WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES / MARVEL STUDIOS (2019)
Directors: Anthony Russo / Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Jeremy Renner, Brie Larson
We’re in the end game now.
Well, Disney certainly isn’t, they’re in the goal zone. Infinity War’s colossal box office returns of $2.047bn confirmed beyond any doubt that the notion of comic book fatigue was ludicrous and the hype surrounding this follow up also laughs in the face of the idea. So, here we are, Avengers: Endgame, the actual culmination to the stories of the Avengers we have known since way back in 2008 with Iron Man and the twenty-second installment in the MCU.
After Thanos (Brolin) devastated the universe after the events of Infinity War - wiping out half of the living creatures and a whole host of our superheroes - the remaining Avengers, and the world, are in shock and mourning. Having found his way back to Earth, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) has become a family guy, Steve Rogers (Evans) took up the mantle of therapist, Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) has found peace with his inner Hulk and Hawkeye (Renner) has become a murderer – only Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) has really kept up the superhero pretence. When Ant-Man (Rudd) shows up out of the blue (or quantum realm), the gang find themselves back together and form a time-bending plan to return the Infinity Stones, defeat Thanos once and for all and to bring back the ’Vanished’ – restoring peace to the universe.
The events of Infinity War, whilst initially shocking to witness, always carried that looming feeling of being nothing but temporary. Spider-Man and Black Panther gone for good? Pull the other one. So, it was widely recognised that the Russo brothers would formulate a way of reversing the events of that movie and this is exactly what they do – just not in the most satisfying of ways. The opening third of the movie thunders along at such a pace that even the frustrating plot conveniences/contrivances fail to keep up at times. Key narrative moments are overcome in the most simple and fast way as the Russo’s hurtle towards their big finale. Within that initial thirty minutes are some great moments though as the heroes are forced to come to terms with the extent of their failure and their efforts to assimilate into normal lives. Once this is over, the movie begins to feel fairly familiar. Moments from previous instalments are replayed out from varying angles and viewpoints and beats from Infinity War are repeated for shock value. The hunt for the Infinity Stones carries some entertaining moments and emotional scenes but it’s the massive end battle that becomes the movies selling point. A huge CGI fest, frantically edited and surprisingly short in relation to the overall runtime, sees the good guys facing off against the entire might of Thanos and his armies. It’s been billed as the greatest moment in comic book movie history – I’m not so sure. It’s a good battle full of fist-pumping moments, but it was lacking something (stakes?). It’s that removal of stakes that damages everything. I can hear the cries of comic book fans worldwide screaming, “no one dies in the comics! Everyone gets brought back in the comics!” That’s wonderful, but this isn’t the comics and the removal of tension and finality is a huge deal in the cinematic format. Still, there are moments that occur that are seemingly final, but they may be down to contracts rather than anything else. It would be folly to suggest there are no emotional moments in Endgame, there’s a hatful. The Russo’s go for the emotional jugular, and whilst everything becomes rather mawkish, it still tugs to see some of the moments unfold after everything that’s been and gone. The middle act with the returning scenes from previous MCU movies provides plenty of nostalgia for the fans to devour and Endgame shamelessly hangs its hat on this. Nostalgia in a marvellous thing when done correctly.
The cast are uniformly very good in their roles, all have worn their characters for so long that nothing else should have been expected. Again, not everyone gets an awful lot to do, but there are more characters to fit in this time and I believe the Russo’s did what they could with the stadium-sized cast. Robert Downey Jr. proves to be the MVP with a performance smothered in depth and pathos – it’s an extremely good turn from the MCU veteran. Visually, the movie was as appealing as ever, bursting with colour and gloom all at once, it’s a joy to look at.
I’m aware the tone of the review is fairly underwhelmed but that isn’t the case. I enjoyed Endgame, I just wasn’t blown away. I didn’t find it to be as visceral or intense as Infinity War was. The pacing was awry and the writing wasn’t excellent - the gags didn't quite land as well this time - however, the scope, scale and sheer epicness shone through and there’s no denying Endgame is a great sign off for this era of the MCU and its stars. The question is, where do they go from here that won’t begin to feel like a climbdown? Who knows, but two things I do know is that Kevin Feige certainly has a plan to ensure continued success and fans of the MCU are going to absolutely devour every moment of Avengers: Endgame. This is nearly a love letter to you all.
April 25th 2019