Two things. Firstly, if you’re even remotely a fan of the Avengers films you absolutely do not need to read any review of Endgame – you’ve already made up your mind to watch it, so there’s no point telling you whether you should or not. Secondly, this is a film that is utterly impossible to talk at length about without giving away spoilers, so a summary is not what you should be reading at this point.
Therefore the only question that remains is whether Endgame manages to conclude the events set up in the earlier film in a worthwhile manner. The answer, luckily, is a very firm yes. This is huge, ultimate blockbuster film making that essentially plays out like a singular payoff, a release for something that has been built up for a decade, with a large emotive core designed not just for the audiences but for the people within the film. And despite its faults, and its obvious inferiority in every aspect compared to Infinity War, Endgame works as a memorable cinema event experience whose excitement levels would be very hard to replicate again for a while.
So let’s not get into the story details at all – the way to enjoy Endgame the most is to know nothing about what happens in the film, and Disney has done a pretty good job of keeping things locked up. If Infinity War was about pushing the envelope in sheer surprise and cosmic sized action never before seen in cinemas, Endgame throws the emotional gauntlet, absolutely shredding our cockles in the first half of the film, making the consequences of Thanos’ finger snap weigh on the weary shoulders of the remaining Avengers in the world.
The first half of Avengers: Endgame is overbearingly sad – a bold move for a film that is supposed to be family entertainment – but it’s all calibrated to lead up to moment in the finale that takes the assembly scene from the 2012 film and adds the cinematic equivalent of Thor’s Mjolnir lightening.
And despite the three hour run time, as well as the more dramatic approach instead of the adventure-movie genre trappings of the previous film, it seldom feels like you’re watching something that could be cut down.
Once again, the Russo brothers know exactly how to milk the characters to their very best – with Thor and Hulk in particular getting the most memorable goofy moments, Iron Man proving over and over again why he’s the boss, and even Hawkeye finally getting his due with an emotionally resonant arc. The Russos’ flair for making the action exciting with team ups and clever use of the superpowers is on full display in the battle sequences.
The real question to ask, then, is whether it manages to render justice to every single character we’ve seen in the franchise. It doesn’t. The narrative is messy and this time the Russos do struggle to render the balance they showcased so wonderfully in Civil War and Infinity War. And the imbalance is not just because of the sheer number of characters in Endgame, but because of an overall lack of focus on anything else but two of the central characters whose identities are best kept secret for now.
The second drawback is the lack of the surprise element that Infinity War excelled in, because the way the Avengers plan to defeat Thanos is an absolute cop out, and the most cliché possible solution to a problem that looks bigger than it actually is.
The Russos try to acknowledge a certain other film from a different era whose heroes used the same tactic to defeat the villains, but acknowledgement to a throwback only scores short term brownie points, and not true classic cinematic status. It works of course, because of how well-oiled the Marvel machine is, but one wishes the filmmakers went the extra mile in crafting a Thanos-defeating solution you wouldn’t see coming from a mile away.