Avengers: Endgame (2019) Review

AN EPIC (AND DEEPLY SATISFYING)

CONCLUSION TO THE MCU’S INFINITY SAGA


 

There was an idea…to bring together a group of remarkable people….to see if we could become something more…so when they need us, we could fight the battles…. that they never could. Since it’s inception back in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has indeed flourish and prospered into one of the most beloved / talked about superhero film franchise ever created. With a staggering amount of theatrical entries (collectively tallying at 21 features), this movie superhero franchise as transcended a lot of viewer’s expectations, chronicling the adventures of a wide variety of superheroes through a series of standalone endeavors and team-up blockbusters that are interconnected (collectively) within a shared cinematic universe. The MCU has taken some of the recognizable (and lesser known) properties from Marvel Comics and have translated them into some of the most iconic on-screen superheroes of a film generation, offering up compelling storytelling narrative arcs (a combination of character builds of humor and heart) with large-than-life superhero escapades of doing what’s right in the face of overwhelming odds and saving the day from evil do-gooders. This consist of a roster of intriguing and well-developed heroes, including self-righteous individuals, costumed warriors, fierce monsters, pragmatic rulers, mystical beings, and (sometimes) a rag tag group of misfits, have played instrumental roles in the likeability of these movies as well as the acting talents that portray them on-screen of which includes plenty of recognizable stars (some recognizable, some undiscovered, some seasoned veterans, etc.). In addition, the MCU have captivated a generation of moviegoers (young and old, fan-boys and casual viewers, etc.); finding millions of viewers entertained by the cinematic tales of heroes and villains. This is further realized when considering that the MCU has spanned (currently) a 11-year timeframe by keeping its viewers interested and intrigued with this expansive franchise by creating new stories for its established characters and bringing in ones into unfold. Thus, despite few naysayers, the MCU franchise has built a thriving film empire; something that only a few movie franchise / film sagas have ever achieved in the history of cinema. Now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe reaches a culmination climax to its cinematic tales (thus far) as Marvel Studios and the Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony) prepare for the highly anticipated 22nd MCU film titled Avengers: Endgame, a follow-up adventure to 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Does this latest superhero blockbuster live up the incredible hype or does it take the close out the “Infinity Saga” on a disappointing whimper?

THE STORY


Following the epic events of Avengers: Infinity War, the Mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) succeed in his endgame plan by finally collecting the six fabled Infinity Stones (space, reality, power, time, mind and soul) and “snapping” half of sentient life (across the universe) out of existence, including many of the Avengers characters and their friends. Those who remain on Earth, including Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner / The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), James Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle), try to make sense of the fallout aftermath of Thanos’s Decimation and the new world order that comes with it, while Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillian) are set adrift in space, hoping for a miracle to save them. All seems lost until Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) suddenly appearance (thought to believe perished in Thanos’s snap), and with hopeful revelation to restore what was taken. With a daring and almost impossible mission set before them, the remaining Avengers set out to change the undo the universal damage caused by Thanos. New allies will appear, including the inclusion of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), loyalties will be tested, valor will be proven, and a shocking and climatic showdown to reverse the past will happen. Whatever the outcome, whatever the cost, whatever it takes…. the Avengers must come together and set out to defeat Thanos, once and for all.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


Well, I’ve said many times before and I guess I’ll say it many more times, I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movies have always been a favorite past time for me to watch, enjoy, and get lost in their world of heroes and villains. To me, what makes them great is that, while most usually are somewhat standalone adventures that focuses on a single hero or group, the movies have that blockbuster quality that brings a sense of big time “popcorn feature” to the proceedings, allowing its larger-than-life characters to display their uniqueness in thwarting the bad guys. Of course, the interlinking of these films within a shared cinematic movie universe is another great attribute, connecting most of the installment features into an over-arching narrative for the 21 films (so far) in the MCU.  Some of my personal favorites being the first Iron Man movie, two of the three the Captain America films (The Winter Soldier and Civil War), the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies (i.e Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and (of course) Avengers: Infinity War.  Yes, some might look down upon the MCU superhero movies as just major “cash-cows” for the movie studio behind (i.e. Disney) or just big / dumb blockbuster tentpoles of recycled ideas, but, in truth, the MCU has flourished in evolving beyond such the superhero genre by blending other genres into the mix (i.e. fantasy, heist, supernatural, historical, political, etc.) and has ultimately become a dominate force of movie entertainment; dazzling viewers (both young and old) in escaping into a world of superheroes and villains, gods and monsters, and where cinematic adventures being told are just as large and grandiose as the comic book characters that populate this franchise. In short, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has indeed proved itself to be a dominate powerhouse movie series for the past 11 years, ushering in the “golden age” of superhero movies as well as proving that a shared (and expansive) cinematic universe is possible and damn well entertaining at that.

