Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Karen Gillan, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, Brie Larson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Tessa Thompson, Evangeline Lilly, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Tom Hiddleston (BASICALLY EVERYONE OKAY)
It’s been a long time coming. Through many ups and downs, thick and thin, enthralling storytelling and, er, Thor: The Dark World, here we arrive at the endgame for the infamous Avengers. At least, for the current avenging team as we know them. The MCU has been a huge part of many people’s movie-going lives (and beyond, in many cases), and now that loyalty and patience is being rewarded with a 3 hour and 1-minute epic (including credits) that is sure to blow some minds, for better or worse. And so, which one is it: for better, or for worse?
NOTE: There will be NO SPOILERS for Endgame in this review, however there will likely be spoilers from past films, including Infinity War. Any mentions of anything in Endgame will only be that which has been included in trailers (the trailers themselves only include scenes from the first twenty minutes of the film, apparently). You have been warned.
Endgame picks up just where Infinity War left off: Thanos has fulfilled his “destiny” to wipe out exactly fifty-per-cent of all life in the universe in order to create a balance and stop overpopulation to ensure survival. Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers (Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) and Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), amongst others, are at a loss as to what their next step should be. Do they move on and try to live with what’s left, or do they do what they do best and try to avenge the trillions of lives lost? With both Stark and Rogers still at loggerheads over past spilt milk, tensions run high between the remaining heroes. When Scott Lang (Rudd) returns after being presumed dead, he brings with him a ray of hope that could be just what the Avengers need in order to live up to their own name. Can they bring back those they’ve lost, and if so, can they do it without losing anyone else? Those are the two big questions that float between Stark’s pessimism and Rogers’ optimism.
It’s not often that filmmakers can successfully round out a series, at least not outside of television shows that can take the same amount of time but with far more episodes to round something up, but the Russo brothers and the team of writers behind Endgame have managed just that: as far as public and critic consensus goes (so far), it’s satisfying the majority of fans and casual filmgoers. That in and of itself is a near-impossible task, to please fans and civilians alike. This is probably because the MCU has been very good at balancing storylines from/aspects of Marvel comics as well as doing their own thing in order to create something that translates onto the screen, which has obviously been made a lot easier since the invention and continued evolution of computer graphics. Not only that, the writers constantly balance story with character development. If it’s action and battle you want, you’ve got it. If it’s Stark’s arrogant-billionaire image becoming a concerned father figure that gets you going, you can have that too. Endgame is no different in this basic sense to any of its predecssories, however it takes it to the next level in so many ways, both visually/cinematically and characteristically. You will probably want for naught by the time the film is over.
Endgame has many positives about it, but what really makes it work is the pacing. It is a long movie (though really only twenty minutes longer than Infinity War), but there are two reasons the length can be justified: one is that there’s ten years-worth of story to wrap up, and the second is that, frankly, the Russo brothers could have made this film even longer and Endgame would still get the turn out expected, because that is just how invested fans of the MCU are in the franchise and this particular story arc. And it is truly worth it. The first hour/act plods along in a leisurely way, getting the more cerebral stuff out of the way whilst the audience has their energy and patience. The second hour/act picks up the pace and the action, splitting the storyline several ways to hold our attention. The third and final hour/act loops it all back around to one spectacularly visual treat. This is usually done within a 90- to 120-minute timeframe for most movies, but Endgame is not most movies. The time flies by with nary a numb buttock or full bladder.
It would be very difficult to pick out one stand-out performance in Endgame, as it is proudly an ensemble piece: there’s no one Avenger without his or her fellow Avengers. Downey Jr. and Evans naturally take the most senior roles as dictated by their high-ranking characters, and they are just as reliable as ever to provide a wry mixture of comedy and pathos along with empathy and a display of strength (both mental and physical). The same goes for virtually most other notable characters whom we are familiar with. Hemsworth’s Thor takes a strange turn in Endgame, becoming something of a caricature of himself, but still very much the odd Norse god we’ve come to enjoy. Truly a special mention must also go to Brolin as Thanos, who, even if he’s only onscreen for a very small amount of time and in the guise of a giant purple CGI thing, manages to impart a villain that is terrifying due to his personal interpretation of what’s right and what’s wrong and his belief that he has the right to change the order of things. To convey that level of conviction through voice and motion capture alone is a testament to true talent, and Brolin has it in abundance in order to continue to bring life to this antagonist who is deeper and more complicated than most.
The best thing about Endgame is that it doesn’t overdo anything, which again is difficult to keep in check when there’s so much in the way of expecatation. The Russo brothers, the writers, Marvel Studios, the cast and all involved have been well aware of the impact the MCU has had, and so although there would have been tremendous pressure to get this film right, it has so obviously been completed with the love and care expected from people who are truly fans themselves and who also want to see this arc completed correctly. It is a damn shame that Stan Lee is not here to see how it all ends, but if he is somewhere around, it would be a surprise if he wasn’t also satisfied with Endgame. As with all MCU movies there’s much left open for many characters to go on and explore within their own stories, quite likely with cameos from many characters who could now be considered alumni. It truly feels like the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new one, with new characters to explore and discover. We’ve come full circle, and what a journey it’s been. Here’s to the next ten years and the next generation of Avengers.