Contains potential spoilers (you never can be too careful!)
Following the devastating events of Infinity War, when the mighty Thanos successfully managed to decimate half the universe’s population, and after a potential plan to solve their problem completely falls apart, five years on from their defeat, the remaining members of the Avengers are at their lowest ebb, constantly trying to continue their lives without much success but with the return of Scott Lang/Ant-Man, a new opportunity presents itself and the Earth’s mightiest heroes all band together to perform a “time heist”, travelling back to specific points in time and space to collect the six infinity stones before Thanos ever did, with the hope of restoring all those who were lost. But, of course, things don’t run smoothly and the defenders of Earth face the fight of their lives as they struggle against all odds to return their fallen friends and family, facing many difficult decisions and tough sacrifices along the way.
Cutting right to the chase, Avengers: Endgame certainly is an epic conclusion to this chapter of the MCU and, as we’ve come to expect from this juggernaut of a saga, there are plenty of shocks, unexpected moments, fun character interactions, the trademark Marvel humour, and a generous helping of superhero smackdown setpieces that will surely thrill audiences, deeply satisfy fans and provide worthy entertainment for paying cinemagoers. That being said, I don’t think that Endgame is as good as Infinity War and despite all of the immense buildup, I couldn’t help but feel a teensy weensy bit . . . underwhelmed.
But why? Well, the film starts off on relatively shaky ground with its “prologue” and with the story leading directly up to the big inciting incident, namely the setting up of the heist; although a slow pace and sombre tone is arguably necessary at this point, since the characters are in a bad place after their devastating defeat and some time has to be spent feeling like there’s no hope for them, the opening of Endgame is where the film is at its weakest because the glum tone is laid on a bit too thick, without properly genuine feeling, and the writing is a little uneven since Captain Marvel is hurriedly reintroduced (with the scene where she first encounters the Avengers apparently, bafflingly, left on the cutting room floor) and then subsequently discarded and the deliberately anticlimactic opening “mission” feels a little off due to its slightly rushed nature and almost uncertain writing.
And Thanos in a t-shirt. Hmm.
Sticking with the negatives (for now, anyway), I also felt that Endgame lacked the sense of palpable urgency, tension and importance that Infinity War had; maybe it’s because the latter set the bar so high, maybe because of that film, we’d already had our fill of galactically important events wherein all the characters met, maybe there was a fault in the writing or direction, maybe having such a complex and incredibly ambitious storyline actually turned out to be detrimental to the emotional impact of the film, or maybe by including so many characters, their parts in the story were spread too thinly. Whatever it was, this film didn’t affect me in the same way that Infinity War admirably did as it never really felt that “important” and the epic and grandiose feeling wasn’t captured as well as it could have been; I also think that as we’ve been spoiled by MCU films in the past, there was that feeling of the filmmakers trying a touch too hard to give us something that we haven’t seen before.
But negatives aside, this film is still a great watch, a perfectly satisfying sendoff for many of our favourite heroes, and the story of Endgame is certainly an ambitious and unexpected one – the trailers showed absolutely no indication of what the film would actually be about and that’s very impressive and most welcome; the film confidently kicks off when the “time heist” is announced (“We’re starting now! NOW we’re starting!”) and it’s here when the film regains its sense of adventure and purpose (though the explanation of how altering the past doesn’t, in fact, change the future is too hurriedly explained and a bit hard to accept, given what we have learned from all those movies that Rhodey goes through!). The middle section of the film would seem to be a celebration of all the films and memorable moments that have come before and there are plenty of humorous interactions, unexpected moments, MANY familiar and very welcome faces (including a particularly popular, Hawaiian shirt wearing fan favourite!), and, let’s face it, who doesn’t love both a good heist film and a bold time travel epic?!
And the final section of the film rounds things off quite spectacularly with its Ready Player One style final showdown as it brings us the biggest battle that the MCU has ever seen and one particular character gets a very important and amazing moment that will surely have fans going wild. Though the CGI is a little uneven and “thinly spread” in this climactic segment, this part of the film gives the audience the biggest bang for their buck and, with the addition of certain character departures, leading to the film’s Return of the King style conclusion, Endgame ultimately manages to close off this chapter of the MCU quite impressively and with a certain amount of flare and good intention.
Plus, it’s worth mentioning that the film takes care in presenting themes of sacrifice and loss, bringing us many characters like Cap, Tony and Clint who have lost loved ones and asking to just what lengths they would go to to take back what they have lost; though it had no real impact on my apparently ice cold heart, it’s wonderful to see that these characters receive proper development and motivation and that it’s the beloved characters who drive the main story forward.
The cast are all as good as we’ve seen them before and the biggest shoutouts surely have to go to the “big six”: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner; as it should be, they are given the most to do in this film and, impressively, they are probably that little bit better than we’ve seen them before and they fully deserve the honour of putting their signatures over the closing credits. An idea that was nabbed from Star Trek VI, may I add! As for the others, though a few are relegated to the sidelines (this film doesn’t juggle multiple characters nearly as successfully as films like Civil War or Infinity War did), the huge cast bring their A-games and there’s not really a weak performance to be found. Though I thought that Brie Larson was a little stiff and humourless as Captain Marvel – a regrettable step down from her wonderful appearance in her own solo film.
As for the other technical elements, the music, cinematography, costume design and special effects are all up to the Marvel standard that we’ve come to expect but the action in the final battle is a tad rushed, characters are often hard to properly make out, and overall, though it all looks good, it’s . . . let’s stick with the overall message of this review . . . not as good as Infinity War!
And finally, even though it’s three hours long, it amazingly doesn’t feel that way and it doesn’t feel overlong or plodding and for the most part, time just flies by.