Avengers: Endgame is out now, and in a spoiler-free 5-star review, Steve Newall says to Marvel “good luck bettering this”.
Understatement of the year: Avengers: Endgame has a ton to live up to. The results are both a victory lap and unexpected nostalgia trip for a series of films that have dominated multiplexes over the past decade, all taking place in the shadow of immense failure, pain, and personal loss. And that’s just the immediate aftermath of Infinity War—once Endgame takes the audience to the logical conclusion of Thanos’ actions from the preceding film, all bets are off, with surprising moments popping up frequently (especially given how most of what we’ve seen in trailers takes place inside the epically long film’s first 15 minutes).
By the time the film finds a way to revisit what has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much fun to spend time in, the audience has had a chance to catch up with familiar faces who have been fundamentally changed by events, but thankfully not in a suddenly-now-wears-a-moustache/lots-of-emo-eyeliner way. The Avengers haven’t just lost people, though that weighs heavily on their hearts. They outright lost. Not “lick your wounds, we’re preparing for the third act of this movie”, but a true defeat, the consequences of which are ever-present.
And yet, even for allowing for the scale of tragedy in both universal and personal terms—reflected in various ways across Earth’s (and the universe’s) surviving heroes—Endgame is still funny as all hell, in trademark Marvel style building upon the characters so solidly established in previous outings. This would all mean nothing without superlative work done by the cast, chiefly those that have been there from the very beginning, who do the best work of their blockbuster careers.
The Russo Brothers (perhaps set to become the least-talked-about directors of an insanely financially successful film ever) take their time with all the above, Endgame’s much-mentioned running time never feeling greedy, but a chance to spend time (the last time?) hanging out with this bunch of super-friends, and patiently setting the scene for a thrilling mission to right the universe’s wrongs.
When it all culminates in a—surprise—epic confrontation, some things may get a little unwieldy, others might not entirely land (misogynist keyboard warriors are surely gonna be out in force about one of these moments in particular), and certain sequences risk feeling overstuffed with characters. It’s all pretty forgivable, with the directors swinging for the fences in their ambitious excess. Besides, once the credits roll, the Russos have served up a THIS ENDING to rival THAT ENDING of Infinity War.
To have delivered two massive films where the vast majority of people leave a thrilling communal experience feeling the exact same emotion, more delicately delivered this time perhaps, is a real achievement, one that caps off some of the most satisfying, sombre, and celebratory moments in the MCU. Good luck bettering this (I can’t wait).