Movie Review: Avengers – Endgame

Avengers: Endgame is the exciting concluding chapter of Marvel’s Avengers series. The superhero phenomenon seems here to stay, yet one can’t help but feel that this signals the pinnacle. With the previous Avengers films among the top grossing films of all-time already, it wasn’t all that surprising to see this installment surpassing many of its peers in the opening weekend. Encapsulating a multitude of superheroes over 21 films, it’s a burgeoning epic with a star-studded ensemble. Commanding great respect, each in their own way, this milestone series has also seen a gradual shift in the way that movies have become the star rather than the stars themselves.

Clocking in at just over three hours, Avengers: Endgame is the longest film of the series, following Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War, picking up in the aftermath of the third chapter. Avengers: Infinity War saw Thanos eradicating half the world’s population with the snap of his fingers after having secured the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet and its precious stones. A complex villain, essentially taking on the leading role, his decision was made from a deviant slant where he was trying to secure the future of the earth. The Avengers now depleted, disheartened and living in the post-apocalyptic residue of their former world, strive to find a way to destroy Thanos and attempt to reverse the process. Full of surprises, twists and turns, it’s difficult to comment on the details of this film in this spoiler-free review.

Avengers: Infinity War was bursting at the spandex seams with a large and talented ensemble, which couldn’t possibly get the focus each talent deserved. Splitting forces makes it easier for Avengers: Endgame to get a handle on the characters again. While Infinity War relied quite heavily on CGI, displacing the viewer and almost alienating with its Star Wars style take on multiple worlds, the filmmakers have reeled things in. Opting to take a slow immersion journey, much like Michael Bay’s Transformers did, the priority is to connect the audience with the emotional undercurrent before unleashing a CGI firestorm.

Making a steadier entry point, the film proceeds more cautiously, slowly picking up pace as a rather sombre tone continually elevates with promises of hope and dashes of humour. While a heavy and almost depressing atmosphere at first, Endgame remains strangely relevant, mirroring the current state of mind for many disillusioned, post-recession struck audiences. There’s a strange reverence amid the popcorn-crunching, as audience members realise the milestone and significance of the Avengers story coming full circle. While the characters experience emotional turmoil, it’s an equally difficult time for fans of the Marvel universe as they face the end of an era, especially in the wake of Stan Lee’s passing.

“Who we gonna call?”

Giving each of the remaining characters a special quest, as if to fulfill their ultimate purpose, we see multiple strands of story intertwining as they find a reason to band together again in spite of their petty post-Civil War squabbles. Taking place some years later, the filmmakers have instilled a sense of novelty by allowing their individual experiences to have shaped them in some way, many feeling like they’ve lost their better half and undertake the mission to find restoration. While the mood is one of anguish, sparks of humour help lighten the load with glimmers of their former selves. The comic relief helps balance out the emotionally-wrought scenarios, enabling the Avengers to reclaim more and more territory.

Avengers: Endgame continues the trajectory in terms of its expansive cost, lovable actors, beloved characters, blistering action set pieces and dizzying visual effects. Heralded by Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Paul Rudd, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson and featuring Josh Brolin reprising his role as Thanos, it’s an enviable ensemble for most directors, with cameo supporting performances from experienced veterans along the way. While Downey Jr., Rudd and Ruffalo are lovable stars, who are often given a chance to allow their star quality to shine through as leading men, this is a team effort, checking egos at the capsule door in favour of delivering the best film possible.

Leaning on the superhero franchises through the years, the film already has a history and leverages the characters’ backgrounds to avoid wasting time on exposition. In a similar capacity to a TV series, we know most of the characters and Avengers: Endgame definitely isn’t recommended as a stand-alone film. While it’s easy enough to assemble some of the missing pieces if you haven’t seen the entire series, it presupposes that you have and doesn’t offer a convenient “the story so far…”.

Avengers: Endgame starts off quite slowly, gathering momentum with one action set piece shunted by the next as the stakes are raised along with the threat of a stalemate. Infinity War was laden with visual effects, which seem to occupy every frame of the film, making it seem part video game, part live-action superhero film. The Russo brothers have struck a much better balance with Endgame, although this hasn’t led to visual effects being used more sparingly. Instead, they’ve dedicated their post-production teams to realising the characters and allowing the visual decadence to be dominated by detail rather than sweeping and eye-popping visual effects. This grounds the story in favour of high-flying style, without dismissing all that has come before.

Marvel keeps its head held high, giving the fans exactly what they want and doing so in a compelling, entertaining and heartfelt way. Avengers: Endgame is the most emotionally connective installment in the series, showing evolved versions of the characters, grounding the story and slowly escalating the sci-fi fantasy action adventure to a grand finale. It’s a fitting and moving high value send-off for the characters who have become entwined in pop culture and people’s lives.

Taking a few elements and formats from various other films, some even referenced, the Russo brothers have concocted an epic and spectacular film that grabs you from the beginning and never lets go. Dealing with superheroes, Avengers: Endgame is already set in an alternative dimension, one that regularly requires leaps of faith. Having won over the fans, it’s easy for them to operate without question. However, if you had to take a step back you would find that while stylish, some of the story’s developments border on ludicrous… even for a comic book.

As with most spectacular blockbusters, just going with it, allowing yourself to be swept up by the illusion and not countering with logic is the best way to enjoy this grand conclusion. Chock-full of wonderful surprises for fans of the long-running series and pushing the bounds of imagination in terms of what’s possible with each character, it toys with the audience without becoming irreverent. Being a continuation of Infinity War, it follows with a good consistency, casting a circus tent over the entire Marvel cinematic universe without becoming scattershot. Yet, it could have benefited from some re-balancing.

If superhero fantasy adventure is not your thing, Avengers: Endgame probably won’t convert you, but demonstrates that the blockbuster is alive and well in Hollywood. It’s a wonderful achievement, a crowning jewel to the gauntlet of Avengers films and a fitting end to the much-anticipated saga, which has left its mark on Hollywood and audiences.

The bottom line: Awe-inspiring

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