“Even If There’s A Small Chance. We Owe This, To Everyone Who’s Not In This Room, To Try…”
With the final season of Game of Thrones gracing eager audiences earlier in the month, April 2019 will always be remembered as the time in which pop culture exploded into realms of unprecedented greatness as society witnesses the end point of both TV’s most talked about show and of course, the enormously anticipated, Avengers: Endgame, the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the sequel to last year’s excellent and groundbreaking, Infinity War. Presented as the final installment in the Kevin Feige coined, “Infinity Saga”, which began all the way back in 2008 with Iron Man, Endgame sees our grieving band of OG superheroes come to terms with, and more importantly, attempt to revert the catastrophic damage caused by Josh Brolin’s (Deadpool 2) megalomaniacal titan, Thanos, in the previous chapter, and with the giant purple one’s tricky finger snap having gone down in pop culture loire for evermore, the bar is set impressively high for a sequel which Marvel themselves see as the one film the entire MCU has pretty much been leading up to. Bamboozling critics and audiences alike with a staggeringly long three hour run time, it’s fair to say that in terms of excess, Endgame laps it up completely, and whilst anything stamped with the Marvel branding tends to be absolutely critic-proof, what an absolute pleasure it is in being able to confirm that Endgame is everything that it should be and more, an emotional, bizarre and thoroughly engaging and entertaining cinematic blockbuster which manages to effectively balance spectacle with narrative payoffs, resulting in a closing chapter which beautifully reinforces the idea that what Marvel have done will never ever be executed quite as brilliantly ever again in the history of cinema.
Heading in, it’s quite important to note that Endgame is not in anyway Infinity War part two, and whilst expectations and fan theories always affect judgement on the final piece, the fact that I’ve now watched Endgame twice goes to show that the fourth Avengers piece is not just another movie, in fact it’s almost too much of a movie, a three hour long comic book dream which expects its’ audience to be synchronised with every in-joke, every knowing aside and be able to recount what happened where and at what time in each of the preceding twenty one MCU chapters. If part of this selective band of followers, then Endgame seeks to provide as much fan service to you as humanly possible whilst crucially still understanding the fundamentals of filmmaking by biding its time with an opening act which seeks to show the effects of Thanos’ snap, one which impressively highlights melancholic tales of loss, depression and guilt, resulting in some of the most impressive writing I can remember seeing in a superhero film since The Dark Knight. With the PR team for Endgame deserving their own round of applause for brilliantly being able to manage not spoiling anything at all, pretty much everything seen in the film’s trailers either occurs during the opening thirty minutes or not at all, and whilst particular narrative choices are expected from fans with more observant qualities to their Marvel addiction, the fact remains that in order to enjoy Endgame‘s many shocks and surprises you must simply head in not being aware of anything, with one of the film’s many joys is being able to gasp, cry and fist-pump your way through the action with an audience who are as dedicated to both the characters and the franchise as you undoubtedly are, if not more so.
At three hours long, the fact that Endgame did not feel as if it was testing any sort of patience at any point is a remarkable feat in itself, with both the pacing and the editing serving the action rather splendidly in a way that only the best filmmakers can successfully manage to balance, and whilst at times particular characters seem to be slightly wasted or criminally underused, such a complaint is particularly minor and in a way obsolete, with the primary mission of the piece clearly offering the chance to serve conclusions to characters who have been with us since the start and being well aware that for the new breed, the future is both bright and holds their own tales ready to be told and explored as we head into the franchise’s new phase come the end of the year. With enough hilarious dialogue and slapstick performances to put most so-called comedies to shame, Endgame deliciously plays into the Marvel mould we have both come to know and love, and whilst the balance between light and dark never fails to hit the solemn, gritty realism of Logan, the emotional payoffs of particular character arcs will leave even the most cold-hearted of sociopaths in floods of tears as they come to realise that characters in which their time has been spent with for just over a decade may not be ever seen again, in this universe anyway. When it comes to reviewing Endgame, what Marvel have ultimately achieved is unprecedented in the realm of cinema, twenty two movies across eleven years and all leading to a conclusion which is worthy of both the hype and anticipation laid upon it, and in some way, just being part of such a magnificent journey is reason enough to fall in love with a movie which will not only make it difficult to look at any future superhero movie in the same way, but is in some ways a love letter to fans whose dedication and desire have ultimately made such a dream come true.
