‘Avengers: Endgame’ is the culmination of over a decade of a film series that has truly captured the imagination of the entire world. In an era of increasingly segregated ploys for popular attention, streaming services and cord cutting, can anything really claim the same sustained attention paid to the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? It’s fitting that the Marvel/Disney braintrust would use this opportunity to stroll through the entire catalog in a truly unique, riveting, undeniably entertaining, and wholly earned emotional experience.
After the catastrophic events of ‘Infinity War’, the surviving members of the original Avengers team (plus a few side players) are in various states of grief and regret over their rare inability to overcome a threat. Sure, the past stories have put these thoroughly fleshed out characters through the ringer before, but nothing quite like the success of the Mad Titan, Thanos. ‘Endgame’ takes them to places both new and old, cryptically showcasing how much they’ve changed, and how they’ve each dealt with trauma in different ways. This allows these talented actors a real chance to shine, justifying any undue criticism that they’re just collecting checks by participating in these movies.
Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is a character for the ages and a singular film presence. It’s not lost on an audience that without him, the MCU would not have been the same. His Stark set the tone that’s prevalent throughout the series, and it’s his interactions with the various inhabitants of this universe that continue to drive the ship. Downey and company get to capital ‘A’ act in this entry and it’s thrilling to behold, making scenes that could otherwise be cursory in other costumed fare come alive, injected with gravity and humor.
Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers has always been the heart and soul of the MCU. In ‘Endgame’ Cap gets the spotlight he deserves, an expected yet satisfying development after ceding so much of ‘Infinity War’ to the greater ensemble. The Avengers franchise may not have begun with Captain America, but in the timeline he truly is the ‘First Avenger’. His leadership is respected by his team and his man out of time persona is mined for both laughs and as a source of friction over his staunch beliefs.
Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo have experienced the most drastic changes playing Thor and Bruce Banner / Hulk respectively. ‘Endgame’ continues the trend of portraying these powerful team members, who are often at odds with each other, in unexpected, hilarious, and unique ways. Hemsworth has evolved the character, leaning into his ample comedic talents and elevating Thor’s gravitas in the face of his staggering familial losses. Ruffalo seems fully at ease, loose and enjoying his mo-cap work, and it’s been a joy to watch him embrace the various facets of the green giant.
Scarlet Johannson and Jeremy Renner’s powerless soldiers Black Widow and Hawkeye may have been relegated to less vital roles during the world threatening frays of past Avengers movies, but they have extremely significant parts to play in the ‘Endgame’. It’s great to finally see Natasha in a leadership position, if on a diminished and floundering team. From the impeccably staged and devastating cold open of the film, to his visceral scenes of breaking bad, Clint Barton is now smack in the middle of this tragic tale. ‘Endgame’ masterfully plays with the fact that these two characters are defined by their sacrifices for this team and each other.
From the side characters hitting their inspired marks, to scene after scene of players reciting heart-in-throat lines of dialogue, ‘Endgame’ somehow comes across as both something completely different yet completely natural, unfolding within the familiarity of the MCU. This is elevated comic book/ superhero filmmaking, shepherded by the Russo Brothers and multi-repeat screenwriters Markus and McFeely, experts well suited to realize the goals of this well-oiled machine. They do it by taking a bow and celebrating the varied and deep bench of acting talent that has supported and built this juggernaut – one that ‘Endgame’ simultaneously closes a significant chapter on brilliantly, yet shows no sign of slowing down . . .
Directed By: Anthony & Joe Russo
Written By: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Running Time: 181 min (don’t worry, this thing moves and the pacing is great)
* * * * (out of 4 stars) -OR- A