The pre- release hype for Avengers Endgame has been quite intense and avoiding spoilers even more so. It is hard to recall a superhero film that has such a weight of expectation sitting on its shoulders not to mention multiple suggestions as to just how that cliffhanger at the end of Infinity War might be resolved. Like a lot of you I re-watched that movie a few days back but did not predict what happens. Of course such situations can end up meaning people are disappointed only because they’ve built up a scenario on their head. So does it live up to all the heady anticipation? Well let’s see shall we, as ever, after the spoiler warning…
MEGA SPOILERS IF YOU CLICK ONTO THE REST OF THE REVIEW!
It opens with parents playing with young children and ends with an old man sitting on a bench. In the three hours in between the viewer is pushed and pulled through all sorts of emotions as the remaining Avengers try to piece together a puzzle. They always say with the MCU films that you don’t necessarily need to have seen all the others to appreciate the latest and to an extent that is true here though anyone coming to it cold might find themselves a little lost as to the significance of what unfolds.
The plot is quite simple, at least to begin with. After Thanos’ Snap, The Avengers have lost, there is nothing they can do and when he’s rescued early on from his isolation in space, Tony Stark is in no state of mind to come up with a solution. Then an audacious Five Years Later- with a significant pause before the Years caption appears as if daring us to think “Surely not Years!” – we find our heroes scattered. Steve Rogers is mentoring people still coming to terms with their missing, Clint Barton (in what looks like it could be a great spin off movie) is a vigilante in the Far East and Thor, in one of the movie’s best surprises is living in a Norwegan village (renamed Asgard, of course!) and sporting a pot belly from copious drinking. The Hulk is finally out- albeit in a sort of half human half Hulk hybrid (Hulkan?) that is big and green but chats amiably. Only Natasha Romanoff seems genuinely interested in keeping the momentum of finding some solution to the issue. There’s a charm in this section of the film not just allowing the actors far wider scope than usual but adding a series of character notes that pay off later. We know these people well now and seeing them so lost makes quite an impact.
The unlikely saviour to take them out of their self-absorption is Scott Lang, probably the least well known Avenger from the Ant Man wing of the franchise. He’s been stuck in the Quantum Realm for five hours rather than the five years everyone else has experienced and has a suggestion as to how the Snap could be reversed. Ok yes, it’s sort of time travel and this is the point where the narrative detours into pretend science but it works rather well setting up a neat three pronged series of missions paring up the survivors in interesting new combinations. In fact part of the skill of this script is how everybody gets significant chunks of the tale, all those backstories are resolved or move along and you begin to see why the run time is three hours. It never seems like that though and Endgame soon becomes the MCU movie with the most variety in it. As the triple headed plots develop there are so many conversations, digressions, theories and edge of seat moments you can only, er, marvel at them.
Its also quite a funny film at times with plenty of lively pop culture references and some amusing banter. However bleak the scenario may be, however slim their chances of success (and they are very slim) the mantra “whatever it takes” shines through. This is a film not so much about heroics involving fire, static, water and whatever else gets chucked about (though there’s plenty of that!) its about the idea of heroism, of potential sacrifice. In that sense it renews old fashioned values- as well as the links to previous films you can see echoes of any swash buckling movie of old in here too. It is quite a feat to work through these themes yet still have the silliest moments, the revealing conversations and never feel the film is over filled. In fact unlike any other three hour film, I’m sure at the end others must have wished for more.
The cast is of course gigantic and everyone delivers to the max but it tilts towards the older Avengers simply because we’ve followed them for ten years. It would be unfair to single out anyone because, in the spirit of the film, they’re all in it together. Yet I can’t recall a film of such similar scale in which every character is so on point and makes you feel for them, run, jump or fly with them and follow them into the fight.
There are casualties and a climax that sees everyone who ever was lining up one side or the other for Marvel’s biggest dust up yet. The resolution comes after almost everyone has had a turn protecting the Infinity gauntlet and is probably obvious if you think about it that it should fall to Tony Stark to make the ultimate sacrifice. It is utterly in character for him to make his own Snap knowing full well it will kill him.
That’s not to say there aren’t questions by the end. For one thing when Thanos snapped it did away with half of the Universe’s population yet time remained the same. Stark’s action seems to be more focussed bringing back everyone who was dusted. Presumably though he also erases those five years otherwise why is Peter Parker still in high school and Barton’s kids are the same age as they are the start. It makes sense though is not actually stated- can the stones simply do whatever task they are ordered by the wearer of the gauntlet? What is harder to wrap your head round is that if what happens with Steve Rogers at the end is true how can the previous Captain America films have happened? I look forward to reading the speculation on that one. Somehow the film thus manages to close the book on its two lead characters yet have both a sad and happy ending.
Avengers Endgame is a fearsome, focussed piece of work that wraps up a cinematic era with skill, humour and excitement. There will be other Marvel films but from this juncture it is difficult to see just how this decade of MCU movies can be improved upon.