REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame is a fun, messy, worthy conclusion.

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark

After over a decade of films and the incredible cliff-hanger of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios and directors Anthony and Joe Russo had the enormous task of bringing audiences a satisfying conclusion to the current phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The film kicks off right after the devastating events of Infinity War, as our remaining superheroes try to piece together their lives after an overwhelming loss and work out a plan to un-snap Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) fingers. With such a large cast and intricate plot details, putting together a film like this is a tremendous undertaking.

So, did the Russo brothers succeed?

Yes, in some parts but they did miss the mark in others.

I’m going to structure things a little differently here and first go over the negatives of the film, and then discuss the positives.  If you have not yet seen Avengers: Endgame and are the type of person who hates spoilers, I would suggest watching the film before reading this review.

Mild spoilers ahead.

For the most part, Endgame’s plot is quite well-rounded, but it’s also quite safe considering the shock the Infinity War gave us. One can’t help but feel that the directors could have taken a few more risks with the story. However, most of the issues with the plot come from the second act. The act that sent the protagonists back in time to retrieve the Infinity Stones before Thanos ever got his purple hands on them.

While Endgame tackles time-travel differently to most films, this segment of the film is incredibly messy. Audiences are expected to follow the storylines of four teams of superheroes as they travel to different locations in different times. We get to revisit old settings of previous films – which is great for nostalgic value – but overall it makes for cumbersome plot-development and by trying to keep us equally invested in each of our heroes, the result is that we don’t feel fully invested in any of them.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s still a lot of fun but it’s not great storytelling.

The 181-minute runtime could have been cut down by trimming some unnecessary gag scenes, and the pacing between the first and second act was a bit awkward; some moments felt like they were dragging and others felt rushed.

Captain Marvel was a big letdown. Not only is her character reduced to a snarky ex machina, but Brie Larson’s performance left a lot to be desired. Perhaps it’s too soon to judge with only one previous Marvel film but she seemed out of place among the incredible performances by the rest of the cast. However, she wouldn’t be the first Marvel lead to take a few movies to start giving strong performances (looking at you, Chris Hemsworth).

Speaking of Chris Hemsworth, the way the dreadlocked, bearded, beer-bellied Thor was written was also a bit disappointing. The Norse God of Thunder was the highlight of Infinity War, and Hemsworth gave us his most compelling and emotional performance to date. In Endgame, however, he is our main comedic relief and the butt of a large portion of the film’s jokes.

I understand that his character is in emotional turmoil after his failure to stop Thanos, but I found myself waiting for a redemptive character arc that never came; even after the film’s conclusion, Thor is never restored to his former glory.

The biggest issue in Endgame, however, is Thanos. Infinity War gave us the most complex, three-dimensional, well-written villain in Marvel history. His plan and motivations, while certainly evil, were understandable. Unfortunately, Endgame gives us none of this. Thanos is reduced to a completely forgettable punch-happy bad guy with a CGI army, whose new universe-destruction plan seems far too brash and emotionally driven for the calm, calculated villain we know.

Also, he was way too strong. We saw a handful of superheroes almost best him while he wielded five Infinity Stones in Infinity War, yet in Endgame – with none of the Stones in his possession – he manages to hold off a superhero army.

Lastly, Marvel Studios and Jeremy Renner need to stop trying so hard to make Hawkeye cool. Hawkeye will never be cool.

Now onto the good stuff.

The first act is beautifully eerie. We watch our protagonists adjust to life five years after Thanos’ snap. Though everyone is acting normal, the tone of the act is so subtle and brilliantly set that just watching our characters go through life is incredibly unsettling. The plot development is slow, but it is one of the most excellently directed portions of a superhero movie to date.

The third act is also a win. Though the writers couldn’t resist the classic superheroes-versus-CGI-monsters final battle, this time it was a delight. Usually, this part of the superhero film is boring and uninspired, but in Endgame it’s hard not to get swept up in the sheer size of the final battle and the stunning visuals.

The humour is also utilised well. Too often, Marvel films try to stuff cheap laughs into their films everywhere possible, and the placement of the jokes and quips seems inappropriate. But in Endgame, the humour is used to break up the genuinely heavy plot. The jokes aren’t excessive and they’re well-timed and well-delivered.

The most surprising aspect of the film, however, is how emotional it is. The directors blend classic Marvel action and humour with some sincerely sensitive moments. A large portion of the plot is driven by our well-known characters going through heartfelt growth and overcoming their own internal battles alongside their external ones. Despite the heavy tones, the film deals with themes like self-sacrifice, forgiveness, and overcoming failure.

A special mention must go to Robert Downey Jr, who has truly embodied the character of Iron Man. He delivers a believable, nuanced, and delicate performance. The cocky, quipping hero is still evident, but the changes he goes through over the last two films are expertly depicted. Chris Evans’ ever-optimistic Captain America was also exceptionally portrayed against the realist of Tony Stark, and the two actors carry a large section of the film. Paul Rudd’s Antman is a whole lot of fun to watch and works much better in a team setting than in his solo films.

Avengers: Endgame is certainly not the perfect film, but it is a worthy conclusion to the last 11 years of the MCU and its problems are easily forgivable. The Russo brothers have achieved the largest-scale superhero film of all time, and the continuity and flow of a plot with so many characters and so many loose ends to tie up is incredible.

Endgame is no Infinity War, but it’s certainly a win for Marvel Studios.

Avengers: Endgame: 8/10