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Review: Avengers: Endgame

April 23, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Marvel has succeeded at bringing back the event movie with Avengers: Endgame. The culmination of 21 blockbusters dating back over a decade to 2008, many of them must see movies in their own right, this film clocks in at just over three hours long, and is already sold out at most theatres for much of its opening weekend.

This is the very definition of a cinematic event, and audiences would flock to see it no matter what. So the fact that Avengers: Endgame succeeds in offering a satisfying, emotional and very entertaining finale to the first stretch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – with Spider-Man: Far From Home still to come to officially close out Phase Three – just makes it even better.

Pretty much everything that happens in this movie, right from the eventful first fifteen minutes leading up to the opening title card, could be considered a spoiler, so I’m not going to say much. You already know the setup from the shock ending of last year’s Infinity War, which directly precedes this film. After collecting all five of the Infinity Stones needed to complete his gauntlet, Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers and succeeded in his twisted plan to “restore balance” in the universe by wiping out half of all living creatures, including many of the Avengers.

Now it’s up to the remaining members of their embattled group, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Rhodey (Don Cheadle), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), to figure out a way to set things right, or die trying. They are helped by Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who was at home with his family when the snap happened, and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who has been stuck in the quantum realm. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) also shows up as the newest addition to the team.

With the sheer amount of different characters in play and the number of subplots and storylines that are all happening simultaneously, directors Anthony and Joe Russo deserve the highest praise for keeping Avengers: Endgame running smoothly. After all, the filmmakers are dealing with mythology that has been carefully setup throughout 21 different films here, and when you’re expecting audiences to invest three hours of their time into watching a movie, you darn well better deliver something great.

Yes, the film is long and runs the risk of becoming bloated, but the three hour running time mostly flies by. Whenever Avengers: Endgame feels like it might start to drag, it immediately picks back up again, and it’s hard to think of any scenes that should have been cut. The set-pieces are all fun and exciting, but they also feel grounded by the characters, constantly reminding us of the inherent risks involved with the mission they are on. The film has a genuine emotional core behind the action, which is a big part of why it works so well.

For a good chunk of the film’s first part, Avengers: Endgame functions as more of a character drama that explores how different people react to a tragedy of this magnitude, with some having been able to move on to the best of their abilities, and others still trying to heal from the global catastrophe. This allows our heroes to feel fully fleshed out, which just makes the payoff all the more satisfying. The film offers a sort of trip down memory lane for those of us who have been following this series since the beginning, letting us reflect upon little moments from the previous films and revisit a multitude of characters. There’s no denying that some of this is fan service, but it works really well.

A big reason for the success of these films has always been due to the strength of the cast, and Avengers: Endgame is no different in this regard. Downey Jr., Evans, Johansson and Renner in particular all bring a great deal of vulnerability to their roles here, as they have to deal with the loss of their teammates and how much they are personally willing to sacrifice in order to potentially get them back. Thor is grieving in his own way, giving Hemsworth the chance to put a new spin on the character, which is a lot of fun to watch. Captain Marvel has the smallest part of the main cast, which is just as well, because it still feels like Larson is finding her footing in the role following her somewhat disappointing solo adventure.

The film strikes just the right balance between humour and seriousness, another key component to the success of the MCU. There is a lot of amusing banter between the characters and the script offers some great one-liners, with Iron Man and Ant-Man unsurprisingly getting some of the best ones, but there are also real stakes to the story. “There are no do-overs” is a line that gets repeated several times, and the feeling of this being the end is felt throughout. There is a lot of dramatic weight to the film, especially for those of us who have have become invested in these characters over the years.

Make no mistakes, the scope of this series is unprecedented. The amount of character development and world-building that Marvel has brought to this franchise is gargantuan, and there has been this feeling over the years of whether or not they would actually be able to succeed in bringing all of these characters together for a single overarching story arc. Crafting something of this scale was always a risk, and there were so many ways that it could have gone wrong. Sure, there have been a few minor bumps along the way, but for the most part the MCU has been incredibly successful at what it set out to do.

I still remember the feeling of elation I had walking out of the first Avengers in 2012, wholly impressed by how they were able to bring those five very different characters together for a single film, and have them work together as a team while still retaining their own unique traits and personalities. That movie feels positively intimate in scope compared to the amount of characters that appear onscreen together in Infinity War and now Endgame, and now that we have seen the culmination of this epic saga, we can stand back and marvel at just how well the gambit has paid off over the years.

It’s not a spoiler to say that this is the journey’s end for some of our heroes, and a new beginning for others, closing the chapter on the first section of the MCU, while also laying the groundwork for what is to come in the franchise. After all of the action and excitement that the film offers, Avengers: Endgame closes on an incredibly poignant and bittersweet note, and it’s the perfect final moment for fans who have already spent so much time with these characters. See the film before it gets spoiled for you.

Avengers: Endgame opens in theatres across Canada on Thursday night.

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