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Marvel Studios

Although Avengers: Endgame hit theaters just last night, you may already be tired of hearing about it. The final film in a 22-film arc of Marvel movies about 70+ scrappy super-powered heroes trying to stop the plot of a giant purple space dictator named Thanos (Josh Brolin), Endgame represents the end of an era—literally a decade of films. In addition to being the end to that storyline, Endgame is also a direct sequel to 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, which saw half of the universe's population wiped out in a tantalizing upset of traditional hero/villain interaction—the heroes lost. It was awesome. But if you're not into it, if you've never seen even one of these movies, can this film still be fun? Do you have to watch 20 movies first? The Mercury decided to investigate! (I also did this for Infinity War.)

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Just by reading that intro, you already know more about Endgame's set up than drummer/improviser John Niekrasz when he agreed watch the film—innocent of any Avengers-universe films—and be interviewed about it. Niekrasz is a fixture in the experimental music scene (Why I Must Be Careful, Orchestra Becomes Radicalized, Method's Body) but, although he's watched fantasy action TV shows like Game of Thrones, he'd never delved into comic book films before.

Before the film, I asked him what he thought Endgame would be about and he guessed it would riff on the Samuel Beckett play of the same name, which he described as being about "master and slave relationships in the post-apocalyptic ashes of the world." Endgame is probably referencing that Samuel Beckett play. The following interview contains no information about the plot that couldn't be gleaned from trailers.

PORTLAND MERCURY: Can you tell me your synopsis of what we just saw?
NIEKRASZ: I don't know that I can. There were a million sub-stories being tied up. I felt like I was in another country because everyone was laughing and I didn't understand why.

Where does Endgame start?
There was a guy. I thought he was just a rando. But then his family disappeared.

That was Hawkeye. The film does open pretty abruptly. I made sure to tell you that the movie had started because there wasn't any warning.
Then we're with Robert Downey Jr. in space. He's dying, but I didn't know why. I wrote down that he has "a kind robot woman," with him. It's clear that some great ordeal has gone on.

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Marvel Studios

Did you understand who Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) was supposed to be?
She’s a spaceship. She’s a human spaceship.

What were some things that made absolutely no sense to you?
I didn't understand the fat Brad Pitt scene.

Oh, that wasn't Brad Pitt, but I also think that was computer generated.
Or prosthetics. This movie made me feel like I should get highlights. Everyone had such beautiful highlights.

Feel to free to say as much as you like about what was confusing.
I was confused when the [redacted] flew to the wrong guy and everybody cheered.

Oh, I might redact that because that's a major spoiler. When that happened, I wanted to straight-up turn the movie off.
Really?

Yeah, I wanted there to be a big 'X' on the screen and a buzzer sound like "Wrong!" because I did not approve. I'm getting the feeling that maybe you actually liked this film more than me, despite your deep confusion.
So you think I should see the first one?

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Marvel Studios

Infinity War is great. That's one thing Endgame made me realize. There's such an elegant line to Infinity War that draws the audience through the action. They were able to briefly characterize the heroes in a way that reminded me of the actual comic book experience. This film harkens back to comics, but more directly to the splash pages where heroes are standing dynamically on cliffs and that part of comics translates poorly to the screen.
There's one standing-on-a-cliff moment that really reminded me of The Big Lebowski. There were actually some references I could get because they were about non-comic book stuff. And I really noticed the product placement.

Oh, what was the product placement?
Audi, Citi Field, 7-11.

Did any of the jokes make sense?
No. Did I get even one joke? Let me check my notes. I saw the Hulk dab.

Oh, I didn't catch that.
Watching this film was like going to the movies in India. Everyone around me had connections to the movie stars so they were reacting to references I didn’t know about. I was so surprised that Don Cheadle and Mark Ruffalo are in this film.

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Marvel Studios

Did you identify with any of the heroes?
Robert Downey Jr. had some great, compassionate scenes. Those were actually really good scenes.

Did you like watching this movie?
It was better than I thought. If I went with friends we'd probably all be like, "It's loud and bright and there's a lot of punching."

Except that there isn't as much punching as you'd think.
Yeah, it got kind of heavy-handed near the end.

Can you compare this film to another film you found confusing but watchable?
I would compare it to The Hangover. It's entertaining, but I'm not invested in these people.

VERDICT: John was optimistic and said he enjoyed himself. But, as a critic, I would not advise watching Endgame without seeing Infinity War, unless you like feeling like you're watching a film in a foreign language. Endgame is so reference and fan service heavy that it becomes more about tying up 22 films worth of baggage than it is about telling a story so initially, upon exiting the film, I wanted to throw my soda pop and revoke its status as a film entirely. That said, I'm a comics fan and I'm probably going to watch it again.

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