Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Avenge the fallen.
SPOILER ALERT: Since directors Joe and Anthony Russo have released a letter titled #DontSpoilTheEndgame, we suggest that you watch the film first before reading on, as this review contains mild spoilers.
Throughout cinema, audiences have followed beloved characters through a number of different multi-part narrative journeys. We’ve seen Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends mature and ripen in Warner Bros’ eight-part wizarding world series. We’ve traveled with Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and his fellowship to the ends of Middle Earth to destroy Sauron’s One Ring in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We’ve even seen Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) family grow in Universal’s street racing-heist-action series The Fast and the Furious. But nothing could’ve prepared the hordes of MCU fans for the devastating conclusion to 2018’s ‘must-see’ epic Avengers: Infinity War, where Josh Brolin’s big purple baddie, Thanos (armed with the six Infinity Stones), snapped his fingers and dusted half of the universe’s population. Let’s just say any kid watching their favorite heroes turn to ash would’ve been more than a little rattled.
Over the past twelve months people have memed about the infamous ‘finger snap’ online, grieved over the temporary loss of characters, such as Tom Holland’s web-crawler, and theorized over the many ways in which Earth’s Mightiest Heroes could return, the most popular idea involving venturing into the Soul Stone where their bodies were (perhaps) being kept. With follow-ups to lucrative properties such as Black Panther and Spider-Man in development, it was always a given that these characters would eventually be back (we knew they weren’t gone for good), but it was the how that kept us on the edge of our seats, waiting with anticipation.
To be honest, back in 2008 when architect Kevin Feige launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Jon Favreau’s excellent Iron Man, I doubt that anybody, not even Feige himself, could’ve ever foreseen just how much of a juggernaut the series would become. Now, after over ten years of movies, with twenty-one individual entries (including Sony’s Spider-Man: Homecoming), directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely — who’ve worked together since 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier — give us the conclusion we’ve all been yearning for with Avengers: Endgame, a genuinely touching, funny, emotionally cathartic mega-budget spectacle that’s both narratively and thematically satisfying, filmmakers delivering the relationship pay-offs, Easter Eggs, and closure that über-fans have been dying to see — anyone else, though, might need to do a bit of homework prior. While a lot has been done to try and minimize spoilers, it’s almost impossible to review the film without delving into details or discussing specifics, so expect some reveals from here on in.
The movie opens with a very somber scene where we see the effects of ‘The Snap’ from the point of view of Mr. Hawkeye himself, Clint Barton (a very good Jeremy Renner), who, having sat out the previous battle to spend time with his wife Laura (Linda Cardellini) and their three kids, witnesses said loved ones disintegrate while prepping to enjoy a snack in the sun. From there we cut to several weeks after the decimation, where the remaining heroes are still trying to undo the damage caused by the Mad Titan, the broken Avengers struggling to grapple with the fact that they lost the fight, and no matter how powerful they are, mighn’t be able to fix everything.
Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who’s looking a little worse for wear, is floating around in space on the Milano with Thanos’ adopted cyborg daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), searching for a way to reverse things when they run into Marvel’s version of Superwoman, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who ships them back to base, Danvers potentially saving the pair after returning to our planet and learning that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) had perished at the close of Infinity War. With the remaining team members — Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/ Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner/ Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), James Rhodes/ War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) — recouping at HQ, the newly united crew decides to do some actual ‘avenging’ by taking the fight back to Thanos, who’s located on a remote, uninhabited planet. The confrontation doesn’t exactly go how patrons might expect, with the team learning that whoever holds all six Infinity Stones can do whatever they want by simply clicking their fingers and that the square-jawed Space God has since destroyed the stones, making their new reality finite.
We then do another time jump, fast-forwarding five years, where the world is still learning to cope with the loss of half its population, having built memorials for ‘The Vanished.’ And, while the survivors mourn, the leftover heroes are picking up the pieces, trying to deal with the repercussions of their failure in their own personal ways — depression, going to support groups, severe lifestyle changes, or simply just avoiding wounds that are too painful to reopen. There’s still some hostility between Steve and Tony, the latter having completely given up, moving into an idealistic home with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), where they’re raising a cute kid daughter Morgan (Alexandra Rachael Rabe).
