Since the release of Infinity War, the yearlong hysteria building up to Avengers: Endgame has been a cinematic event in and of itself. Ten years in the making, the meticulous crafting and corralling of legends old and new from across what we’ve since learned to refer to as “the Infinity Saga” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has all led to this point. If anything, Endgame will be considered a standout milestone in commercialization. But don’t worry, Marvel fans, you’ll find several other reasons beyond the swelling of the company’s wallet to reach the same conclusion.
The scale of Avengers: Endgame reaches far past that of any other superhero film to date, and probably past any we’ll be seeing anytime soon. It’s obvious that the three-hour galactic epic understands this, and also that it knows its roots, as well as its function. Playing out at many points like a fanfare in nostalgia, Endgame realizes it’s closing one chapter of a bestselling book, looking too often into the past and not enough towards the future.
But that’s the thing about a bestselling book: people like it. And fans, ten years strong, will rejoice as the movie pays tribute to their favorite characters, and maybe even their favorite moments. But more on that later.
The story – the major details of which I’m going to keep a secret (mostly out of courtesy, but also out of an instinctual fear of the deep catacombs of internet fandoms I occasionally find myself in) – has been the subject of constant debate ever since Marvel showed exactly what was at stake in Infinity War last year, proving at the same time that they had a lot more gall than at least I gave them credit for. As if it were even possible, the decimation of an entire roster of front stage superheroes made the MCU an even hotter commodity, and ever since, even the tiniest hint of a whisper about the latest film has been ravaged, dissected and probed for answers.
Unfortunately for last year’s commendably dismal conclusion, the business of marketing and promotion quickly twisted the question of resurrection from if to how (that’s hardly a spoiler – no one has been shy talking about Spider-Man: Far From Home, and yes, Jake Gyllenhaal looks awesome). However, the Russo Brothers have spiced their film with enough doses of unpredictability that their story progresses with a sense of welcomed uneasiness. Don’t think for a moment that you got this one pegged down, because you don’t. There are tons of twists and turns.
While there are several reasons that may be a good thing – none of which I’m really allowed to discuss – another reason may be that there’s a hell of a lot going on here. Again, I must prevent myself from getting too deep into it (I don’t want the Mickey Mouse club to come after me), but Endgame introduces a new science into Marvel’s already cluttered laboratory that leads the film’s second act. The result is plenty of callbacks, reenactments and “oh, I remember that” moments. Though there was admittedly one face I was very happy and surprised to see again, the coincidences ran out of steam eventually, becoming as predictable as a sunset and feeling more uninspired than anything else.
But that vibe seems less problematic once you remember that the Avengers themselves are pretty uninspired at this point as well. Those stakes, just as they did for Infinity War, serve Endgame very well, creating an arena of solemnity for the action to take place. The process of counterattacking Thanos (Josh Brolin) isn’t bogged down by competing egos and quick wits anymore. They’ve all lost, each and every one of them. And they know that.
That fact affects each hero differently. All I’ll say, and probably all I’m allowed to say is that Thor (Chris Hemsworth, channeling his inner Dude) really doesn’t take it well. And though some comedy is found in these coping processes – Endgame stands alongside the rest of the MCU films for its rather remarkable tendency to combine solid punches with solid punch lines – the collective lost felt between them feels like a more effective call for camaraderie and collaboration than even the franchise’s infamous “assemble” motto.
Their newfound maturity also lends to the film’s darker tone. There’s blood here, and there’s murder here, and much of it comes from the return of a vengeful Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), whose post-snap life can be simplified down to one line: “don’t give me hope.”
Hawkeye may be the one who says it, but that mentality can be traced across all of the Avengers: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and even the usually charismatic motivator, Captain America (Chris Evans), among others. The weight of their defeat is so catastrophic that the first plan of retaliation is met with more skepticism than anything else.
But that again can be attributed to the risk the Russos took last year, though with the many payoffs and full circles we get in Endgame, who knows how long that snap has been tucked underneath Marvel’s sleeve? Nevertheless, the Russos command this movie like they’d also been at the head of the last 21 films, reminding everyone in the audience just how well they know – and admire – these characters.
Like its predecessor, the latest Avengers effort struggles to give each of its heroes equal and ample screen time, even with its extended runtime. It’s a nearly impossible task, but one worth mentioning, as side characters like Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) get a lot of time in the limelight, but don’t really do anything new.
However, it’s important to remember what Avengers: Endgame is above all else: an homage. An end of a saga. A thank you. Thanos’ method of destruction may be unbiased and impartial in his eyes, but it certainly wasn’t for the filmmakers. Endgame is the superhero equivalent to an original cast revival in a long-running Broadway show, and often has the same hair-raising effect. The door is now open for whoever’s coming next, and we can’t wait to see where things go from here.
With an experimental narrative for its genre, Avengers: Endgame may have its faults, but it’ll surely keep the super fans satisfied, and those who may not be so interested on their toes.