Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Synopsis: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos' actions and restore order to the universe.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language)
Runtime: 3 hr 1 min
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Avengers: Endgame is a dramatic, fun, action-packed conclusion and tribute to one of the most unprecedented franchises in film history.
This review contains mild spoilers. Please do not read unless you have seen the title.
"Part of the journey is the end", remarks Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). He's of course referring to the journey of life, but also the emotional journey audiences have taken with these Avengers--these courageous, flawed, funny, beloved characters--over the last eleven years. And as Tony later comments, who knew it would all come to this? Who knew that one story about a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist improvising his way out of captivity by constructing a suit of flying armor would lead to the fate of the entire universe hanging in the balance of earth's mightiest heroes?
You never know what life--destiny--has in store.
Avengers: Endgame is the final chapter in this era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, many, many Marvel films will come in the following years, but it will take quite some time to build up to the excitement of the host of well-established, interconnected characters and storylines to match the grandness of Endgame. And the already unprecedented $1.2 billion opening worldwide box office weekend shows that this will be a landmark film in cinema's history.
As expected, the story picks up immediately following Infinity War's shocking conclusion--half of the world's population of living things has been wiped out in a split second with Thanos' snap of his fingers. The remaining Avengers are in complete disarray and the worst shape we've ever seen them--heartbroken, guilt-ridden, and exhausted. But after the sudden re-emergence of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) from the quantum realm, a plan is put into motion by the Avengers for one last effort to bring back the lost, and redeem themselves as the protectors of humanity in the process.
Endgame's best quality is how it treats Thanos' actions as a truly devastating universal event. When Lang returns from the quantum realm, he goes to a nearby memorial containing large stones engraved with the names of the vanished--a homage to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Ground Zero, which respectfully lists the victims in a similar manner. Beyond that, the film acknowledges how Thanos' actions affected the Avengers personally and how difficult it is to move on from such a tragic event--Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has lost his family and turned into a cold-blooded assassin to cope with his loss; Thor (Chris Hemsworth), feeling immense guilt over his failure to kill Thanos when he had a clear shot, has turned into an overweight drunk, and Tony, frustrated for not being listened to, just wants to leave the whole event and team behind and move on with his family. We see our once strongest heroes at their weakest, at their most desperate and vulnerable, and it's this desperation and determination that eventually leads them to carry out the final mission to bring everyone back.
One of the biggest surprises Endgame delivers is its character shifts. The already mentioned drunk, overweight Thor delivers consistent laughs throughout, but may wear thin on some fans expecting to see the same mighty God of Thunder we saw last year in Infinity War. But the key thing to remember here is that it's motivated--Thor became this way because of what happened at the climax of the last film. The same could be said, though much less effectively, to how the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is treated. In this film, the angry, smashing monster is gone. Instead, we're basically given a large, muscular, green Bruce Banner. And while a certain plot element comes into play to justify this shift, the decision no doubt arose out of an attempt to infuse more humor into the screenplay. The humor works, but, as with Thor, fans (including myself) will most likely be a bit frustrated at the absence of the actual Hulk in the film.
On a more positive note, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the gun-toting Raccoon, receives a welcomely significant amount of screen time, as the once easily triggered follower of the Guardians of the Galaxy becomes a leader in the film, particularly to Thor. This is chiefly expressed in one scene on Asgard where Rocket literally slaps sense into Thor, berating him for acting like he's the only one who's lost people he's loved. It's a short but powerful moment that mirrors a similar scene in Infinity War where he says to himself, "Okay, time to be a Captain now", before having a heart to heart conversation with the God of Thunder onboard their spacecraft en route to Nidavellir. The Rocket-Thor relationship was established in Infinity War, but it's further developed here, and to great dramatic effect.
Another satisfying element from a character standpoint is the acceptance of Ant-Man as an Avenger. He showed up in Captain America: Civil War (2016) but was largely mocked in the screenplay for his laughable superpower. Here, he subtly earns the respect of everyone (including the Avengers and the audience), as the story and fate of those lost literally hinges on the power of his world--the quantum realm.
Specific details will be omitted for spoiler’s sake, but obviously time travel is involved in the attempt to bring everyone back. And while the film jokingly refutes the Back to the Future method of overlapping timelines, the film's "branching" method offers a supposedly more logical, yet more confusing route. Things, for the most part, make sense as long as you don't start digging into it. The further you journey from the surface, the more things start to collapse and not add up. But that's time travel, right?
Avengers: Endgame is a simultaneous conclusion and tribute to the characters we've witnessed on screen over the last eleven years. Just like Infinity War, the film skillfully balances real stakes and real drama with light-hearted humor, and it's final action packed climax will no doubt bring cheers, applauses, and emotional reactions from audiences who've fell in love with these characters. While it's time-traveling story is a bit messy and it incorporates some frustrating character decisions, directors Anthony and Joe Russo once again succeed in delivering epic scope and dramatic depth to Earth's mightiest heroes, sending them off on a high note.
Written by Anthony Watkins, April 29, 2019