Directed by brothers Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Avengers: Endgame is the fourth installment in the Avengers franchise and the 22nd Marvel Studios feature to date. The 181-minute movie represents the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, which first began with the release of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008. Since then, Marvel Studios movies have grossed a combined total of over $18 billion worldwide over the last 11 years. The previous Avengers entry, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, has already earned over $2 billion at the box office, making it the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time. To say this follow-up is eagerly anticipated would be an understatement, but does Marvel’s Endgame – a finale 11 years in the making – live up to the unprecedented hype and unrealistic expectations? Yes it does. And then some.
Endgame picks up after the climactic events of Infinity War, which left Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – and the entire universe – in disarray after Thanos (Josh Brolin) used the Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half of all life with a snap of his fingers. Reeling from defeat, the Avengers – founding members Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – must find a way to reverse the Mad Titan’s monstrous actions and bring their friends & families back. Joined by War Machine (Don Cheadle), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Wakanda’s Okoye (Danai Gurira), and newcomer Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), the Avengers have only one chance (in fourteen-million-six-hundred-and-five) at winning, but they owe it to the fallen to try. Whatever it takes.
And that’s about all I can say – and all you want me to say – about the plot that brings the MCU’s Infinity Saga to its grand conclusion. What I will say is that the Russos and co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have delivered an emotionally satisfying and viscerally thrilling movie that works not only as a follow-up to Infinity War but wraps up over a decade’s worth of character arcs and story threads, making for a gratifying and cathartic experience for fans of the MCU. “Epic” doesn’t do this film justice – it’s like Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and The Dark Knight Rises combined into one massively entertaining (and overwhelming) film, with Marvel’s signature blend of perfectly balanced humor, action, and gravitas.
While the writing, direction, and eye-popping cinematography of Trent Opaloch (of District 9, Elysium, Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War) are all undeniably impressive, it’s the cast and their performances that make Endgame the affecting piece of blockbuster filmmaking it is. Thanks to The Snappening, the smaller ensemble here allows the story to focus on the founding Avengers and further develop their familial bonds. We get great moments between Stark and Rogers, Black Widow and Hawkeye, and Thor and Hulk. The performances we get out of Downey Jr., Evans, Johansson, Renner, Hemsworth, and Ruffalo are among their best in the MCU. Another notable standout is Karen Gillan’s Nebula, who has a lot to do in this entry as she is critical to not only the Avengers’ plan but Thanos’ attempt to stop it. Speaking of the Mad Titan, Josh Brolin outdoes himself (again), elevating Thanos to one of cinema’s greatest villains by fleshing out an incredibly complex character that is cunning, resolute, and – worst of all – sincere in his destructive plans.
When it comes to set pieces, the MCU has had more than a few memorable action extravaganzas, from the Battle of New York in 2012’s The Avengers to the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War to the Battle of Wakanda in Infinity War. Endgame finds a way to outdo them all, with the most massive battle in an MCU movie so far – not only in the number of characters appearing on the screen at the same time but the sheer scope of the events unfolding. Again, it’s like the climactic battle of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King but with superheroes and space aliens. Somehow, the Russos and Markus/McFeely manage to juggle a multitude of characters and strike the right balance between spectacle, all-out fan service, and the intimate, character-driven moments that ratchet up the stakes. Everything is earned; nothing feels forced.
The set pieces in Endgame, while dazzling, also serve to push forward the finale’s themes of sacrifice and hope in devastating and life-affirming ways. You will cry, you will cheer and applaud and pump your fists – you can’t help but become a part of this movie, having spent so many years alongside these characters as they’ve developed into the beloved heroes they are today. Endgame is a celebration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a poignant exploration of what it means to be a hero. It’s like reading an entire graphic novel cover-to-cover in one go. For some, it will be too much, but for those who have loved every minute of the journey over these past 11 years, Endgame will be everything they’ve wanted to see. And then some.
Adam’s Rating: 5 out of 5
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