Avengers: Endgame (Cert 12A)
US (2019) Dir. Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Lament all you want, but after eleven years and twenty-one films, the sprawling, chaotic, and certainly never dull interconnected Marvel Cinema Universe is about to reach its climax with entry number twenty-two. But it can’t really be the end, can it?
But I digress. Avengers: Endgame is to bring closure to the interweaving saga that has seen many members of the Marvel collective appear in each other’s films as well as their own, with each one providing some connection, no matter how tenuous, to the ongoing campaign for universal domination by the delusional Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin).
You might recall that at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, many of the Marvel heroes that formed the coalition against Thanos had been disintegrated into the ether when Thanos activated the Infinity Gauntlet with only a handful surviving. Whilst it seemed all hope was lost, in the dying moments of the post-credits scene, Nick Fury managed to send out a help signal.
The film opens with Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner) witnessing his family disappear, whilst the remaining Avengers – Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), James “War Machine” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) – try to figure out how to fix their problem, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are rescued from space by Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).
Despite tracking Thanos down and killing him, the group realise that there is no way they can reverse the damage he has done as Thanos used the Infinity Stones to destroy the stones. Despondent, the Avengers part ways – Stark marries Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and they have a daughter, whilst Thor withdraws to New Asgard and becomes a drunken slob.
Five years later, Scott “Ant Man” Lang (Paul Rudd) returns from the Quantum Realm he was trapped in when Thanos’ reset the world, but for him it has only been five hours. Distraught at finding his love ones all dead, Lang heads to Avengers HQ where he finds Black Widow and Captain America and suggests that the Quantum Realm could be a way to travel in time to find the Infinity Stones before Thanos does. But first, The Avengers need to be reassembled.
Right, that’s it for the plot discussion because, at three hours long, there is a lot that happens and I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone and this is easily done. What you do need to know that is inevitable is that as the grand finale to this intertwined saga, your knowledge of ALL the prior Marvel films featuring the individual characters is necessary as they are all referenced or recalled here.
This ties in with the time travel aspect of the masterplan and it is very cleverly done, not just in the mixing of the various iterations of the characters from disparate timelines but in how much attention has been paid to the minutiae to keep the continuity alive and allow for the latest addendum in each scenario. Unless you are a dedicated fan who was watched every film multiple times, some will find this to be something of a unique nostalgia trip.
Credit goes to writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for their ability to juggle so many loose threads and bringing them altogether, whilst cross referencing the films of the past. It obviously helped that Endgame was filmed immediately after Infinity War for the immediate continuity, but given the vast differences between the earlier solo efforts, this convergence of material is nothing short of admirable.
With three hours to play with, a lot of ground is covered and the script does presuppose the audience is familiar with the individual films, so if you haven’t seen say, Doctor Strange, either of the Ant-Man films or Captain Marvel, you will find yourself with a lot of questions. With Captain Marvel being the most recent (yet filmed after this one) this should be less of a problem although literally nothing connected to her film appears her.
Because of the characters who survived Thanos’ world cleansing is limited, we are stuck with a mixed bunch of old faces already well-established (Stark, Captain America, Hulk, Thor) and some being pushed to the forefront (War Machine, Nebula). Others, like Okoye (Danai Gurira) from Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok’s Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) stay mostly in the background until needed.
And by needed I mean for the spectacular climactic battle that you knew was coming, especially with the film’s title being Endgame. If you thought the punch-up on Wakanda in Infinity War was epic, this one makes it look like a drunken handbag duel outside a nightclub at 2:00am. Disappointingly shorter than its predecessor but non-stop action, this is a considerably larger in every sense of the word, with a literal cast of thousands.
Regardless of how silly things might get, or if the CGI bombast becomes tiresome, what can’t be denied is how mature and emotional the comic book genre has become, and this is superbly demonstrated here. This is how you bring a long, sinuous, multi-faceted and involved story to an end – thrilling us, making us laugh, ripping our hearts out, but most importantly, making us feel all of these emotions.
There are some niggles – I don’t think the film needed to be three hours, the big fight is in the dark where more light would have helped and for a 12A film, there is quite a bit of profanity (I think I even heard the “F” word). But these are minor quibbles in a film that, at the risk of hyperbolising, has arguably redefined the template for its genre.
If Avengers: Endgame is truly the swan song for this expansive multi-hero sub-division of the MCU then it is a hell of a way to go, not to mention emotionally satisfying without being twee and saccharine. At least we still have the solo films to keep us going.
Rating – **** ½
Man In Black