s actually pretty handy.

But let me just say that Captain Marvel was that girl. I’m not really sure what her actual, like, power is. I’m sure if I saw her namesake Air Force propaganda movie then I’d have more details, but her strength blew me away, especially at the end when she rolled up during the massive battle scene and tore shit up. I kind of regret not seeing more of her, actually. And speaking of good superpowers, I know she only came up during the big battle scene, too, but Scarlet Witch’s powers were probably my favorite to watch on screen. Honestly, this movie could have used more women superheroes on screen actually doing shit, because a lot of that representation rested on Nebula, who had a lot of personal shit to worry about outside of kicking ass. And no, that one little moment during the battle where all the major women in the Marvel universe looked badass didn’t count. I don’t know if I hated that moment or begrudgingly loved it, but I whispered to my colleague Maria, “Is this feminism?” —Ashley Reese

Endgame Vs. Infinity War

First of all, this movie was too damn long. I definitely felt the half-hour difference between the films, probably because 4DX made it a three-hour rollercoaster that nearly gave me whiplash. Opening observations: Everyone looks bad except Captain America and The Hulk. I was really rattled by Iron Man’s appearance. Apparently he was lost at space for a bit and was in desperate need of a healthy eating plan and deep conditioner.

Storyline: Infinity War was a bit more robust in opinion. The first half of Endgame felt a bit like a mash-up between Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind and the miniseries version of IT, where the guy with the ponytail travels around getting the old gang back together to kill the clown for good. It’s truly a tragic state of affairs.

The character development was possibly the biggest difference I noticed. Some of the characters had very real personal issues: Thor is an alcoholic with a crushed ego and a dad bod. Hawkeye is brutally violent because of the grief of losing his family. Meanwhile, Thanos is off living his best life, chilling somewhere lush, eating farm-to-table, and reducing his carbon footprint—he tried to tell y’all! Overall, it was enjoyable, but I am disappointed the movie did not include any footage of Thanos’ butt. I guess we’ll have to settle for this still. —Jennifer Perry

Level of Confusion

What does it mean to understand a movie? At one point, medium stoned, cradled in my 4DX chair as it swayed gently during a quiet space scene, I thought: “What is Brie Larson’s name?” Still, I loved it all, and understood about 60 percent of it. Mostly, I followed Endgame’s emotional arcs—Thor, you sweetheart—and I think that is maybe 90 percent of why you go to a movie, anyway. Some of my notes:

All the Mets died

Is Paul Rudd Scott Lang

Did scarlett johansson and jeremy renner characters date

Did scarlett johansson and captain america characters date

Why “I knew it” after Steve uses the hammer

Who is giant

Is Spiderman Robert Downey Jr’s son

Does everyone who died and came back know they died

I thought Jon favreau’s name was John podesta for 1 sec

—Katie McDonough

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