As to be expected, this brings me back around to talking about Avengers: Endgame, the 22nd film in the MCU and the follow-up conclusion to 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. It goes without saying the Avengers: Infinity War was definitely a monster juggernaut of a movie that delivered on bringing a large-scale cinematic tale adventure within an equally large roster of the MCU characters. It definitely was a penultimate entry (a so-called “Beginning of the End” type of endeavor), leaving a massively dark / ambiguous cliffhanger ending to the masses, promising a grand and epic finale with Avengers: Endgame. Following Infinity War, the internet exploded with a plethora of theories as to what might happen in Endgame, especially considering that Marvel Studios kept a very tight lid on what was release about the upcoming movie; shrouding its release in secret. Heck, we even didn’t get an official title for the movie until mid-December. Plus, the film’s market campaign (mostly the movie trailers) didn’t give too much away by ways and means of “spoiling the feature within its preview (a sort of reoccurrence that occasional happens to movies). Of course, being a mega huge fan of the MCU, I was eagerly waiting to see Endgame, setting the film as my #1 pick for my Top 15 Most Anticipated Films of 2019 list. I was hoping that it would live up to the hype that Infinity War set and to conclude this cinematic universe (up to this point) with climatic showdown blockbuster. Yeah, I was super pumped, jacked, and excited for this movie! So, with much anticipation, inherit hype, and many times looking away from internet spoilers (and I do mean many), the release of Avengers: Endgame is here and I went to go to see it on its opening night. Now, the big question, what did I think of it? Two words…. loved it! Avengers: Endgame wraps up the Marvel Cinematic Universe (so far) in an epic and sweeping way that truly does live up its own insurmountable hype. The endgame has been written…and it is a glorious ending that’s both epically beautiful and colossally satisfying to any viewer who has with this franchise since 2008.

Avengers: Endgame is directed by the Russo brothers (Joe and Anthony Russo), whose well-known for their efforts made within the MCU in directing some of the better entries with the franchise, including Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, and (of course) Avengers: Infinity War. Thus, it really goes without saying that Russos definitely have a great understanding of crafting an MCU feature film as well as executing one with a large roster cast of character to juggle and an even more grandiose narrative to tell. Thus, Marvel Studio’s decision for the Russos to direct Endgame (the so-called Infinity War Part 2 endeavor) was kind of like a no-brainer, with the pair quickly orchestrating a cinematic superhero feature like no other. To that effect, the Russos succeed; bringing with them as “tour de force” effect with Endgame that truly feels like a culmination of the entire MCU (up to this particular point of time). The staging of events and characters is also contributed to the Russos directing experience within the realm of the MCU, handling the highly anticipated feature film with great care and attention within the context of the story being told. Thus, the final presentation of Endgame is truly something to marvel over. In lesser hands, the movie could’ve been a downright disappointment (crumbling underneath its own weight of mismanagement), but the Russo brothers have a crystal-clear vision for the film and it definitely shows that in the final product.

The film’s script, which was penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is also a testament to the overlay of how much Endgame (as a superhero blockbuster feature) has evolved from the more simplistic nature costumed heroics of “good vs. evil”. This is mostly because both Markus and McFeely have been (much like the Russos) veteran of the MCU, penning several entries in the franchise. Thus, the duo definitely knows how to shape a superhero movie and (more importantly) present it (story-wise) in a compelling way. This also brings up the feature’s main storyline threads, which sees the Avengers to the undo the Thanos’s snap. The premise of Endgame has been done before (to a certain degree), which revolves around the usage of time travel, but the movie offers up a fun and intriguing way; showcasing a lot character filled moments. Again, it’s an original idea, but it definitely works and kind of had to play out in that way. Still, it was great and was aided by some humorous / heartfelt moments for several characters. Of course, the true visual spectacle of Endgame happens during the third act (and its amazing), but the first two acts are definitely made for characters builds and development, with the script (and the film’s direction) never deviating away from what’s important… the characters that we (as viewers) have followed for many years.

