The culmination of the 11 year, 22 film Infinity Saga. It was worth the wait.
All of the things that directors the Russo brothers got so right in Infinity War, they double down on here. Once again they manage to weave the almost countless characters and their arcs, branching narratives, plot turns and tonal shifts into one cohesive and satisfying behemoth of a movie. By their very nature Infinity War and Endgame are deeply interwoven, yet the Russos deftly shift gear with the latter to allow it a personality separated from that of its predecessor. It takes a path which many had speculated, just not in the way you might have expected. Which serves to keep it fresh; not only when held up against Infinity War and the Marvel films before it, but also over the course of its own sprawling runtime. There’s the odd narrative shortcut early doors with both Ant-Man and Captain Marvel’s respective introductions – difficult to discuss without heading into spoiler territory – though they at least help to accommodate a rapid opening pace, one maintained throughout.
We get essentially five films for the price of one, a Marvel Cinematic Universe greatest hits of sorts. Infinity War had people in some quarters criticising its inability to stand alone, removed from the films that led to it (missing the point entirely). If they were confused then, they’re going to be completely lost here. Endgame is very much a part of the greater MCU tapestry, and it’s those who have invested the most in these characters and the world that will take the biggest amount from it. A second act tipping point brings Easter eggs galore that will leave longtime fans purring; the nostalgia game is strong. And not for nothing, the callbacks and knowing fan service acting as a timely reminder of why we’ve come to care so much about these superheroes, all bubbling up wonderfully to a fitting and emotional conclusion on multiple fronts.
But before we reach the cavalcade of fist pump-worthy moments (some of which triggered mass spontaneous applause in the screening I attended), we pick up on a more sombre note. Themes of loss, failure, self-pity, anger and desperation permeate through the first hour, each remaining Avenger struggling to deal with their crushing defeat at the hands/gauntlet of Thanos (Josh Brolin). Sure, there are still marks of the larger film to come, but much of the focus is insular, on the new dynamic between a far smaller collection of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and on the individual Avengers themselves, nowhere more so than with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson never better in the franchise than she is here) and co-leads Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans (Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, the film’s strongest emotional anchors). A melancholy opener befitting of Infinity War’s universe splitting ending.
Though clouds of regret do hang over significant portions of the movie, it’s not totally doom and gloom. For years the MCU has struck a balance between the absurd and the impactful, and this rings truest in Endgame when it comes to Chris Hemsworth’s latest turn as Thor, which heads in a wholly unexpected direction…really, it’s quite something. Comedic, yes, yet also grounded by tragedy and guilt. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner are on hand to deliver broader laughs, but it’s when emotion is tinged with comedy, and vice versa, that it’s most effective, something which is achieved more often than not. As crackers as it becomes at times, it’s tied together by the humanity and heart of its characters. It’s exactly this reason that the ludicrously big and suitably spectacular battles hit so hard; there’s a level of investment in each and every superhero. Where Avengers assemble and Alan Silvestri’s thumping score swells, goosebumps are sure to follow.
Numerous points had me teary-eyed. I may well have even full-on blubbered if I hadn’t deprived myself of fluids in an attempt to avoid having to pee. Good job though, not a moment’s to be missed; this is wall to wall goodness.
Rating (out of 5):