Avengers: Endgame

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Blown away.10
Avengers: Endgame is a pitch-perfect emotional roller-coaster that really feels like a definitive ending that has been in the making since 2008.
10

Avengers: Endgame picks up after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and goes where few films have gone before, exploring the events and the consequences of what happens after the superheroes have lost. Thanos did what he set out to do and wiped out 50% of everything, and after the battles on Titan and Wakanda have taken place with the rest of society struggling to move on from the events that have followed, it’s clear that the Avengers haven’t; “Some people move on. But not us.” is a line from the trailer. The film’s first act is an examination of the grieving process and the effect that it has on its superheroes, and echoes the emotional trauma that provided such rich content for one of the best television series ever made, The Leftovers (which incidentally also works as a good accompanying piece for something that could take place in the middle of Infinity War & Endgame with little changes). From a chilling opening shot that catches up with Hawkeye and what happened to him at the time of the snap to the end credits, Avengers: Endgame is a pitch-perfect emotional roller-coaster that really feels like a definitive ending that has been in the making since 2008.

When Robert Downey Jr. first improvised the words “I am Iron Man” all those years ago, nobody could have predicted anything on the scale of this accomplishment. 22 films later and most of them good ones (disregarding the odd blunder like Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World or Doctor Strange) – Endgame marks the end of a story arc unlike no other. There’ll be nothing like this for a long time and there has never been anything of this scale before. A once in a lifetime experience like Endgame is something hard not to love, especially when it sticks the landing so damn hard. It’s a touching spectacle that improves on Infinity War in almost every regard, and instantly becomes one of the best blockbuster movies ever. The set-pieces feel climatic and epic in scale, with every hero getting their crowning moment to shine. There is plenty of fan-service here as Endgame almost feels like a victory lap at times, but it’s done in a way to show the growth of these characters and how they’ve changed since we’ve first met them. It may not work on its own as a film but it doesn’t need to – as a payoff for a story and characters that we’ve been following since the start it more than delivers.

One of the problems of the Marvel Universe in the past has been outside of the Guardians of the Galaxy films is that the films don’t often look as good in terms of the cinematography as they should, with the visuals often coming up short in terms of star power. Yet that is rectified, more than rectified in Avengers: Endgame, where directors Anthony and Joe Russo – working with cinematographers Trent Opaloch & James McMillan – make every shot, especially in the final act burst full of life and energy, feeling very much like a comic splash page brought to life. The mega spectacle lives up to the likes of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and the characters are treated with the respect and care that they deserve. Yes, the movie finds humour even in the darkest timeline, but it is something that feels designed to benefit the characters with a couple of exceptions. There’s plenty of pop culture references from the usual suspects, and I like at times that this film feels like a homage to heist films at times, echoing Ocean’s 11 during a key scene that (possibly?) calls back to it – with Steven Soderbergh’s crime caper also having influenced films like Ant Man in the Marvel universe in the past. As this is a spoiler-free review I won’t go into more details, but fans will not be disappointed.

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The character arcs that focus around the original Avengers and in particular Thor are powerful and effective. The theme of loss is handled with care and respect, not becoming a punchline for a joke, and the way the film manages to balance all these characters together is still a big accomplishment, as the film has to juggle an incredibly large cast despite the fact that half of the population in the universe died in the last movie. Fans wondering how Captain Marvel fits in will not be disappointed (even if it would have been cooler to see even more of her than what we had, it can though at least, be justified by the fact that Endgame was written before Captain Marvel’s release), and the film manages to avoid balancing the characters’ powers and making certain characters weaker as a result – thankfully, every character is played to their strengths aside from a questionable direction that the film decided to take with Thor’s character, whose story is largely played for laughs rather than given the impact it should have done and the one instant where the humour doesn’t always work.

The performances are excellent and the ensemble is top notch. Robert Downey Jr. is perhaps the standout as Iron Man – if anything, this is his film. From the word go he reminds the audience why his casting is one of the best superhero castings there ever was. Scarlett Johansson is another standout as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner gets arguably some of the darkest material that a character in these films has ever had to deal with, which he is able to get the most out of, as these two characters benefit from the attention by the renewed focus on the original Avengers cast. As ever, Karen Gillan excels as Nebula and it’s hard to point to a weak link, with Josh Brolin making the most out of his screentime as Thanos to remind audiences why he’s just so intimidating.

Coming it at a near three-hour long runtime, Endgame doesn’t feel as long as it does, and is paced really well with a clear three act structure that is easily definable. The final act contains multiple of the most rewarding crowd-pleasing moments in recent memory (up there with a key scene from Game of Thrones’ equally epic Battle of Winterfell), often happening in quick succession, leading up to what amounts to one of the more emotional endings to a film that you’ll see anywhere, in film. Tears will be shed, but above all, a sense of closure will come. Yes, the Marvel cinematic universe will keep pumping out movies every few months anyway, but it’s likely that they’ll never reach this height again, and the Infinity Stone storyline feels very much like it ended on a closed loop rather than an open one, with at last, no teaser as to what’s going to happen next. An end of an era indeed.

 

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