Should I Watch..? 'Avengers: Endgame'
What's the Big Deal?
Avengers: Endgame, in case you have been in a coma for a while now, is an epic action superhero film released in 2019 based on the Marvel comic characters of the same name and is the twenty-second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is a direct sequel to Avengers: Infinity War and sees the remaining members of the Avengers attempt to deal with the game-changing actions of Thanos as well as formulate a plan to ultimately defeat him and reverse the damage caused. The film's enormous ensemble cast includes Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, Brie Larsson, Karen Gillan and Josh Brolin. Directed back-to-back with Infinity War, the films cost an estimated $356 million to make (making it one of the most expensive films of all time) and was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Released to feverish expectation, the film received a warm reception from critics who lauded the film for its direction, emotional weight and action sequences. The film proved to be massively successful at the box office - it earned more in eleven day than Infinity War did for its entire theatrical run. It has currently earned $2.79 billion worldwide, making it the most successful film in history by surpassing the record held by Avatar in 2009.
Ringing any bells yet?
What's It About?
Twenty-three days after the Thanos Snap at the end of Infinity War, Carol Danvers (also known as Captain Marvel) finally locates the drifting spaceship containing Nebula and Tony Stark and brings them both to Earth. The remaining Avengers - Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, Bruce Banner and War Machine - manage to locate Thanos alone on an isolated planet and travel with Nebula and Ms Marvel to try and reverse the damage he caused. But they cannot - despite overcoming the Mad Titan, they learn that he has destroyed the Infinity Stones which means that their quest to reverse the power of the Infinity Gauntlet has failed. Enraged, Thor kills Thanos once and for all and they return to Earth, defeated and broken.
After five years, the Avengers have gone their separate ways and haven't really overcome their loss. Thor has retreated to New Asgard and become a drunkard, Stark has married Pepper Potts and has a daughter, Clint Barton (Hawkeye) has become a murderous vigilante and Banner has reconciled his Hulk form with his scientific genius. With Natasha Romanov struggling to hold the Avengers together, they are stunned to find Scott Lang (Ant-Man) reappear from the Quantum Realm after miraculously returning after all this time. However, Lang has only aged five hours as opposed to five years and this has given him an idea...
(Most Of The) Main Cast
Robert Downey Jr
Tony Stark/ Iron Man
Steve Rogers / Captain America
Bruce Banner / Hulk (voice & motion capture)
Natasha Romanov / Black Widow
Clint Barton / Hawkeye
James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine
Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel
Rocket Raccoon (voice)
Pepper Potts / Rescue
Thanos (voice & motion capture)
Sam Wilson / Falcon
Peter Quill / Star-Lord
Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch
T'Challa / Black Panther
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Dr Stephen Strange
Anthony & Joe Russo
Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely*
Release Date (UK)
25th April, 2019
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to Like?
To be honest, I have been chomping at the bit to see Endgame ever since Thanos snapped his fingers at the end of Infinity War. But because Marvel insist on releasing new films seemingly every few months, I had to wait to get Ant-Man And The Wasp and Captain Marvel ticked off the list first. And while it was nice of Marvel to schedule the home release on my birthday, it meant I had to wait until today before finally resolving the ultimate cliffhanger. I will say that the first thing that surprised me was how deep Endgame turned out to be. There was bound to be some navel-gazing introspection after Infinity War but the film offers multiple conclusions to various characters and their story arcs. This isn't just well-written but well-handled as well by the Russo brothers who make each moment emotionally heavy and suitably epic as the deaths (or not!) of superheroes should be. Even I was getting a little choked by the ending which felt more than a little like The Lord Of The Rings - we are also saying goodbye to the characters, possibly forever and it does sting a little.
There is a notable shift in tone compared to the first Avengers film, Avengers Assemble. While the first film was humorous, campy and a whole lot of fun, this is a very different proposition indeed. The first hour of the film (which lasts a bum-numbing 3 hours in length) shows the consequences of their defeat on our heroes who not only argue among themselves once again but wrestle with the dilemma of risking their new lives to try and save the countless numbers of the Vanished. And the performances reflect this - Downey Jr's usual bonhomie and irreverent humour has been replaced with bitterness, love and guilt which makes him feel like an actual person rather than a comic book character. Not since Iron Man 3 have we seen such character development for Stark but all major characters go through this tortuous character arc. It feels like the end of an era, especially when certain actors sign themselves off in the end credits similar to the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
To counteract all this doom and gloom, the film provides some decent action sequences including an epic, sprawling battle between almost every MCU hero and sidekick seen so far against Thanos and his army of minions. There's even time for a little irreverence, most notably from Hemsworth as Thor whose beer-belly and alcoholism serves as a dramatic shift from his impossibly chiselled abs and square jaw. The narrative, which is perhaps a little muddled given how many story-lines there are to gather together, is still remarkably coherent for the most part and perhaps most impressive of all, the film never feels like it's sagging or dragging its heels despite the exhaustive running time. It's not too much to suggest that this is (and will be for some time) the ultimate superhero movie with all your favourite heroes and side characters on screen, even bringing back characters you will have forgotten about. With impossibly high stakes and with so much pressure on the Russo's to deliver, it's frankly a relief that Endgame is exactly the movie it needed to be. It doesn't just conclude the earlier chapters of the MCU but also gives hope that there are still stories to be told, characters to be unveiled and more wondrous sights to see going forward.
