Avengers: Endgame (2019) is a film with the unenviable job of being the culmination and celebration of 11 years of film making encompassing 22 films. It is tasked with tying up innumerable loose threads in a way that is not only coherent and satisfying, but also rewarding for those who have emotionally (and financially) invested over a decade of their lives to the unique and unprecedented narrative arc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). To get to the point, Endgame succeeds in this with admirable aplomb. Needless to say, there are plenty of 'spoilers' out there if you care to find them, but the intention is that there aren’t any here.
The title itself, however, hints at some kind of finality and, with quite a few of the chess pieces missing from the board, much of the film's slow-burning first act is sombre and surprisingly brooding, as the survivors of the cataclysmic events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) cope with the aftermath. It is a bold move to start the film in such a protracted way, but it seems very intentional, and all the more impactful when viewed through the lens of the devastation of Infinity War.
What has set the MCU apart from many other films of its type is that actions are seen to have very real consequences, and character takes centre stage. In the case of Endgame, the stage is a shattered reality and a fragmented group of heroes tentatively working out if, and how, anything can be done to resolve the grave course of events set in motion by Thanos. What strikes me most about Endgame is that it manages to balance dramatic heft and maturity with the trademark wit and sparkle of the Marvel schtick, providing the acting ensemble with some truly memorable and moving moments in the process. The film particularly touches on the idea of survivor’s guilt, and each of the remaining Avengers deals with it in ways that are true to their established character.
As the plot unfolds, it appears that pretty much nothing has happened by accident in the overarching narrative of the MCU thus far – or at least, if it has, the writers, directors and producers (more on them later), have done a beautiful job of tying it all together as if it was meant to in the first place. What may seem like incidental plot devices in previous Marvel films play a crucial role, and characters previously less prominent in the franchise are given heroic moments to shine. Inevitably, surprises, emotional rug pulls and air-punches abound, and the film has a visceral intensity as it builds towards its conclusion. Complementing the compelling storytelling, veteran composer Alan Silvestri returns with a suitably blockbusting score. His signature dish of vibrant horns, swirling strings and bold melodies are to the fore, referencing his previous work on the series, and furnishing the film with added grandeur.
Much like the closing chapters of the ‘Harry Potter’ series or ‘Lord of the Rings’, (particularly the multi-award winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), to which it has been compared), Endgame is made all the richer by, at the very least, an awareness of what has come before. For a whole generation who have grown up intertwined with the intricate narrative arc of the MCU, it is the film they deserve. With a gargantuan franchise such as this, there will be fans who wish it was something else and who will have constructed their own version of what Endgame should or shouldn't be. Leave them to it.
For writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo – each responsible for some of the most potent moments and commercially successful entries in the franchise – Endgame is a labour of love; a carefully constructed resolution that is an ode to the mythos and sheer resolve of the Marvel machine and – yes, I'll say it – a love letter to the fans. Let us not forget the mastermind behind the whole 11-year saga – producer and Marvel Studios President, Kevin Feige. Who would have thought that when he sat down with director Jon Favreau in 2006 to map out Iron Man (2008), the first of what would become the MCU series, that it would not only lead to such a game-changing and box-office beating series of interconnected stories, but result in a film that unequivocally pulls of the landing? At the time of writing, Marvel’s next move is still under wraps, but artistically and commercially, it would be really quite churlish to deny that Endgame should be classified as anything other than a triumph.
| To be continued... |