Avengers: Endgame, 2019
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, and Josh Brolin.
The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, “Avengers: Endgame.”
After having just consumed the appropriately mammoth-sized (for both narrative scope and beefy 3-hour running time) Avengers: Endgame, one word comes to mind, and it’s a word that has never been associated with just about anything regarding the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; finality. The rabid fanbase is going to feel closure for one of the saga’s many self-anointed phases for the very first time. Avengers: Endgame opens with a scene before any corporate logos have even appeared, and ends without a single trademark post-credits stinger, further allowing viewers to process the emotional toll that they have just willingly and excitedly endured.
Whereas the first half of this story at large (last year’s pop culture phenomenon Avengers: Infinity War) stretched itself too wide and occasionally awkwardly stumbled between characters and locations while often rushing interactions in the process, returning directors Joe and Anthony Russo (virtually nobodies before taking on the important responsibilities of Captain America: Winter Soldier, subsequently blossoming into arguably the best comic book to film translators around and stellar filmmakers in their own right) here are locked in on the original superheroes from 10 years ago that made reaching this insanely ambitious goal even possible. While still more blockbuster than outright character study, Avengers: Endgame is first and foremost concerned with functioning as a swan song story, but surprisingly the focus is not just on ultra-popular faces such as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man or Chris Evans’ Captain America, in turn making for some legitimate surprises along the way for a film that, for the most part, plays out how anyone with a brain might expect it to.
Without spoiling how (although even the general idea of that can still be figured out with the power of logic and basic understanding of how movies work), it’s clear going in that our heroes are searching for a way to reverse The Snap (and if you have no idea what that is I don’t know why you are even reading this review). But that doesn’t mean Joe and Anthony Russo are taking the most obvious route to the endgame; people, especially casual moviegoers, are going to freak out during the first 20 minutes or so of this movie. Then there is a time jump that is going to throw them even more for a loop. Soon after, some expected details kick-in but the journey is anything but predictable outside of the inevitability (sorry Thanos) of our heroes being crowned victorious this round, because you are legitimately insane if you think white-hot moneymaking characters like Black Panther and Spider-Man are never coming back (the latter of which already has trailers for a new movie releasing in July).
It’s possible that the same could be said for many Marvel movies, but what is absolute is that Avengers: Endgame is going to be the first time moviegoers watch every action sequence and perilous moment with genuine suspense and fear that a prominent character might bite the dust (all Joss Whedon did was kill off a major character in the same movie he was introduced, so no, his contributions to the universe don’t count either). And yes, that goes for the most prestigious actors involved in the project (mostly because everyone else is already absent from being wiped out of existence). Simply put, the final battle isn’t just the closest a comic book movie has ever appeared to be lifted straight from the pages (the budget on this thing is insane and one of the most visually and narratively spectacular extravaganzas ever put to screen), it is anything goes in terms of breaking hearts. Some characters are naturally safer than others, some I figured might not make it, other scenarios put a twist on what I thought might happen, and some deaths are a total surprise.
Keeping in mind that 3-hour running time, the script once again finds time to insert humor and quips, but this time around living in a depressed post-Snap world allows many of the jokes have an undercurrent of darkness. It’s probably the closest the universe will ever come to pure bleakness, and somehow the jokes work. There’s a segment where one of the characters talks about going on a date, recounting a very funny but morbid dinner table conversation. The film also takes a major gamble doing something with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor that could have been a flat out disaster, but holy hell is it one of the most entertaining aspects. Memes are going to be breaking through the floodgates on this one. There’s also a great shot of just about every notable female character rallying themselves into battle. The point is, not only to Joe and Anthony Russo understand diversity and representation, but they know how to trust their actors to make even questionable ideas pan out into something superb and character driven.
Still, there is a section in the middle portion that does feel like it runs long; it’s important to the story but also seems to go on more than necessary to cram in fan service segments that expand the universe but also might not do much for someone only moderately invested into the 22-picture saga. That’s not to say any of it is bad, as it’s mostly quite funny with numerous creative character interactions (one of the easiest things to appreciate here is how many supporting players from past franchises are present but also feel organically included), but there is an itch to speed things up just a tad.
None of that sensation exists during the first and third acts, which are pretty much perfect and difficult to imagine handled better in relation to the epic scope of the story. Avengers: Endgame lives up to the hype no matter where you are on the superhero fan scale. For every time I complained about the past 20 movies building and building to more and more, sometimes causing their own movies to mildly suffer in the process from having to service a bigger picture, these two movies have made it worth it. Again, the credits will roll but this time you won’t be thinking about what’s next, no, you’re going to be preoccupied decompressing from the spectacle you just witnessed.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com