You’d expect a film grandiosely titled Endgame to feel more final than this fourth Avengers film ever quite does. It’s no spoiler to say that upcoming Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and Black Panther films each confirm survival both of the titular characters and, indeed, the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself. Finality does pervade some elements of Endgame – you may well predict which characters are meeting theirs – but this is as much a celebration of a decade that has changed cinema forever as it is the closing chapter.
There’s not so much a fair review can say concerning the film’s plot. Purely, that is, for the sake of blind experience. The arc here will hardly shock the speculating hardcore corners of the Marvel fandom but neither will it overly befuddle those more casually engaged in the story so far. Speaking of which, Endgame opens a mere twenty-two days after the climax of Infinity War, which saw the knuckle headed Thanos (Josh Brolin) eliminate fifty per cent of the Universe’s population with a click of his thick, purple fingers. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) floats in space, with only Nebula (Karen Gillan) for company, whilst on Earth Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), Steve (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) are among the survivors reeling in their defeat. When new arrival Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) offers the shattered ensemble a shining light, they seize it but to little avail. The point? No easy solutions in this cinematic universe. It’ll take a further two hours and forty minutes for resolution to come.
Flash forward five years and we find Earth in a post-apocalyptic existence. This being Marvel, comic flair wins out over bleak despondency but it’s impressive just how dour the film’s opening stretch is prepared to go. Surprising developments ensue but there’s a lot less defiance than one might expect. And then – as trailers have already revealed – out of the Quantum Realm flies none other than an oblivious Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). With him comes hope and a new, highly quotable, mentality. Of course the Avengers will save the day but now they will do ‘whatever it takes’. In a brilliantly rye observation, Tony rants of how the clue has always been in the name. It was the destiny of these ragtag heroes to pick up the pieces. They’re the Avengers, not the Prevengers.
If nothing else, Avengers: Endgame is a grandstanding spectacle. It is but a tightly woven, densely cast demonstration of a powerful studio flexing its muscles and landing the money shot. Every trick in the Marvel playbook is executed with astonishing mastery and an air of delicate nonchalance. De-ageing? How very 2014. World building? They’ve been doing it since 2009. All that has been achieved by the studio and more are to be found here, alongside a cast who largely owe their A-listing to the franchise itself. Even Downey Jr. must acknowledge the role of that iron suit in skyrocketing his career. Whilst he’s on fine form here, it is Marvel born and bred Evans and Hemsworth who steal the show. Considering the relatively wooden performances from which the duo came from, each has grown remarkably over the course of the past decade and now have fine acting pedigree.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo deftly handle both the louder and quieter strains of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script, which itself nails pacing and tonal balance. There’s no denying the film is too long – and that many a scene here feels superfluous in light of the fact – but it’s never boring and doesn’t actually feel the full three hours. Compared to Infinity War, Endgame is also significantly less exhausting an experience. The pay offs are huge but the journey slower, with valuable stop offs to breathe. Perhaps, in hindsight, the complexities of the plot don’t bare consideration. Whether this actually all hangs together I’m not so sure but in the moment you’ll buy it.
Only the final Harry Potter film perhaps compares to the scale, ambition and overall experience of Endgame. I confess to lacking a comparable emotional investment with the Marvel Cinematic Universe but, even so, this remains a soaring achievement. Just as one would hope, Endgame is funny, smart, exciting, endearing and a little bit bonkers. A well fostered cast give it their all and a rewarded with ample chance to shine. The direction is sharp and visuals exceptional. If this isn’t the Avengers’ grand finale, it remains a victory for all involved. Consider this a blockbuster well assembled.