Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Marken, Stephen McFreely, Stan Lee (based on the comics by), Jack Kirby (based on the comics by), Jim Starlin (based on the comics by)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Josh Brolin, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen
After 2018's Infinity War broke the hearts and spirits of millions of MCU fans across the globe, Avengers: Endgame was promised to be a concluding chapter of proportions not seen since the Oscar-magnet that was Return of the King in 2003. This film has an unenviable weight on its shoulders, following 11 years and almost twice as many films which interweave and combine to create one of the most (if not THE most) ambitious cinematic projects ever undertaken. Endgame simply has to be incredible.
This 22nd entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe not only achieves that target, but surpasses it in almost every way possible. Immediately, there is clear acknowledgement on the part of the brains behind Endgame that this film means something special, and that anything less than epic is simply not acceptable. Rather than crack under this immense pressure, however, Anthony and Joe Russo, the brothers credited with directing this film, are able to deliver something jaw-dropping; a cinematic tapestry set on an unthinkable scale, which also leaves room for some desperately tender moments which are likely to water the eyes of casual cinema-goers, and conjure streams of tears from the die-hards.
Despite a generous three-hour runtime, Endgame still has a lot to fit in, and you would be forgiven for worrying that 180 minutes simply isn't enough time to suitably satisfy its many facets. With north of 30 main characters, at least half as many story-threads and the over-arching plot-line borne from the infamous 'snap' at the end of Infinity War, tying up the Infinity Saga in a neat little bow was never going to be an easy task. Somehow, perhaps through the use of sorcery or advanced mathematics, the creators of Endgame have managed to engineer a fluid and organic storyline which can happily accommodate every aspect which needed a place in this film, without it feeling at all crammed or rushed. Its numerous threads are knitted together with astounding efficiency, with very little of the film acting as filler, while the softer moments of tenderness are handled as expertly as the monstrous action set-pieces, and are blended together seamlessly without ever feeling clunky or awkward. Certain characters have certainly taken a back seat to some of the franchise's more veteran cast members, but this approach feels fair and reasonable - each character still gets their due, and their own moment of sublime awesomeness. Is it guilty of a little fan service? Without a doubt, but after loyally following an 11 year build-up the fans of the MCU are more than deserving of a little pay-off.
Following Infinity War's brave but crushing final moments, Endgame follows the heroes who survived on their mission to reclaim the ones they have lost. In many ways we are transported back 7 years, back to when the Earth's Mightiest Heroes were only a sextet, comprised of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Hulk. Despite the swell of characters in the franchise, Endgame belongs to these six, and as a result it is their own character arcs which are explored the most. And rightly so. The journey each of them go on throughout Endgame is one that will utterly shock you, with this film's story being littered with twists and curveballs which will likely render any of the theories you may have devised completely worthless. Of those six, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark stand at the forefront of the story, and deliver outstanding performances which are worthy of their decade long tenure at the head of this global phenomenon. Prepare to be devastated, inspired, surprised and cheered as you witness the impact of loss and the power of family come to life in the most spectacular way.
All of the elements we expect to see are still present, with a wealth of experience behind them. The Avengers theme tune - now up with there will legendary scores like those written for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, etc. - remains as thunderously heroic as ever, while the special effects are the highest quality that audiences are likely to see for a long time. Taken in isolation, the quality of the film-making is by no mean light-years ahead of many of the other most successful MCU films. But taken as a concluding chapter, however, it is clear to see that Endgame is a remarkable and astonishing film-making achievement, and will be completely deserving of the 'biggest film ever' title it is likely to receive.
Amongst all the call backs and the tie-ins and the conclusions and the reconciliations, the MCU continues to courageously push itself outwards, refusing to the boxed into the common interpretations of comic-book heroes we grew comfortable with before the birth of the franchise, adapting new source material while pushing storylines forward into new and exciting places. Despite this film marking the end of an era, the ground within which the MCU has grown remains as fertile as ever, and has left fans itching for the next phase.
In one line: Endgame had a lot to say, and there was no better way to say it.