Review: Avengers: Endgame

With such a fever sweeping the globe for the highly anticipated “endgame” of the now 22-film strong Marvel Cinematic Universe, this review will be to the point but also as spoiler free as I can make it regarding characters, the plot and any big surprises that await.

This 2019 American superhero film, based on the Marvel Comics characters, is a sequel to  2018’s ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, and the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira and the vocal talent of Bradley Cooper and Josh Brolin.

Struggling to adapt to a world following the mass genocide caused by Thanos (Brolin) and the powerful Infinity Stones, the surviving Avengers feel there is little they can do to find the Mad Titan or mourn their fallen comrades.

Scott Lang / Ant-Man (Rudd) finds his way out of the quantum realm and seeks out Steve Rogers / Captain America (Evans) and Tony Stark / Iron Man (Downey Jr.) to propose using the realm to try and locate Thanos and the stones and repair what damage has been done.

Steve, Tony, Scott, Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Johansson), Bruce Banner / Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor (Hemsworth), Rocket (Cooper), James Rhodes / War Machine (Cheadle) Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Renner) and Nebula (Gillan) embark on their most dangerous mission that they must accomplish, whatever it takes…

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo bring out the platinum, super-dooper collector’s edition of “Marvel’s Greatest Hits”, cranks up the volumes and plays it relentlessly for you over 3 hours which does not feel like 3 hours at all, making this a technical and cinematic milestone in crafting, honing and planning an 11 year journey.

“Endgame” makes the ensemble cast in “Infinity War” look pale in comparison, and finds ways to blend nearly all of your favourite heroes (and villains) from across the movies into one concise, if at times overly complex, story. It’s a story about the humanity within these heroes that has been at the core of their individual journeys from their big-screen debut, and each of them finds some resolve, outcomes or answers. This is a love letter to Marvel itself, and also to the fans. Moments in the film force audiences to cheer when key moments or scenes leap from the comic to the big screen. You see the heroes on a high, but the Russo’s are happy to quell your glee when the gravity of this journey sets in and we remember just what is at stake. Heroes have hearts, and that is the biggest crux of all.

You can argue this film belongs to Robert Downey Jr. as the “original” Avenger. You could argue it belongs to Chris Evans as the “first” Avenger. You could even argue it belongs to Josh Brolin as the “Mad Titan” himself. It belongs to each and every star listed – without one, it wouldn’t work, regardless of how big a part they play. Spending a decade with these actors and their characters isn’t going to make it any easier to see them do “whatever it takes” to save their friends, the universe and their own self-doubt. It’s these moments that deal with PTSD, grief, fear and other emotions that make the characters real and worth investing in, as we have for years gone by. Yet, be warned that your favourite Avenger may not get as much screen-time as you want, or you expect. Again, it’s hard to call who this film belongs to, but they all play a part somehow.

Yet considering the powerful plots and arcs weaving in here, there is a lot of humour – a lot. Most of it is 100% natural between our Avengers and that’s the best part; nothing feels forced or out of character. We have Rocket’s inappropriate snark, Tony’s wry realism and even Bruce gets an awful lot to do here humour wise, making this one of his best appearances. Yet not all the humour works, and sadly it falls upon one character who becomes a running joke for a good two-thirds of the film. The laughs are there initially, but after a while it becomes silly for silly’s sake and I found the arc set-up in “Infinity War” belittled partly by this strange attempt at humour to deal with emotional grief.

The action is aplenty and while it doesn’t match that of “Infinity War” in terms of what is at stake and the desperation felt in each battle, the climax of “Endgame” leaps from your wildest comic book, cartoon or video game and explodes before your eyes in a whirl of flashes, bangs, explosions and that swelling score from Alan Silvestri. It eclipses that of the “Captain America: Civil War” airport fight and I personally wish we could have had more of it. But just as the CGI takes over, there is enough practical effects and character development in each moment to ground our thrills and not let us forget this crucial, pivotal chapter for both the heroes and the villains.

One thing that can’t be argued is how vibrant this film looks, depicting many identifiable locations and worlds spanning the MCU that each have a beautiful look to them. Rich colours, ambient lights and mise-en-scene all help create various moods and emotions to immerse you in. With some very clever twists and turns along the way, we also get brilliant alternate glimpses at moments gone by.

Part of the journey is the end. There are losses, there are gains. There is triumph, but there is sadness.

A happy ending? It all depends on how you see this culmination of 11 years’ worth of storytelling and character development and what the future looks like as the credits roll. One thing is for sure, however, overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) you may be, the technical quality, thought and creativity that has gone into this decade-in-the-making blockbuster deserves praise alone.

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