Synopsis – After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.
My Take – This one is undoubtedly the biggest film of the year. With last year’s blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios delivered a blindsiding cliffhanger that saw the long teased villain Thanos come out victorious, leaving many of the series’ most popular and profitable heroes reduced to dust. Audiences flocked to theater, only to leave distraught, and shell-shocked as they witnessed Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy fall in the final minutes.
Now, exactly a year later, the follow up faced a near-impossible job of delivering on a promise for resolution. After 11 years of top quality entertainment that culminated of 21 films, and planning that started all the way back with 2008’s surprise smash hit Iron Man, this film is tasked with wrapping up the now very known MCU, by completing more than two dozen character’s story arcs, capping over a decade of genre-defining heroism with a series worthy finale, as well as opening up a new path for future films to come.
Hence, it should not come as surprise to anyone, as directors Anthony and Joe Russo live up to their promise by bringing a top quality and fitting end to a franchise with a three-hour masterpiece filled with a rousing victory lap that bursts with emotional catharsis, playful nostalgia, and a flurry of memorable hero moments, all with stunning efficiency. Already on course to become the most successful film of the franchise, if not of all time, this film raises the roof on what long-form narrative cinema can be.
While it is incredibly hard to talk about the film in depth without ruining the narrative the Russo brothers and their team have created but its suffice to say the creative minds behind the scenes have given us another top quality piece of blockbuster film-making, by delivering a spectacle that is genuinely affecting and packed with properly exciting moments that will literally make you draw your breath, clap and whoop, and jump out of your seat.
Something that’s likely to please diehard fans and more casual cinema goers alike. This kind of grand film-making is what superhero blockbusters should be. Even the big all-in, action-heavy final act felt like just the right amount of bombast blended with the emotional pay-offs. Oh what an end! Don’t worry I am going to keep the plot description as discreet as possible, in order for everyone reading this to retain their full experience.
The story picks up three weeks after the apocalyptic snap, which saw Thanos (Josh Brolin) use the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half the known universe. His task complete, and balance restored, the titan retreated to his garden, satisfied, while galaxy’s remaining heroes struggling to pick up the pieces.
However, when Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), finds himself back in the real world after being accidentally stuck in the quantum realm at the end of the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018), he realizes that he may have actually found a way to undo the universe-wide genocide, and to do so the remaining Avengers consisting of Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner/ Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and James Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle) along with Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), must find a way to overcome their grief over those they lost and band together to save the universe once again.
Their mission takes them on a winding course that touches down in the furthest reaches of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, referencing the best-loved entries from the series as well as more overlooked chapters. If this one is for some bizarre reason, your first Marvel film, it’d be a miserable experience. But for devoted fans, it functions as a greatest-hits clip-show package, which is filled with hat-tips and winks to the audience.
Honestly, the plot device used initially to kick off the mission to beat Thanos felt a bit hackneyed, and kind of a cheat. But my sense of disappointment lasted only minutes, because the way they used it was joyful and brilliantly inventive, opening up the Marvel Universe in ways fans would never dare dream. Whatever you think that might mean, you are not prepared for what this film will give you.
Yes, without a doubt the Russo brothers, who also directed two Captain America films and Infinity War, have saved their best work for last, as along with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, they move in directions which throws you in for a surprise every minute.
The biggest surprise of course being its leisurely pace. The Russos’ decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they’ve expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large.
The film’s decision to breeze over how fundamentally the world has changed around our heroes may have as much to do with directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s desire to make a film about the intersection of communal grief and personal guilt as it does with the fact that said film is being made in a post-The-Leftovers media universe – after all, that series cornered the market on depicting what a collective, aching loss looks like on a global scale. At 182 minutes, the film may seem like a daunting slog to anyone less than wholly committed, but there isn’t an ounce of flab on display.