And to me, that’s true sublime of the MCU. If you really think about…there are now (currently) 22 movies within this cinematic universe and they have kept us (the viewers) invested within this franchise for years. Of course, some installments are better than others, but the pure joy and interest in these MCU endeavors has continued to swell with popularity, which is quite an amazing feat (and I think many will agree with that).

This brings me around to talking about the movie’s runtime, which is at a staggering three hour and one minute. While not completely unheard for a theatrical film, it is definitely a bold and ambitious move to make, especially considering that most of the large scaled MCU have been roughly two hours and twenty some odd minutes long; making Endgame the longest film in the MCU to date. However, the narrative being told never feels bloated or unnecessary, which (in turn) makes the movie never boring or lag. There’s always something to see on-screen and to keep its viewers invested the Endgame’s story. Thus, while runtime make scare some moviegoers out there, Endgame is totally worth its length, offering up intriguing story that works and feels tightly paced throughout.

In truth, Endgame represents not only the continuation / resolution to Infinity War, but also the collective movie might / true spirt of this particular cinematic universe of superheroes. There’s definitely a foreboding sense of everything coming to a climatic head (and ending), which the movie certainly does achieve; bringing the tale of the first three phase saga of the MCU (again, now dubbed the “Infinity Saga”) to a dramatic conclusion. With the revisiting of familiar places (and familiar faces), the movie definitely feels like a trip down “memory lane” (MCU style) and does offer up plenty of fan-service moments that will surely make many out there laugh / cheer with unapologetic glee. Because of this, there’s an also a sense of sheer joy added to the feature’s overall spectacle that seems to permeate throughout the film. I mean…. there’s one particular moment (that I guess would be in the film) is one giant fan service moment that literally had me practically cheering with a tear or two in my eyes (you’ll definitely know what it is when you see it). Looking beyond humorous bits and pieces, the movie certainly also has a several big dramatic / poignant moments that will surely tug on the heartstrings of emotion. Much like Civil War and Infinity War, Endgame delves into some pretty emotional beats and offers up some “pure heart” in a very compelling and dramatic way. In these moments, the Russos (as well as Markus and McFeely) excel, creating character filled sequences that really are a “no holds bar”, with one or two that will make everyone shed a tear or two. In addition, there are few surprises in the movie and, while I expected them to appear, there overall presentation (cinematically and performances) caught me off-guard (in a shockingly good way). This continues to add a new layer of appreciation for this movie, offering up some of the best sequences / moments in both the franchise history as well as in the superhero genre.

As for presentation, Endgame goes all out with its technical merits and visual appeal, crafting a large-scale blockbuster feature with immensity and larger-than-life cinescope nuances. Given the grandiose stakes that the feature has to tell, the production quality should equally match it…of which it does; sprawling its interconnected worlds of landscape (both familiar and unfamiliar) into a beautiful cinematic realization. What’s more impressive is that majority (if not all) of these “behind-the-scenes” talents are carried over from working on Infinity War, which makes their efforts made on Endgame (be it large or small) feels very much “in line” with the overall look and feel. Thus, the continuing work by Charles Woods (production designs), Leslie Pope (set decorations), Juddianna Makovsky (costume designs), and Jeffery Ford / Matthew Schmidt (film editing) are definitely noteworthy and definitely play an important part in making Endgame feels “visually” appealing. In addition, the visual effects team on this project (too numerous to mention) should also applauded for their computer wizardry in bringing the large scale of the movie (scope and grandeur) throughout the movie. Personally, I still quite impressed with how the render Thanos in the movie. Plus, the film’s climatic ending is where the team shows off all their craft (you’ll see it when it happens). This also applies to the efforts made by cinematographer Trent Opaloch, who definitely has a keen eye for dramatic flair and certainly showcases some dramatic camera angles in several key sequences in the feature.

Also, film composer Alan Silvestri, who previously composed music for other MCU films (Captain America: The First Avengers, Marvel’s The Avengers, and Avengers: Infinity War) returns to this world of superheroes to score Endgame and does so in a magnificent way. The scoring of music has always played an important part with me in appreciating movies and Silvestri’s work on this project excels, especially in some of the film’s big moments and sequences.

