Avengers: Endgame pays off on a decade long wait to deliver the perfect end to an era in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Russo Brothers and President Kevin Feige deserve our gratitude.
When I saw Iron Man for the first time in theatres in 2008 as a bright-eyed 9 year-old boy, never would I have imaged the kind of journey I was about to embark on. Having seen a handful of superhero movies that ranged from mediocre to “just fine”, there really was no expectation for a movie about a man flying around in a metal suit. 11 years later and I don’t even want to think about a timeline where Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor aren’t my childhood heroes. Avengers: Endgame is the MCU’s pièce de résistance and a fitting end to the Infinity Saga. This three hour film perfectly wraps up plotlines that have spanned 22 movies and 11 years, leaving only but little tidbits to hang on to for future installments. That being said, I’d be perfectly content if it all stopped right here and now. Never before has a cast of this magnitude ever been assembled, and by some miracle, this film gives each character a moment to shine. This film, though not perfect, is everything a comic book fan such as myself could’ve possibly asked for and more. I laughed, I cheered, and I cried.
“Part of the Journey is the End”
Understandably, I reserved some concerns for the film that had to follow the cinematic blockbuster that was Avengers: Infinity War. How can you top a film that is essentially multiple, brilliant action set pieces perfectly woven together? This film answers that question by not replicating the lightning fast pace of its predecessor, but by taking a step back to allow us and the characters to mourn over the tragic events that happened. The film opens with an immediate emotional gut punch, and it doesn’t hold back throughout its runtime. Not much time has passed from the last film, and we’re introduced to our heroes at their lowest point. Tony Stark adrift in space, Rocket now the sole survivor of his new family, and the remaining Avengers coming to terms with Thanos having achieved his destiny. The star-studded cast does a remarkable job of showing us the pain they’re suffering. Special mention goes to Scarlett Johansson. This was her best performance yet in her Marvel career as she was finally allowed to dig deep into Romanoff’s motivation as a spy-turned-hero with red in her ledger. Bradley Cooper again proved he is an incredibly capable voice actor. Having me sympathize so well with a genetically altered raccoon that has lost everyone he ever loved is a feat worth mentioning. Josh Brolin yet again nails the villainous role of Thanos. This time around, Thanos lacks some of the emotional depth that solidified him as the MCU’s greatest villain, but he is no less charismatic, and is still spitting out iconic one-liners that will be quoted for years to come. To balance this dreariness, we have the comedic chops of Paul Rudd who brings his own charm to the Avengers cast. For his first outing in this ensemble, he perfectly gelled with the old cast, and kept our spirits high in these dark times. The tighter cast allows actors that have been historically neglected to flex their skills. Don Cheadle to me used to be Iron Man Lite. Here, he easily won me over as War Machine with his “no bs” attitude and badass mech of a suit. Sadly, there are a few that don’t seem to carry their own weight. Brie Larson gets little opportunity to show off, and with what time she has, her performance is unfortunately stale and wooden.
The first act is essential for showing us the fallout of The Snap, which I was hoping for because too often the consequences of previous films are ignored in subsequent films. When 3.5 billion people suddenly vanish, it leaves many questions that need answering. Governments collapse, Yankee Stadium is littered with driverless vehicles, and the people are struggling to move on. I’d be perfectly happy if they made a short series just on the lives of normal people learning to cope in this “perfectly balanced” world. It doesn’t take long for all our favourite heroes to get together which is where these big event movies shine. All these new character dynamics are fascinating to explore, and despite the longer runtime, I wished we had more time to explore and develop them further. The second act does drag on with a couple scenes that are less than thrilling, but nevertheless, it offers an extremely satisfying lookback at all the MCU’s achievements throughout the years. It’s hardly a spoiler to say that this film involves time travel, and although it’s perhaps the most well-defined time travel movie in recent memory, it does sadly break its own rules for the sake of a poignant moment. Finally, we get to the third act, and it is undoubtedly the greatest final battle of the MCU, and perhaps the most rewarding final act of any film I’ve ever seen. The action-packed final hour makes the somber tone of the beginning more than worth it. All these emotions come crashing down on you as the film hits its climax, and you’re left unable to process them as the biggest spectacle in cinematic history unfolds before you. However, all this amazement can be for nought if it ends on a sour note. Fear not for it’s safe to say that Avengers: Endgame sticks the landing. This film ties a neat bow on the Marvel franchise, leaving me satisfied, and even willing to accept a hypothetical future where this is the definitive end for all time.
A Perfect Symphony
Although the final act does boil down to a CGI-filled action set piece with a green screen backdrop, it never allows the viewer to get lost in the moment. The sheer numbers present in the final battle could have threatened to overcrowd the scene. Thankfully, the subject is always in clear sight, and the viewer can always pick out new, interesting details in the background on later viewings. The computer generated aliens and explosions are amazingly done and never seem out-of-place among a group of composited, human actors. The film takes us on another spacefaring journey and we are again treated to unique, beautiful alien landscapes that fill you with awe and wonder. It’s a special treat when the MCU manages to remain consistent with its visual language. The hexagonal jump points, face masks materializing out of light, and Ant-Man’s shrinking effect are presented exactly how you remember them from across the board. The purely CG characters like Rocket and Thanos are given so much care and attention that they can express so much by saying so little. Overall, how this film is shot depicts the sorrowful tone of this film incredibly well. The darker undertones present a depressing atmosphere, but they don’t subdue the bright colours that are integral to the cosmic side of the MCU for example. I am advocating you see this on a true IMAX screen to fully appreciate the composition of some truly stunning shots. There are several frames in here that can easily serve as a masterpiece painting to be hung in a grand dining hall. How some camera shots linger on the faces of the actors ground this film in an emotional reality. It really sets the stakes which are both world-ending, but also immensely personal. Superheroes trying to save the world often don’t have me as tense as them wanting to protect the people they love.
A detail that often goes unnoticed is the musical backdrop supporting the visuals. This film has outdone all of its predecessors in its musical continuity. To start off, the main Avengers theme is played heavily throughout the film, but never loses the emotional weight that gives the listener a feeling of triumph and hope. When Alan Silvestri’s best rendition of the theme swells during the final battle, I was smiling ear-to-ear and practically shaking in my seat out of childish joy. I have little doubt that this theme will be forever immortalized in the heads of millions with the likes of Jurassic Park or Star Wars. Credits must also be given to the smaller, more subtle themes that are tied to certain characters. This film brings back more music cues than any film before it while also providing its own twist to them. It was a treat when I could recognize Ant-Man’s and even Captain Marvel’s theme from her recent film. The villainous violin strings of Thanos’ theme frequently pop up, as well as other musical cues from Infinity War that truly cement the two parts together as a whole.
If Infinity War is the hearty main course, Endgame is the rich and savoury dessert. For the casual fan, this film is a decent action film that’ll leave you entertained, but this film is moreso carried by its first two-thirds which carry a heavy, emotional load that depends on previous knowledge of the MCU. As a standalone, it may fall short, but as a finale to one of the most successful franchises in history, it’s everything you could possibly want and more. It may be too much to ask for a viewer to do a thorough rewatch before seeing this, but not even having the most tangential knowledge of the previous films would be doing this one a disservice. Viewing this was a roller coaster of emotions. The tragedy, the jokes, and the victories remained cohesive throughout and it left me a malfunctioning, sobbing mess that needed a minute to process what I just witnessed. The success of this film will be near impossible to be recreated for decades thanks to the sheer wealth of care and thought put into it. Suffice to say, Avengers: Endgame has safely earned its spot in cinematic history.