Overall Score: 9/10
“When I’m Done, Half Of Humanity Will Still Exist. Perfectly Balanced, As All Things Should Be…”
Following the release of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man exactly ten years ago, the culmination of plot threads, narrative developments and vast array of characters which have encompassed the Marvel Cinematic Universe since then have all led in the direction of Avengers: Infinity War, the latest gargantuan superhero romp which sees each of the major Marvel characters of the past ten years come together and join forces in order to thwart the oncoming threat of Josh Brolin’s (Sicario) ominous Thanos, who vows to collect each of the Infinity Stones, six immensely powerful alien artefacts, in order to bend the universe to his evil and genocidal will. With the hype train well and truly steaming ahead, the anticipation for Infinity War is unprecedented within the realms of superhero cinema, and with a extensively star studded cast list and the directing duo of Anthony and Joe Russo at the helm, whose previous credits of course include Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, expectations from audiences and critics alike are resoundingly off the charts. Thankfully, what the Russo’s have manged to achieve with Infinity War is a staggering, operatic work of spectacle and heartbreaking drama, a film, which on paper had no right to succeed, but has somehow resulted in the most rewarding, magical and downright jaw-dropping Marvel superhero experience in the MCU so far.
With two and a half hours worth of plot to dissect, Infinity War essentially breaks down into a quartet of individual narrative channels, with Earth being the base for the character band lead by Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers, space being the battleground for both the Guardians of the Galaxy subplot and Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark own personal quest, and the entire universe being the backdrop for Brolin’s Thanos who travels from planet to planet leaving behind a cold, calculated and murderous path as he collects the all-powerful Infinity Stones. With the MCU struggling in the past to effectively conjure up groundbreaking and well-rounded villains, the introduction of Thanos follows in the footsteps of Black Panther‘s Killmonger by refusing to bow down to simply cannon fodder for superhero stardom and instead is the surprising central character of the piece, with the script superbly managing to highlight the character’s genocidal plan with some degree of purpose whilst at the same time introducing flaws and elements of empathy, particularly in the stand-out conversations between himself and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora. Of course, with purple CGI muscles, a band of merry followers known as the Black Order and the Infinity Gauntlet in hand, the real power of the character is evidenced to an alarming degree too, with surprising character deaths by his own hand and a dedicated reluctance to fail, resulting in explosive action set pieces which both never seem to outstay their welcome and a include too a perilous sense of threat for everyone involved which the franchise up to now was thoroughly lacking.
Of course, with so many characters and so little time spared on deep characterisation aside from the film’s leading antagonist, particular individuals do become somewhat by-products of a larger endgame, particularly those involved in the drama taking place on Earth and specifically, Wakanda, but with eighteen previous stories worth of backstory and development behind it, Infinity War isn’t designed to further character arcs and instead is there to tie up the development already achieved and offer long-awaited fan service for which it undenaibly achieves. Whether it’s the banter fuelled dialogue between Tony Stark and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange or the egotistical match-up between Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord, amidst all the grandiose drama, Infinity War still manages to hold onto the razor-sharp comedic puns the franchise is renowned for without ever feeling cheesy or stupid enough to lose its’ dramatic edge, and whilst the best moments are undoubtedly in the other-worldly realms in which Downey Jr. and Pratt are present, the film as a whole balances its’ monumental premise with staggering ease. Of course, with Infinity War only part one of a much bigger design, there is a resounding sense of payoff not yet being ripely achieved, but with a ground-breaking, melancholic and brazen concluding scene which rips up the cinematic blockbuster rule book completely, the year long wait for the concluding chapter is of course undeniably agonising, but one which if continuing the success of Infinity War, will undoubtedly be an experience to savour.