Movie Review: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ SPOILERS
THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Josh Brolin, Tessa Thompson
Plot: Following the erasure of half the population of the universe the remaining Avengers, along with Captain Marvel, mount a new attack on Thanos to undo his actions. On finding that the Infinity Stones have been destroyed the heroes instead embark through to time to find them.
Review: Yep, it’s a time travel movie. In spite of it having been theorised as an ending I don’t think I was quite ready for that. They’re straying dangerously close to multiverse territory, and that way lies madness. On the other hand it does mean Tom Holland Spider-Man can appear in Into The Spider-Verse 2 as the live action Spider-Man. We certainly can’t say that the Russo’s aren’t keeping us on our toes with this unexpected direction during what is essentially the finale to the original cinematic Avenger’s story. The ability to time travel is still available at the end, by the way. Not sure what their plan for that is.
The prologue to this movie wastes no time. Captain Marvel (Larson) has already made contact with the surviving Avengers and rescued Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) from deep space. Iron Man returns to Earth in a weakened state, along with Nebula (Gillan) who can lead them to Thanos (Brolin). With Captain Marvel as their ringer they head off after him only to find that he has destroyed the Infinity Stones and, with them, any hope for bringing back those who were lost. Engraged, Thor (Hemsworth) beheads Thanos.
Five years on and the Earth has become a bleak place. A few heroes left are working to maintain order, whilst Thor and Stark have both retired with the former falling into a deep depression and the latter beginning a family. Hawkeye (Renner) has gone rogue after losing his family and is on an organised crime killing spree across the globe. Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) has come to terms with his ‘Hulk’ state and now remains in it permanently, but retaining his personality and intellect. It’s only when Ant-Man (Rudd) escapes from the Quantum Realm with a plan. Putting together his knowledge of the Quantum Realm with the minds of Banner and Stark he believes they can travel to key points in the Avenger’s timeline to take possession of the Infinity Stones and bring them together again.
What follows is a bit of a strange journey. It becomes a highlight reel of key moments from previous films that allow some characters to find their emotional closure and engage in hijinks. You get the feeling that some people in the writer’s room felt that introducing time travel at this point is stretching credibility and they fall back on the tired old “after all the stuff we’ve seen…” lampshading technique, which is a bit silly. The flip side of that coin is that this feels more like a classic Marvel comic ‘event’ story than any previous film, sending the characters off on their own little plot lines, making in-jokes and highlighting fan favourites.
It’s during this 2nd act that we get some surprising returns from previously seen characters. And we’ve spoiled the story enough by this point to just push ahead. Rocket (Cooper/Gunn) and Thorstagg (Hemsworth) (also why has no-one called fat Thor this yet?) head to Asgard during the events of Thor: The Dark World so Thor can have a final, heartfelt talk with his mother (Rene Russo) and Rocket can sneak around a I-don’t-think-she’s-really-there Natalie Portman. War Machine (Cheadle) and Nebula are tasked with collecting the Power Stone before Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) steals it and Black Widow (Johansson) and Hawkeye are seeking out the Soul Stone. The remaining Avengers return to the Battle of New York where Captain America (Evans) meets more than a couple of familiar SHIELD faces to get the Mind Stone (neatly explaining how Hydra got it), Iron Man and Ant Man contend with Pierce (Robert Redford) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to get the Space Stone and Hulk meets with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to borrow the Time Stone.
It speaks volumes about the investment performers and creators have in these films at this point that so many actors returned for small roles in this epic. For some this isn’t even a set visit wearing their casuals, but roles that require heavy make-up, wigs and uncomfortable, tight fitting costumes. The extra effort goes a long way to reinforcing the perception of the MCU as a huge, living universe that continues when we’re not watching. We may have never wondered what the Avengers did immediately after capturing Loki, but it was still fun finding out.
During their escapades in the past the Avenger’s eventually tip off Past-Thanos to their actions and he begins making moves against them with his full military force behind him, including his Black Lieutenants, Nebula and Gamora. The finale turns into all out superhero warfare. It’s impossible to pick up all the details in one viewing but there’s plenty to see. One that stood out for me was Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) referring to Hawkeye as ‘Clint’, calling back to their brief interaction in Captain America: Civil War. Because of how insanely packed the screen with characters and action that we can’t report on it beyond comparing it to similarly stunning fantasy battlefield such as Lord of the Rings. We’re looking forward to a Blu-Ray copy to go through some of it frame by frame. Some people told me they saw Korg or Howard the Duck at points of the lunacy.
What makes this film most surprising is how different in tone it is to Avengers: Infinity War after having the idea in the back of our minds that this was essentially a two-part movie. It’s almost disorientating how quickly they dispatch of Thanos, knowing that we’re barely scratching the 3+ hour runtime. Rather than continue the battle on the universe spanning scale we had already seen. Instead we get quite a bit of time dedicated to everyone being miserable. We knew that we’d see the repercussions of the Avenger’s defeat, but we didn’t think it would involve deadly assassin Black Widow making herself a white bread peanut butter sandwich of sadness. They’ve spent an awful long time working to humanise these characters and it sucks seeing them all deeply depressed.
The tone takes a sudden shift when the aforementioned time travel plot kicks into gear and whacky hi-jinx become commonplace. Captain America comments on his own butt. Professor Hulk, having taken control of his power and remains in Hulk form but retains his intellect, is almost always played for comedy. Everything serious moment Thor has is undercut by his fat suit.
Not it isn’t entertaining. We don’t mind the fan service because they’ve done we have really enjoyed getting to this point. The core team making the big decisions on this franchise have barely put a foot wrong so we can all enjoy so goofiness. It’s all in aid of spending some time with cinema’s biggest champions before the core team hang up the spandex.
This is the weaker of the two Thanos centred Avengers movies, but it maintains the high standard of quality the MCU films are known for and provide a solid send-off for the original squad. It’s hard to imagine where they’re going to go from here.
Rating: EIGHT out of TEN