Film Review | Avengers: Endgame: For to end, yet again...

With Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios close a first mammoth chapter on an era-defining, medium-shaking superhero saga. We will never be the same again…

“I am inevitable,” becomes an ominous trademark drawl for Josh Brolin’s eminently hissable though impressively stoic intergalactic CGI villian, Thanos, in Avengers: Endgame, whose triumphant arc in last year’s Avengers: Infinity War all but gave him the right to be so smug now, much to the heart-plucked chagrin of millions of movie-goers. In many ways, it’s a line that could just as easily apply to Marvel Studio’s gargantuan superhero franchise itself, particularly as it comes to the end of what is sure to be just the beginning of its world-conquering trajectory.

It is inevitable that such a saga – begun as something of a prickly experiment back in 2008 with Iron Man and mushrooming ever since – goes out with as prolonged a bang, with Avengers: Endgame clocking in at a full three hours. It is, by now, also inevitable that these films are instant money-making machines, with ‘Endgame’ – premiering worldwide on April 22 – having raked in upwards of $1.4 billion at the time of writing. But what is also inevitable by now – in ways that we nonetheless shouldn’t take for granted – is that this mammoth, bookending installment, directed by Marvel Studios stalwarts Anthony and Joe Russo, lands with a blockbuster punch that packs both rich spectacle and reverberating emotion.

So much so that we enter the film during a remarkably quiet moment, with the oft-absent Avenger – the expert marksman Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – giving archery tips to his eldest daughter while his wife Laura (Linda Cardellini) oversees the family picnic. Barton looks away for an instant, only to find that his family have gone. Disappearing in a cloud of ash – the same population-bisecting drive we saw in Avengers: Infinity War, and which came in the wake of Thanos successfully securing the ‘infinity stones’, allowing him to succeed in his psychotic drive towards population control by reducing all living creatures in the universe by exactly half. Though now joined by the intergalactic space enforcer Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), the remaining dregs of the Avengers are left distraught, with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) attempting to hold down the fort while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) isolates himself in ‘New Asgard’, growing fat on a diet of beer and video games and wallowing

in regret over a bone-headed decision that made a bad situation even worse, five years prior to the present day.
But the unexpected appearance of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) suddenly offers up a sliver of hope – what if the perfunctory time machine in the back of his van could lead them to travel back in time and reverse Thanos’ genocidal drive?

What starts off as a necessarily mournful first act as our heroes take stock of the tragedy that has befallen them, carefully accelerates its way to a time-hopping heist actioner which also serves as a trip down memory lane for Marvel fans. As our heroes -- completed by the scientific genius Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) who has since made peace with his Hulking half and tamed the beast; the repentant Nebula (Karen Gillan) and the only remaining Guardian of the Galaxy, Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper/Sean Gunn) – toggle their way through key moments of the franchise to get ahead of Thanos, it makes for an amusing and bittersweet trip. The now rotund and messily-bearded Thor – looking more like Jeff Bridges’s Jeff Lebowski/The Dude than the Asgardian God of Thunder – gets a much-needed pep talk from a parent figure during a crucial moment, though as is often the case, Tony Stark one-ups him on this one too: travelling all the way back to 1978, Stark meets Stark Sr himself, once again played with smarmy-but-loveable charm by Mad Men’s John Slattery.

These moments are played as neither distractions nor necessary buffer – they are an essential part of the operatic fabric of the thing, their payoff equally as important as the action that comes later.

Therein lies the success of Anthony and Joe Russo’s film, as the duo work off a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley. Taking full advantage of the audience’s familiarity with and commitment to the rich cast of characters offered up by Marvel across a 22-film run, they offer a full-bodied jolt of entertainment that comes to a satisfying close.
Though the dominance of superhero blockbusters on the cinematic landscape has certainly left a mark that often feels more like a smoking crater, as far as polished examples of the format go, ‘Endgame’ comes close to the kind of bombastic pulp perfection that can only be executed by practitioners at the top of their game. Inevitability has rarely felt this satisfying.

The verdict

Though an epic send-off may have felt like a foregone conclusion Marvel Studio’s unprecedentedly long-running superhero saga, the mammoth achievement that’s ensued is certainly no casual fluke. Carefully calibrated to give each character and sub-plot their due while never short-changing its emotional content, Avengers: Endgame gives itself the licence of sizeable running time to tell a story that is part dirge, part mind-bending time travelling heist and part meditation on friendship and power. The cinematic landscape may have been changed by these colourfully-clad supermen and women in debatable ways, but the byzantine byways of its interconnected stories clicking so satisfyingly together is certainly no mean feat.