Thursday 25 April 2019

Film Review: Avengers - Endgame

After 22 films, 11 years and a rapidly expanding gallery of heroes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe culminates in Avengers: Endgame, a three-hour epic that is suitably shocking, stunning and satisfying.

At the end of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were vanquished by the villainous Thanos (Josh Brolin). Having united all six Infinity Stones, Thanos was able to click his fingers and wipe out half of all life in existence – including the likes of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-man (Tom Holland) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Avengers: Endgame picks up 23 days later. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) is adrift in space, light-years from home and nearing the end of his oxygen supply. Back on Earth, the surviving Avengers – Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) – are left to pick up the pieces. 

If Infinity War was an adrenaline-soaked frenzy of action, Endgame is the sombre hangover. For the first time, our heroes are faced with the fallout of their failure – they lost, and they’re struggling to move on. 

Endgame takes its time to explore what that means for those left behind (fans of HBO’s The Leftovers will be getting déjà vu here) for a solid chunk of its runtime, which means the action doesn’t kick into gear until over an hour until the film. But that’s okay – letting the dust settle (pun intended) and shifting focus to the characters isn’t just done well, it’s necessary for what comes next. 

It also gives the cast a chance to impress. Evans is brilliant once again as a steely but downbeat Steve Rogers; Downey Jnr and Hemsworth similarly shine, representing several other stages of grief – anger and depression respectively. Endgame isn’t afraid to steer the characters in new directions either – Jeremy Renner returns with a darker version of Clint Barton while Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) arrival drives the plot forward in unexpected ways. 

My undisputed MVP is Karen Gillan as Nebula. Gillan has always been great as the conflicted daughter of Thanos, and she takes it to the next level in Endgame. She gives the best performance in a film chock full of great performances. Brie Larson reprises Captain Marvel too, and while her role is smaller than I expected, her character is handled better here than in her solo film earlier in the year.

That’s really all you need to know. Marvel has done an excellent job of marketing this film while only showing you stuff from the first 15-20 minutes. They don’t give away much, so neither will I. Rest assured, Endgame has a lot of surprises in store. 

The structure isn’t unexpected – the dour, character-driven first act makes way for a loopy middle third before everything ties together for a grand finale – but it’s how the film hits those beats along the way, offering twists and turns aplenty, that gives it the edge over Infinity War, which was bombastic and raced along at breakneck speed.

In terms of scale, directors Joe and Anthony Russo make Infinity War look minuscule in comparison to Endgame. Alan Silverstri delivers another excellent score which mixes the rousing Avengers fanfare with other motifs (notably the Ant-Man theme) for a smorgasbord of sound which will pull at the heartstrings.

Endgame doesn’t just wrap up the events of Infinity War, it serves as a full stop for ideas and arcs first introduced in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron and beyond. It’s one great big victory lap that sees Marvel pushing even more the envelope of what was previously possible and going several steps further, just as they have done on a number of occasions in the past. 

It’s not hyperbole to say Avengers: Endgame is unlike any other superhero movie that has come before; the genre has done many things, but nothing has, or likely will for some time, come close to the sheer scale, emotion and ambition of this film. This isn’t just another entry in a long-running series; it’s the season finale in a vast tapestry which stretches back a decade. 

The Verdict: 10/10

Avengers: Endgame is a heartfelt, sincere and emotionally shattering love letter to what has come before, a fitting finale for some and a new beginning for others. It’s the payoff, the triumph and the pathos you’ve been looking and hoping for. In terms of finales, it’s up there with Return of the King or Return of the Jedi. What more is left to say other than – go see it for yourself.

Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas across Australia now.

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