When tackling the cultural phenomenon of Marvel Studios, it is worth noting from the outset how reviews have tagged their take as “spoiler-free”. But, with a film like Avengers: Endgame, if you are vaguely interested, and a handful of reviews are what you hope will dictate whether you will seek it out this weekend, I suspect you are in the minority. The vast majority of fans have already committed themselves to the saga; either watching the big-hitters of the last decade (Iron Man, Avengers Assemble, Black Panther) with a curiosity to see the finale to last year’s Avengers: Infinity War or you are the committed fan, standing in line for each and every instalment with constantly-updated ranked lists, that shuffle in order on every re-watch. Full disclosure: this reviewer sits in the latter category. With that in mind, this review is spoiler-heavy and this immediate response is to be read after you have experienced Avengers: Endgame.
Breaking the film into three acts is smart. The first chunk charts the defeat of Thanos and life after a five-year gap, as the world needs to somehow move on following his iconic ‘snap’. Then the middle-block of cheeky time-travel adventure, as heroes venture back to previous movies and collect the infinity stones. Then there’s the final epic showdown between every superhero we have seen in the MCU so far against Thanos’ motley crew. Indeed, as you experience each series of events, you realise that you’ve been gifted three movies in one (and, often, the ticket price seems to be three-times the usual cost). Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have made no secret about making permanent changes and the multiple deaths in both Infinity War and Endgame don’t look like they’ll change any time soon. Vision, Heimdall, Black Widow and Tony Stark – they’re gone. But refusing to rewind and merely go back to a pre-Infinity War point is a direction few thought possible – but here we are, curious to see how a world, where fifty percent of the planet vanished for five years, will move on. Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe appears to have its work cut out, but I will absolutely be there opening night to see what happens next.Those who invested time in each film and recalls the Elves and ‘the aether’ in Thor: The Dark World, will be rewarded. Those who opted in to Agent Carter, and had to make peace with the unresolved conclusion of season 2, are rewarded with a fitting finale and a satisfying cameo. Fans of Karen Gillen’s outstanding Nebula character, from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, will be impressed by her here as she seems to be more integral to Endgame than any other Marvel picture.
But, this is a giant of a movie that takes pride in the secrets that were kept so close to Marvel Studios chest. The publicity campaign was purposefully limited and, after watching the film in all its three-hour glory, we realise that the vast majority of footage used in trailers was pulled from the first thirty-minutes. The question mark over how Tony Stark would be saved from outer space – something that puzzled fans for months – was answered within five-minutes, as Captain Marvel comfortably brings it down to land. Then again, where was Captain Marvel for most of the film? I get the impression, from the gaping time-line questions (in the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home, were all of Peter Parker’s friends conveniently snapped?) and the scale of the universe presented, that the five-year gap may become a key part of the universe, akin to “the incident” of New York in 2012. They could even introduce a trilogy of films, featuring characters who live and die within the five-year gap.
Granted, this is just a slew of thoughts that will impact on any future viewing of Avengers: Endgame and, though billed as the end of the Infinity Saga and a conclusion of sorts, I suspect it will spiral out and become ground zero for many future instalments. Remember how Spider-Man: Homecoming used the fallout from Avengers Assemble to create Michael Keaton’s Vulture? Avengers: Endgame will remain the high-point in the MCU for years to come; an awesome achievement for the studio – and the envy of every other. But blockbusters of this scale are difficult to re-watch, let alone the required 21 films that came before it. Is it Black Panther in its assertive, profound statements? Does it hold the nuanced social criticism of Civil War? Maybe not, but if you’ve followed the series this far, you’re not going to be unimpressed.