22 movies, 11 years and a shared universe franchise that’s altered the face of cinema for good… It would be fair to say there’s a weight of expectation on Avengers: Endgame that’s fairly unprecedented. If you’re a fan, if you’ve watched all 21 pieces of the jigsaw – including last year’s Infinity War, which killed off half its main characters – then you’ll have a lot riding on this.
For that reason, ANY review, ANY comment at all could be seen as a spoiler and we don’t want that. So we’ll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. But if you’re worried, wait until you’ve had a chance to see the film and pop back later to discuss.
Top line, then, if you just want to know if it’s any good or not: it is. In fact, it’s brilliant. It’s groundbreaking. It’s everything a fan could possibly want. We’re giving it five stars. Now come back when you’ve seen the film.
Still here? Okay, down to the nitty-gritty. Basically, it’s extremely difficult to write about this film without including spoilers, which we’re not going to do, but here’s what we can say.
The movie kicks off around 22 days after the events of Avengers: Infinity War. The team – or what’s left of them – is in tatters. Trust is broken, resentments are running high, morale is destroyed, and guilt is growing by the day. It’s an incredibly emotional and downbeat beginning that feels extremely brave for a movie that’s set to be the biggest blockbuster of the century so far. But this is far from the only risk Endgame takes. And what’s more, all those risks pay off.
Just when it feels like all is lost, hope arrives – as was hinted at during the Captain Marvel post-credits scene – in the shape of Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers. Maybe, just maybe, the team can fix things?
A powerful early rug-pull drives the gang into further despair before eventually a plan is settled on. And after the heart-wrenching first act, Endgame transforms into an adventure spanning multiple locations and heaps of characters. And that’s all we can say about the plot.
If each of the Marvel movies belongs to a different subgenre, Endgame is – well, it’s many things – but the centre of the movie is an epic romp, channelling Spielberg and Zemeckis. Even the score, by Alan Silvestri, has whispers of John Williams.
Tonally, it’s completely different to Infinity War. Not so bleak, though still incredibly emotional, Endgame has a sweetness and a nostalgic element that’s entirely fitting to the final chapter of such an enormous cinematic event.
And boy, does Endgame feel like an event. The set-pieces are bigger than ever, and the stakes higher. It’s a loving tribute to these characters and we’re happy to report that the core survivors of the Snap are given the bulk of the action. Concerns, for example, that the massively powerful Captain Marvel would swoop in deus-ex-machina style and save the day were unfounded, though she does make a memorable appearance.
There are so many characters in Endgame, which means, of course, not everyone gets a lot to do. But this is the right call, and it gives space for some of the original gang to have proper emotional arcs and surprising moments. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is wonderful and hilarious. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk has risen to new heights. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the glue that holds the team together. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man brings top comic relief and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye finally gets to be cool and heroic and justify his place in the line-up, both characters more than making up for their absence in Infinity War.
More complete a film as a whole than Infinity War, Endgame is however extremely complicated, with so many different plots it would almost feel like more than one movie in less safe hands. But the Russo brothers, who’ve already proven themselves worthy franchise custodians with The Winter Soldier, Civil War and Infinity War, go one better here.
Given that there’s so much going on in Endgame, the fact that it ultimately feels so cohesive really is a staggering narrative and logistical feat (huge credit, too, to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely). Are there minor niggles you could nitpick? Sure. But with a spectacle this accomplished, they’re hardly worth mentioning.
Yes, it’s long – make sure you have a wee before you go in – but it really doesn’t feel like three hours. We will say, though, that if you’re not especially familiar with the Marvel universe you might struggle, so packed is it with references and pay-offs to the franchise as a whole.
At times Endgame is heartbreaking – expect to cry. But there are certain scenes that border on the euphoric; certain character moments, surprises and reveals that hit so hard in the heart and the head that it feels like you’re MCU-drunk.
Endgame is an incredible achievement, a bravura piece of filmmaking and a love letter to the MCU, one that still makes time to add in a couple of taco gags and some killer quips. It raises the stakes, but never forgets what makes the best of the MCU movies so great.
22 movies, 11 years, then, and Endgame has pulled off everything it promised. Spoiler alert: it’s a triumph.
Avengers: Endgame is out in cinemas now