Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson
Running time: 181 minutes
Verdict: A cosmological game-changer
Eleven years, 21 films … that’s some commitment. Even though the title — Avengers: Endgame — is pretty unequivocal, the pumped-up premiere audience sat through the interminable end credits anyway.
There was an audible sigh of disappointment when the Marvel logo appeared in place of the usual teaser.
Endgame is hardly the finish of the MCU — studio chiefs are currently working on a new five-year plan — but it does mark the end of an era.
And although it doesn’t match Infinity War’s brooding intensity, there’s an emotional depth and cosmological breadth to this sprawling, three-hour epic that serves its characters — and their fan base — exceedingly well.
Working from a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directors Anthony and Joe Russo navigate their way through a fiendishly complicated series of interconnected plot lines and backstories with extraordinary skill and dexterity.
Their task is made all the more difficult by the introduction of a chronologically discombobulating new element: time travel.
However, the filmmakers turn this potential shark jumper to their advantage, with a series of emotionally charged connections between fathers and sons, mothers and sons, siblings and even lovers.
While the altered time-space continuum also provides the opportunity for a healthy smattering of in-jokes, wisecracks and pop culture references, Marvel’s trademark humour is tempered, here, by the weightiness of the subject matter.
Even Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man is occasionally lost for words (a franchise-best performance).
What marks Endgame apart from your average superhero movie — apart from sheer scale — is the degree to which the main protagonists have been ravaged by grief, time, and above all, failure.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is no longer the God he was. (We’ll leave it at that, in the interests of keeping this a spoiler free zone.)
The Hulk’s (Mark Ruffalo) physical transformation is almost as surprising.
While the changes to the other surviving Avengers — including Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) — are more psychological, they are no less dramatic.
Make no mistake about it, Endgame is a tragedy.
A number of beloved superheroes do rematerialise in the sequel, as has been widely speculated, but the MCU has undergone an irrevocable shift.
Things are never going to be the same again.
Although the film ends with a flicker of hope, the overall impression left by Endgame is one of loss and sadness.
According to the rules of engagement, which are clear within the confines of this fictional world, not everybody can be brought back.
Endgame doesn’t neatly tie up all the loose ends — that would have been a disappointingly reductive exercise. Nor can it be described as a flawless finale.
Instead, the Russo brothers have delivered a deeply affecting action fantasy that rarely stumbles under the weight of its own ambition.
Endgame succeeds in offering its fans a very real sense of closure. And that’s no small feat.