- It wasn't just financial and box office records Endgame broke: the film also allowed Robert Downey Jr to surpass Hugh Jackman's record for playing the same superhero on film - Downey Jr's 10 appearances as Iron Man was achieved in eleven years while Jackman played Wolverine ten times over 17 years.
- The film marked the final on-screen appearances of Stan Lee (who died before the film's release in November 2018) as well as Robert Redford who announced his retirement from acting when he arrived for filming. Amazingly, this was the first time in his 59-year career that he had ever reprised a role.
- The film's funeral scene at the end of the film was described as one of the hardest to shoot, due to the massive scheduling required to get everyone on screen. All 37 characters seen were there in person with no CG used.
- At some points in the film, Back To The Future is discussed and usually ridiculed. Interestingly, composer Alan Silvestri composed the scores for both Endgame and the whole Back To The Future trilogy.
- The look and feel of Tokyo during the scenes set there was inspired by Black Rain, which starred Michael Douglas - Hank Pym in the Ant-Man franchise. However, the skyline is actually that of Atlanta which was one of the key filming locations.
What's Not to Like?
Brace yourselves but an overweight, amateur film critic with zero experience in the film industry is about to criticise a movie that made more money than Russia, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Hungary and Brunei did combined last year.
There are story-lines that don't get a resolution such as the blossoming romance between Romanov and Banner which feels disappointing and kinda forgotten about. And the narrative, which uses that most tricky of plot devices - time travel, does lead to some questions later on and particularly during the epic battle sequence between the MCU and Thanos. Not that I was complaining at the time, you understand - these thoughts floated to the surface of my brain much later. There is also a nagging sense that certain characters aren't really dead - comic books have a frequent habit of bringing folk back from the afterlife and in spite of all the tears and emotional hugs shared, I couldn't shake the feeling that deceased individuals could return in future assuming Marvel could cough up enough to pay them. Let's face it, they can afford to now.
Lastly, there was a brief moment during the final battle where all of Marvel's female heroes appeared on screen together. It's undoubtedly a kick-ass moment but it felt like a giant two-fingers from Marvel who have come in for criticism for not having a female-led film until Captain Marvel earlier this year. Despite the film's greatness (and it is great, regardless of what I say), I still preferred Avengers Assemble which I re-watched the other day, by sheer fluke. It is more fun and more enjoyable but also less... crowded. It feels simpler and more comic-book in tone whereas Endgame feels like one of those thick graphic novels composed of umpteen volumes edited into one that serious nerds grave and collect and require an intimate knowledge of every character's history. Here's the difference: at the end of this film, I felt blown away and in need of a lie-down - a break before resuming my interest in these films. At the end of Avengers Assemble, I just wanted to watch more MCU films right there and then.
Should I Watch It?
Assuming that you have been following the MCU since 2008's Iron Man, this will be the pay-off you've been hoping for but never really expected. It's a wonderfully full and extensive experience, bringing major characters back to the foreground while dropping in pleasing cameos from pretty much everyone you could think of. It does lose its way a little towards the end but with so much going on, I doubt any film-maker would have been able to put a lid on it. Regardless, fans would have hoped for a film of this calibre and will be delighted with a film that is already an instant classic.
Great For: MCU fans, comic book readers, anyone who has grown up with these films and characters
Not So Great For: weak bladders, young children who might be upset by the film's tone, alcoholic Norse Gods
What Else Should I Watch?
While some characters may have gotten off the ride a bit too soon for some (I'm still hoping for a solo Hulk movie for Ruffalo who has more than earned it), the MCU will continue to release more and more films with frustrating regularity. The next film, which frankly should have been the opener for Marvel's Phase 4, was Spider-Man: Far From Home - another billion-dollar outing for the popular web-slinger but possibly the last featuring Holland as Parker. He have enjoyed his tenure as Spidey and I sincerely hope that Marvel, Disney, Columbia and Sony can come to an agreement and produce more films with the character who should be an integral part of the MCU going forward.
Alas, fans of the various characters under the DC banner can only gaze with envy at Marvel's colossal success. With the notable exception of Wonder Woman, nearly all of the films comprising the DC Extended Universe have disappointed critics and have largely been considered flops by DC Studios despite some impressive takings. The recent film, Shazam!, appears to have gone down slightly better with critics but is a more lighthearted affair compared to previous films before it. Where this leaves the DCEU is anyone's guess.
© 2019 Benjamin Cox