If anyone were to be tasked with the objective of wrapping up over a decade’s worth of story and character arcs, the result might be quite predictable. It would be a clunky, derivative mess that doesn’t have an ounce of either the discipline or patience to truly tell the story right. However, the glorified Marvel pair of directors, the Russo Brothers (the creative minds behind the box-office shattering Captain America: Civil War and last year’s Avengers: Infinity War) deliver something that is anything but. Despite kicking off with a somewhat muddled and poorly contextualized opening, Avengers: Endgame, once it finds its footing in its dense 182-minute runtime, truly has a firm grasp of what it is and what it wants to achieve. Subverting expectations at every turn yet balancing that with some awe-struck moments of fan service, Endgame is every fan’s dream, reaching its awestruck climax through a fantastic crescendo. It’s definitely a bumpy ride at times, sometimes idling a bit too long at times and undercutting certain hard-lined emotional beats, but it never fully compromised the achievement that Avengers: Endgame is.
Kicking off after the catastrophic events of Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark, played by the ever impeccable Robert Downey Jr., is stranded in space alongside Nebula (Karen Gillan) with no hope of survival. To add onto the direness of the situation, half of the entire universe has been eradicated by Thanos’s snap, leaving the rest of the Avengers in disarray. For the objective of completely avoiding spoilers, this is about the peak of plot information that this review will provide.
Through the course of the entire film, the general premise is shaken wildly as the Russo Brothers implement some new plot threads and devices to make sure that there is always a flair to the story. However, some of the new plots and story arcs, unfortunately, aren’t nearly as developed as they should be. In fact, it seems at points that a tad too much was removed from the film and left on the cutting room floor. Treading the same dangerous and narrow path as Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the Russo Brothers mistake humor for excitement on a regular basis, taking the urge of a quick laugh rather than instilling a powerful and long-lasting emotional note. And on that front, despite a few truly head-rollers, the jokes just simply aren’t enough to match the potential of these scenes and ham-fisting them extensively definitely feels out of place. Marking another issue is, unfortunately, the first act, essentially the first hour.
For a film that is as lengthy, it would be assumed that the screenwriters would have taken their time to build up an atmosphere and tone that emphasizes just how hopeless the situation of our characters is. The first act is quite simply the only place to accomplish such a necessary feat, and what a feat it appears to be as Endgame never sticks the landing in these early portions. Rather than continuing the momentum that Infinity War’s shocking ending had, the momentum feels cut and strangely disjointed. If someone were to watch both films back to back, there would be an obvious disconnection present. And even the two films are objectively different, it doesn’t excuse for the frankly discombobulated nature of the first hour. It sets the film on the wrong foot and could turn audiences off to the preceding two acts which honestly contain some of the best moments in the entire franchise.
Hectic yet subdued, boisterous yet subtle, these are all the paradoxes that Endgame weaves into a surprisingly complex web of characters and arcs. Outside of certain storylines feeling poorly explained and confusing at points, the audience is locked in for this majority of the film and it’s where the Russo Brothers’ raw talent and charisma shine the brightest. Even though the action is unquestionably limited, not even close to the quantity of its predecessor, the few set pieces that are present are thrilling to behold, particularly its closing one, where every member of my press-filled screening leaped up in cheers and applause. It’s quite simply a crowd-pleaser and will put an unmistakable grin on every Marvel fan lucky enough to see it without being blinded by spoilers.
For every trick the screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely pull out of the bag, it would be useless if it weren’t for the all-star efforts of its performing cast. The direction Chris Hemsworth’s Thortakes in the film is so richly unique that it even propels past Taika Watiti’s ludicrous direction in 2017’s acclaimed Thor: Ragnarok. It’s a twist that is as much hilarious as it is solemn, representing both sides of the coin that Watiti and the Russo Brothers have fashioned through the character’s recent appearances in his third solo film and Avengers: Infinity War.
Marking another strong lead performance is Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. As mentioned before, Endgame doesn’t rely on big, boisterous set pieces to propel its narrative, instead, the narrative is propelled by a beating emotional resonance, one defined by two efforts, one of which is certainly Robert Downey Jr. Developing arcs come to fruition in the film as well as multiple redeeming moments for fan theorists. Where he eventually ends up in the film feels satisfying and the film is as much a love-letter to the Marvel universe as it is to Downey’s character.
Highlighting the other effort of the emotional resonance is Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. Unfortunately, Evans’ performance is somewhat stiff at times, and it’s very rare that we as an audience can see anything underneath it, but these rare moments are so rewarding and heightens the importance of where this character ends up in Endgame, similarly to Downey. In fact, these two performers, who have been the headliners of this franchise from the very beginning, feature a rich and poetic dichotomy that is quite simply outstanding. Even with all the surprises, the Russo Brothers have crafted a net of events that the audience could see the eventual outcomes of a mile away, and this isn’t a flaw at all. Honestly, it adds to the impact, making sure that even though the audience knows it is “inevitable,” it still shocks.
In conclusion, Avengers: Endgame is undoubtedly the endgame that we both need and deserve. I never thought I would see such a magnitude of events compressed into such a crowd-pleasing adventure. It’s delightful, heart-wrenching, and everything that makes Marvel so important to so many fans across the entire globe. It’s clear that both producer Kevin Feige and directors Anthony and Joe Russo went all in for this picture, firing a clear shot. And while this shot may sway occasionally, it doesn’t change the fact that at the very end, it hits. It hits the bullseye.