As one can imagine I was thoroughly impressed with this movie, but that doesn’t mean that there were a few minor (and I do mean very minor) criticism that I have to make about Endgame. Perhaps the most prevalent is how rushed the first fifteen minutes is. Granted, yes, I do understand that the movie has larger terrain to traverse throughout its three-hour runtime, but the opening act seems quite rushed and could’ve been easily expanded upon. What’s presented is great and definitely works, but it feels as if there could’ve been more to it, especially since it takes place in the immediate aftermath of what transpired in the previous feature. Another problem is in the handling of the whole “time travel” aspect. Some of the film’s characters do explain the laws of time travel (and how several movies portray it) the laws of time, but it seems a tad confusing and plays more in line with how Endgame wants it to be (fitting the narrative structure) rather than a practical set-up / understanding. Again, those (plus one another that I’ll mention below) are my only negative points to the film and hardly diminish my overall likeability to Endgame.

What also works in the movie is the further development of its cinematic world well-developed / well-established superhero characters and Endgame (due to the events of Infinity War) devotes plenty of time to the original six Avengers characters. Naturally, leading the charge are the MCU’s “Big Three” leads (i.e. Tony Stark / Iron Man, Steve Rogers / Captain America, and Thor) with actors Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes and Chaplin), Chris Evans (Gifted and Snowpiercer), and Chris Hemsworth (12 Strong and Rush) reprising their popular MCU roles respectfully. It goes without saying these three have been the main character structural pillars of this superhero franchise (each other the characters have their ow trilogy) and each one has definitely made their on-screen characters their own (i.e. Downey Jr. with his egoistical / snarky banter of Stark, Evans with his self-righteous / stoic idealism of Rogers, and Hemsworth with the otherworldly / comedic timing of Thor). These characters are equally embraced (more so than ever) in Endgame with Downey, Evans, and Hemsworth giving some of their best performances in the movie. Given the nature of the movie’s narrative, Stark, Rogers, and Thor get compelling story arcs in Endgame; each one developed and completed by the time the feature’s end. It’s definitely one of the best parts of the movie; seeing these three story threads unfold the way that they do (for laughs, for dramatic purposes, and for plot development), with Downey, Evans, and Hemsworth bringing their “A” game to their respective Marvel characters.

Behind those three is the character of Bruce Banner / The Hulk, who is reprised by actor Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher and Spotlight), who certainly does a play a very interesting role in Endgame. I won’t spoil it, but the character of Banner / Hulk undergoes a character transformation, which is definitely fun and creative and brings something new to classic superhero character, with Ruffalo giving embracing the role more so than past endeavors. Rounding out the original six Avengers team are the characters of Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow and Clint Barton / Hawkeye, who are once again played by actress Scarlett Johansson (Ghost in the Shell and Her) and actor Jeremy Renner (Tag and The Town). Both of these characters get some splendid screen-time together (Johannsen and Renner are great together), building upon their characters past relationship with each other as well as delving into some of their personal strife and losses that they had to face / endure due to Thanos’s snap. Their journey in Endgame is also a satisfying one, which definitely adds to their respective characters, especially considering that these two have been considered, more or less, supporting players of the Avengers team.

In large supporting roles are some of other remaining Avengers / main Marvel characters from the other movies. Of this grouping, the character of Nebula (Thanos’s other adopted daughter / sister to Gamora) gets the most screen-time in the movie. While the character has been a supporting role in several of the movies (i.e. the Guardians of the Galaxy films and Infinity War), her involvement in Endgame is an indeed an important one, with actress Karen Gillian (Doctor Who and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) getting more time to develop the character, evolving Nebula from what she was original was in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Behind Nebula are the  characters of James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine, who is played by actor Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda and Crash), Scott Lang / Ant-Man, who is played by actor Paul Rudd (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man), and Rocket Raccoon, who is voiced by actor Bradley Cooper (American Sniper and The Hangover) play their parts in the movie’s narrative as secondary supporting players. The movie isn’t super laser focused on these particular individuals (more focused on the original six Avengers), but their addition to the movie is equally good; finding this trio of characters up to the task for whatever the film gives them and the acting talents that play them. Plus, each of these characters get their “moment to shine” a few scenes here and there, which ultimately adds to the enjoyment of their inclusion in Endgame.