While a little lengthy, this first act primarily deals with the different ways people cope with grief. We discover that the God of Thunder has moved to New Asgard (which is now a small seaside fishing settlement in Norway), where he’s put on an enormous amount of weight, and spends his days drinking beer and playing videogames with his pals Korg (Taika Waititi) and Miek — Hemsworth (being the goofball that he is) is clearly having a great time with the character. While there are a few laughs to be had at poor Thor’s expense, it’s obvious that he’s barely functional without his support network around him, having gone somewhat off the rails since the cosmic calamity. The same can be said for Rocket, who’s also basically lost without the rest of his rag-tag Guardians crew. Natasha has been keeping herself busy at the Avengers Facility, although she too still feels the brunt of the fallout. Bruce Banner has found peace, after having discovered a way to co-exist with his green alter ego (who refused to show up after Thanos beat the crap out of him in the previous film), the hulking half-man half-monster comfortable with his quasi-celebrity status — there’s an amusing moment where he takes a selfie with a trio of kids. Hawkeye, however, has taken a more troublesome route, seeking vengeance on criminals who survived the human cull when his family wasn’t so lucky.
Everything changes when Scott Lang/ Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) returns from the quantum realm with the idea of traveling back to the past to steal the Infinity Stones before Thanos gets his mitts on them — Rhodey suggests killing Thanos as a baby instead, which the film treats as a joke, but is actually the better of the two options. Anyway, time travel is discussed (quantum this, quantum that), we get a few quips about Back to the Future (1985) and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), Tony Stark makes some kind of technological breakthrough on the subject, and vualá, the Avengers are off on a ‘time heist,’ jumping back to key moments in their multiple crusades (in other words, past films), where they’ll nab the stones, click their fingers and repair their broken reality — of course, time traveling ‘rules’ are a bit different here. Needless to say, things don’t quite go according to plan.
While the ins and outs of the team’s plan are a bit sketchy, Endgame makes good on its promise to deliver precisely what the fans want. Characters revisit key scenes from earlier movies (there’s some nifty self-reflection going on here), where they encounter their younger versions or fallen comrades — I was excited to see Zoe Saldana’s Gamora back in the mix, plus we’re treated to some exemplary, tongue-in-cheek scenes with the Cap post 2012’s Battle of New York (one in an elevator and a run-in with a familiar face), which will absolutely thrill franchise devotees. MCU’s holy trinity of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor all get a chance to go back and say things they never got to say to people they’ve loved and lost — Tony bumps into a younger version of his father Howard (John Slattery), Thor gets counsel from his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) right before she’s killed, and Rogers comes face-to-face with the love of his life Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).
As you’ve probably figured, Endgame narrows its focus back to the original six Avengers (and maybe Nebula) whose arcs are neatly wrapped up over the course of the film’s mammoth three-plus hour runtime — there’s a lot to cover. Characters like T’Challa/ Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Peter Parker/ Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Bucky Barnes/ Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Peter Quill/ Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Wanda Maximoff/ Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Sam Wilson/ Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) etc., don’t get much screen time, but this isn’t their film, this one belongs to the phase one champions who kick-started it all. Expect emotional farewells, reunions and a lot of tears (of both joy and sadness).
And if its action you want the Russos certainly bring the fireworks, the adrenaline-charged last act encounter one for the ages, pitting Thanos and his fierce, expansive army against the whole of the MCU — and it’s monolithic (think a Lord of the Rings style battle with a Jim Starlin flavor). There’s a ‘girl power’ scene that’s a bit too on the nose, but this is a mere blemish in an otherwise exceptional clash. The fully rendered CG characters, such as the Hulk and Brolin’s Thanos (who’s a little meaner this time around), are, once again, wholly convincing, while the stunning costumes, stunts, and sets are all top notch. The rousing score by composer Alan Silvestri, exhaustive production design by Charles Wood, and striking cinematography by Trent Opaloch (who have all come back to round-off the saga) aid in immersing moviegoers, the flick alternating between big, bombastic set pieces to more nuanced character moments seamlessly, with each individual element adding to these heroes’ larger-than-life odyssey. Plus, I doubt that we’ll ever see this much of a sprawling cast on screen together at the same time again — literally everyone pops up in this thing: from Tilda Swinton’s bald-headed Ancient One to Frank Grillo’s antagonist Brock Rumlow/ Crossbones.
Although a little self-serious at times and containing one too many endings, Avengers: Endgame lives up to the hype and then some, capping things off with an exhilarating conclusion that manages to fittingly tie-up more than a decade’s worth of interconnected stories and loose-ends. If the idea behind The Avengers Initiative was to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they could become something more, Feige and his team have totally succeeded, crafting characters that’ll continue to live on in the hearts and minds of fans forever, whilst birthing one of the greatest multi-narrative adventures in the history of cinema. Of Dr. Strange’s 14,000,605 outcomes to Marvel’s Infinity Saga, I’m glad this is the one we got!
5 / 5 – Don’t Miss!
Reviewed by Mr. Movie