Brandon Richardson | 28/04/2019
As the big screen format continues to fight for relevance in the era of streaming convenience, cinema enthusiasts have been waiting for the next Avatar or Return of the King to convince others to fall in love with the cinematic experience once again. With Avengers: Endgame, we finally have that film.
The universe has been left devastated by the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), stranded in outer space, records his last thoughts on his battered Iron Man helmet. Meanwhile, those left on Earth struggle to come to grips with their role in this new world: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) counsels those trying to move on from their losses; Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) coordinates survivors of the Battle of Wakanda to help keep order in the chaos. Among their ranks are Rocket (Bradley Cooper), James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). Having given up on any chance of reversing the damage caused by the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin), a glimmer of hope returns when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), presumed vanished, shows up at the front gate of the Avengers facility. Having survived Thanos’ snap in the quantum realm, can what he learnt down there be the key to reversing the damage?
Generally, the story is constructed in three acts, with the first of these understandably covering the emotional fallout from losing half of the world’s population. The tone here is surprisingly earnest, considering this is the first superhero narrative we’ve seen on film where the villain truly succeeds. Gone is the unflappable optimism of Captain America; so too the audience’s expectation that their favourite characters are invincible. Grief, and how to deal with it, is the main theme here, and every character finds their own way of trying to move on and find meaning. As a follow up to the final scenes of Infinity War, it is executed skillfully, and injected with the appropriately timed humour that we’ve come to expect from the MCU. But the show must go on, and the film begins to gather momentum moving into the second and third act. However, to discuss these in any detail here would be to significantly detract from the experience of those yet to see it.
Take a moment to consider the unprecedented task given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo: resolving 11 different narratives, separated across 21 films, featuring upwards of 40 recurring characters, into one conclusion. Never has such an ambitious feat been attempted in cinema, and it is unlikely we will see it again any time soon. To make such a film coherent and consistent with those that came before it would be an incredible feat in itself. But to do it in a way to provides a compelling plot of its own, one that frequently subverts the viewers expectations and provides memorable farewells for these characters, shows a clear mastery of their craft and a clear vision. It is clear that the Russo brothers have the utmost respect for, and understanding of, exactly what it is that make these characters beloved not only to them but to millions around the world.
This is not to say that the film is perfect. It is difficult to escape many of the drawbacks that have plagued superhero films for the past decade or so. Action sequences are at times hampered by a reliance on CGI, with throngs of generic minions making us less invested in otherwise awesome battles. The injection of humour into heavier themes of the film are well timed, but rarely compare to the likes we saw in Infinity War or Thor: Ragnarok, with the odd punchline missing its mark or a reference that is sure to date poorly. But even amongst these slight stumbles, the film delivers a plethora of moments that are so absorbing and so emotionally satisfying to fans of the series that you simply don’t care.
At every point, the execution on those moments of revelation - where we finally get to see which of those things we theorised would happen and which don’t - are stunningly perfect. These are the moments that make experiencing Endgame such a special cinematic experience; the culmination of 11 years of film history. Waiting in line with 100 other excited movie-goers, eager to see how the story ends. Wishing desperately that those around you would stop chewing their popcorn or shuffling around in their seat so loudly, but joining in their raucous laughter or gentle sobs regardless. These are the memories that only the cinema can provide, and Endgame gives memories that will last a lifetime.
There are 14,000,605 ways that Avengers: Endgame could have come together, and it is hard to imagine any of them being more satisfying than the one we received: an epic end to an epic saga.