But the film earns its length not by over stuffing the frame with opulent action, but by slowing things down and basking in the charisma of its ensemble. Here, the directors pay proper tribute to the original Avengers in particular Captain America, in part because they started their Marvel adventure with that character and when their emotional crescendos or battle triumphs come, its earnt. The film also works to resolve conflicts beyond Thanos, fights that were first kindled in previous films between characters, most importantly Tony Stark’s inner turmoil.
For viewers, much of the joy will come from watching the film pull it all off, effortlessly tying most of the series’ narrative threads into a satisfying knot. Of course, the story eventually shifts into epic mode, and the action has the usual bland competence of Marvel films, but all the applause breaks and jaw-dropping developments work only because of the interpersonal bonds that have been strengthened over the years and that the film spends much of its time celebrating.
The fun comes in many forms, with particular highlights being Thor’s new found lifestyle, the Hulk’s more prominent role and Captain Marvel‘s addition to the Avengers family, while the films big action scenes (that must be said aren’t that abundant) are a sight to behold, with Marvel once more showing off their ability to handle spectacles as good as, if not better than, everyone else. Another surprising factor comes from how the film is so much funnier than you would expect, mostly provided by Ant-Man and Thor.
Where Infinity War was serious and very action-focused, this film gives characters and moments time to breathe, which leaves the door open for a lot of levity and poignancy. And of course, the film also provides sequences were a tear or two will be shed. It should come as no surprise to learn that not everybody gets out in one piece, but the fate of each individual feels compassionately handled. On one level, it’s just more smash-em-up superhero CGI spectacle, but it’s spectacle so thoroughly grounded in a devoutly earned, hard-won and entirely un-dismissible affection that at one crucial moment, it is capable, using something as hopelessly cheesy, as ridiculous, as hokey, as idiotic, as childish as the onscreen utterance of a superhero catchphrase, of sending a lump to the throat.
Yes, when you think about it, the whole plot doesn’t make much of a sense, suffers from narrative claustrophobia and despite all the hype around her inclusion here, the film doesn’t use Captain Marvel particularly well. Fans who fell in love with that character will find her role in this film left wanting.
A lot of these endings and plot tie ups will please those that have invested so much into a series that has been operating on an extremely high level for a number of years, it’s just that Marvel almost outdid themselves in Infinity War, making the more by the numbers plot threads and leaps of logic found here more highlighted than usual.
Performances wise, without a doubt its Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evan‘s show all the way. Having played their characters the longest, the actors make us feel for them as their story arcs come to an end. Following closely behind are Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner, two often overlooked members, who bring in their best and most relate able acts here. Chris Hemsworth is clearly having the time of his life as a more comedy inflected, post-Ragnarok Thor, while joining him in the humor is Paul Rudd who brings his usual comic charm to the proceedings.
Mark Ruffalo, another talented actor brings a surprise twist with his role. Karen Gillan gets a bigger and more satisfying arc with her Guardians of the Galaxy co-star Zoe Saldana, and savors every minute of it. Don Cheadle and Bradley Cooper pitch in their parts also quite well, while Josh Brolin is menacing as ever. Unfortunately, Brie Larson is wasted here.
In supporting roles, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tessa Thompson, Danai Gurira, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Mackie, Jon Favreau, Tom Holland, Elizabeth Olsen, Evangeline Lilly, Tilda Swinton, Sebastian Stan and John Slattery are excellent.
While in smaller roles, Benedict Wong, Dave Bautista, Chadwick Boseman, Letitia Wright, Chris Pratt, Tom Hiddleston, Pom Klementieff, Rene Russo, Linda Cardellini, Hayley Atwell, Natalie Portman, Taika Waititi, Cobie Smulders, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, William Hurt, James D’Arcy, Ken Jeong, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jacob Batalon, Winston Duke, Frank Grillo, Samuel L Jackson and Hiroyuki Sanada get their moments to shine. On the whole, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is a power packed, emotional, visually stunning and worthy end to an extraordinary era of super hero stories.
Directed – Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring – Brie Larson, Linda Cardellini, Scarlett Johansson
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 181 minutes
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