In the beginning, there was an idea. To bring together a group of remarkable people; to see if they could become something more. The Avengers. Twenty-one movies later (and counting), it’s safe to say that, for both Nick Fury and the folks behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that idea paid off. Building towards, working together and culminating in this… Endgame.
Of course, the MCU isn’t going anywhere, but it was left in ashes by the time the Mad Titan Thanos was done with it in Infinity War, wiping out half of the universe with only a click of his purple great sausage fingers. With the job done and Thanos seemingly retired to his farm (wearing a slobby t-shirt, no less) we’re left with only the original Avengers line-up, plus Captain Marvel, a Guardian of the Galaxy or two, and Ant-Man. If they can’t undo the Snappening, you can be damn sure they’ll avenge it.
Easier said than done, of course, with Scott Lang still trapped in the Quantum Realm, and Tony Stark floating around in a tin can, light years away from home. Then there’s the Hulk, left licking his wounds and hiding out in Banner’s psyche after Thanos smashed the green goliath good. Endgame begins with the surviving Avengers shattered in their defeat; mourning their losses and trying to figure out a way to repair the damage done. Some have moved on and accepted their lot, others, decidedly less so.
Where Infinity War scattered its pieces far and wide across the board, Endgame brings them back together again, assembled for what might be their final battle. Whatever else happens in the film is best experienced first-hand rather than spoiled or in an extensive plot synopsis. Suffice to say that there’s a plan, and that neither the Avengers nor Thanos are done with each other yet.
Structurally and tonally, Endgame is a very different film to its predecessor, and not the brooding great Infinity War extension many will have expected or wanted it to be. This is the MCU’s victory lap, celebrating the past and tying up loose ends as much as it sets up future instalments. As such, it’s surprisingly light and fluffy during its midsection, relying on silly plot devices and bearing more in common with an Ant-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy outing than Winter Soldier, Civil War or any of the Russo Brothers’ previous movies. Infinity War was very funny too, but whole sections here are structured like broad hijinks comedy, with the Russos using the entire MCU as their play box.
Which leaves Thanos somewhat diminished; a lesser threat than he was previously, and side-lined for most of the movie. And by cutting down just to the core Avengers, others get the short thrift too, with new favourites and older faces getting shockingly little to do. Don’t go expecting Captain Marvel to come flying in to save the day, cosmic powers or no.
That it all comes down to a murky grey CGI slapfest is disappointing, given how beautiful the MCU has been in the past - and the action fails to live up to past highlights, even as the stakes have never been higher. The interplay, too, falls short. Even at three hours, there’s not enough time for everybody, and pivotal characters won’t even have shared two words by the time the credits roll.
But for the old guard, Endgame is a triumphant celebration in which everyone rises to the occasion, with some of the crew putting in their best performances yet. Hemsworth is a constant delight, the story taking him to surprising new places, and Evans and Downey Jr. prove to be the film’s beating, vulnerable heart. The film makes up to Renner for having him sit the last one out, giving Hawkeye some of its most potent, heartbreaking plot twists.
Even with one’s quibbles in mind, the film is a success and an astonishing achievement, true blockbuster cinema packed with laughs, action, fun cameos and breathtaking emotion on an incredible, unprecedented scale - delivering and subverting fan service in equal measure (and occasionally to irritating effect). It has too many pieces and too much to do to please all of the people all of the time, but most will be satisfied, if not overjoyed by what has been achieved here.
Avengers: Endgame is both the end of an era and the beginning of a new one; a briefly closed door; a definitive end, but with a caveat. What comes next is anybody’s guess but, Marvel, like Thanos serenely taking in the sunrise at the end of Infinity War, have earned a moment’s breather.
AVENGERS: ENDGAME / CERT: 12A / DIRECTORS: ANTHONY RUSSO, JOE RUSSO / SCREENPLAY: CHRISTOPHER MARKUS, STEPHEN MCFEELY / STARRING: ROBERT DOWNEY JR, SCARLETT JOHANSSON, CHRIS EVANS, ELIZABETH OLSEN, BRIE LARSON / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 25TH
Expected 10 out of 10