Then, of course, there is the Mad Titan himself…Thanos…who once again plays the main antagonist of the story. While Infinity War was his big character build screen debut, Endgame pulls back on him slightly. He’s still the dominating “grand puppet master” character that he was meant to be, but the film’s script isn’t so heavy with Thanos, which (again) is appropriate for the film that finds its main camera spotlight with the Avengers. Still, his character setup from Infinity War carries over into this movie and still acts as the “main bad guy” in quite a compelling way. This as well as actor Josh Brolin’s (Only the Brave and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) performance as the titular villain makes for a worthy adversary for the Avengers to fight against in Endgame. I still consider Thanos as one of the best / intriguing villains in the entire MCU.

The only character that I do have a problem with in Endgame is in the inclusion of Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel. What do I mean? Well, despite having a good origin story within her movie (i.e. Captain Marvel), I kind of was expecting more from the character by playing an instrumental role in the narrative (of which many were speculating). Her involvement in Endgame, however, is minimal as if she was written into the Endgame’s story at the very last minute. There’s a reason that’s given to the movie as to this and I do understand that the script wanted to more focus on the original Avengers team, but it feels kind of feels like a copout. Still, actress Brie Larson (Room and Kong: Skull Island) continues to make Captain Marvel have a great screen presence; hinting that her future involvement within the MCU is looming on the horizon. That’s probably my biggest pet peeve of Endgame and yet it’s an minor quibble.

Rounding out the cast are several minor characters from past MCU movies. While I won’t spoil who they are and what context that there presented in the movie, their inclusion within Endgame’s grandiose story is incredibly fun. Plus, it’s great to see the selection of recognizable actors and actresses return to their MCU post once again. Definitely put a smile on my face.

Additionally, just to let my viewers know, that, despite the commonplace trademark of “secret endings” (mid-credits ones and ones after the credits) from the MCU franchise, there is none in Avengers: Endgame. Lastly, be sure to be on the “lookout” for Stan Lee’s cameo, which is to be his final one in the MCU (R.I.P Stan Lee).

FINAL THOUGHTS


Part of the journey is the end as the Avengers set out to reverse Thanos’s snap in the movie Avengers: Endgame. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s latest film sees the MCU’s grand tapestry of heroes, gods, and monsters come to a dramatic and climatic point, resolving what’s being considered the “Infinity Saga” narrative arc to this expansive movie world. There’s a whole lotta movie to watch within Endgame and Russo certainly unpack a lot within its lengthy runtime, capturing the franchise’s some of the best moments of humor, heart, and compelling storytelling. There are a few minor nitpicks in the film, but those are minuscule blemishes to almost nearly perfectly balanced superhero blockbuster and can be easily looked over to the overwhelming and sheer entertainment value that the Russo Brothers have crafted with Endgame. As you guys can imagine, I absolutely (and unequivocally) loved this movie. It was everything I was expecting from this movie and so much more. I laughed hard, cheered harder, was in awe of its spectacle, heart warmed with its compelling narrative, loved the well-established characters (and the talented actors and actresses), and shed a few tears when it was over. I was definitely amazed by the film’s journey and thoroughly enjoyed the movie immensely from start to finish. Personally, despite how much I sincerely love Infinity War, I would say that I love Endgame slightly better. Infinity War is the nearly perfect penultimate endeavor, while Endgame is the nearly perfect epic conclusion to a twenty two motion picture saga. Thus, it goes without saying that my recommendation for this movie is (beyond a shadow of a doubt) “highly recommended” an undeniable must-see for Marvel fans out there and a highly definite choice for everyone else (from casual moviegoers to fanboys). What comes next? That’s really hard to say. While Marvel Studios will most likely continue onward with the MCU, propelling the next generation of Marvel characters forward (in some shape or form), no one can ever deny that this particular movie signifies the end of an era…in both the Infinity Saga storyline and to the cinematic adventure that we (as viewers) have experienced throughout its 11-year journey. To that end, Avengers: Endgame stands as a crowing hallmark achievement in superhero blockbuster entertainment, a shining beacon to the franchise and already cemented celebrated legacy within the pantheon of movie history.

 

As a personal note, I sincerely want to thank all those involve at Marvel (including the late Stan Lee) for ultimately creating this cinematic universe for me to get lost in. It was an incredible 11-year journey that was definitely worth it (with the hopes more to come). As a movie critic, as a film lover, as a fan of Marvel, and as a person who looks to these theatrical presentations as means for escapism…. Thank you!!!

4.9 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Released On: April 26th, 2019
Reviewed On: April 26th, 2019

Avengers: Endgame  is 181 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language

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