Review – Avengers: Endgame (2019)

As last year’s #RoadToInfinityWar review series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe covered the lead up to Avengers: Infinity War, we are now a year out from that cliffhanger ending (and have also had Ant-Man and The Wasp and Captain Marvel to help satiate the Marvel craving). Still, some true resolution was needed, and just as Thanos famously said about destiny, “dread it, run from it”, it “arrives all the same.” Hence, we arrive at the Endgame. With a film that was originally conceived as a Part Two and serves as a culmination of so many storylines, it covers so much, but respectfully to all viewers, I will leave this review as vague as possible while briefly recollecting the story, even trying to avoid spoilers for Infinity War.

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When we last saw Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and other heroes, they had seen better days. After the Decimation caused by Thanos, a moment that will forever remain etched in fans’ minds, much was lost as a result. Yet, for the Avengers, hope was not, even if it is hard fought to maintain. The heroes must find out how to pick up the pieces and move forward. With some of them strewn across the universe, it will take everything they have even to just assemble with faces old and new, let alone avenge. After such a blistering defeat, they must decide how to take the fight back to Thanos and set things right on Earth and beyond. This journey will take the characters (and viewers) on a journey that is far beyond what we’ve experienced with the series thus far, and surprises galore are in store.

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Whereas Infinity War was juggling one of the largest casts in movie history through the bulk of its narrative, Endgame, by virtue of the story it continues, doesn’t have that burden to contend with, at least to that level. As a result, the feel of this film is much different and surprisingly meditative in places. While the pursuit of profit guarantees that more films will follow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this film is an ending in many ways for the countless fans that have fallen in love with the heroes and stories told. Emotional catharsis is anticipated here, and it comes as a result of all it lays before us. As most of the films show in the series, as of late, expect laughs throughout despite the heavy tone. My viewing crowd on opening night laughed hard throughout, and yes, they cried as well.

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I can say that whatever theories you had and however many fan videos you watched on YouTube in anticipation of this film’s release couldn’t prepare you for it all. There are surprises that come from deep left field, and they come as a result of the Russo Brothers knowing that we too are in deep with this series. The investment we have made with the characters allows unparalleled freedom here with narrative choices that just wouldn’t and couldn’t work at any point before now. With regard to the moments in the three-hour-plus runtime, you may get some things right in your predictions, even many of them, but you won’t see it all coming. That was the case for me, and it made for an incredibly satisfying viewing experience that was surprising and validating throughout. Never was I bored, nor could I be.

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The film’s marketing and the nature of it all placed that original core team front and center, and each of the actor’s shine. Robert Downey Jr. is as emotionally effective in this film as Iron Man as he has ever been in his career, a true milestone for him as a performer. Chris Evans shows he’s having the time of his life while bringing Captain America forward in his overall story in wonderful ways. Chris Hemsworth continues to impress with making Thor somehow even more lovable, even while dealing with incredible pain and change. Mark Ruffalo comes to the forefront in so many ways here as Hulk, and he is given new opportunity to further the character and doesn’t disappoint. Scarlett Johansson has never been more heroic as Black Widow than what she is here, and it’s a joy to behold. Last but not least, Jeremy Renner shines as Hawkeye, and him being held out of Infinity War pays off in dividends here for him as a character and for his contributions to the narrative overall.

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Alongside that core team, we have Paul Rudd, who is on the scene as Ant-Man as trailers show. I have loved Scott Lang as a character in the series, and he proves himself to be truly valuable to the team here. Rudd gets more than just an airport scene to impress us amongst all the big guns, and he brings a true heart to it all. Rounding out the primary cast are Karen Gillan as Nebula, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, and Brie Larson as Captain Marvel; no one disappoints. Going beyond that with the cast goes beyond what marketing prior to release allows, so just trust me when I say: hold on to your seats because the entire movie fires on all cylinders, especially towards the end.

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Thanos, of course, is back, and Josh Brolin continues to solidify his standing as one of the greatest film villains of all time. Last time around, we were given the opportunity to understand him, his mission, and his motivations, as the film could truly be framed with him as the lead character. Here, he takes more of a backseat, but while we see less of him, we are given even more reason to root for him to lose. Thanos was definitely in the driver’s seat last time, but it was great to see him more as an emerging threat here, especially after knowing the sheer level of devastation he had caused last time. His involvement is creatively handled, and let’s just say that whatever Marvel has planned down the pipe, it is going to be near impossible to surpass Thanos as an antagonist on this scale.

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I have to brag on the Russo Brothers and the screenwriters because the film they have put together works on so many levels. I’ve never witnessed a blockbuster double-down so heavily on grief and loss with a pervasive sense of sadness, and yet, it handles it all amidst crowd-pleasing comedy. The narrative is built to be completely new for the series, yet completely nostalgic, and yes, it completely works. It’s by far one of the weirdest blockbusters I’ve ever seen, but not in some alienating way. It works on its own terms, and the film exudes confidence that the audience will follow wherever it goes. The symbolism and tie-backs to virtually every film in the series are masterfully done; they knew they had to knock it out of the park, and they truly did it. Just like the team itself, the film is greater than the sum of its parts.

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The scale of this film is truly something to behold. I can say without question that nothing has been attempted this huge before. Somehow, this film eclipses the threat level of any Marvel film before it, and truly, you feel the stakes to be universal in scope. Still, the character work keeps you right there on the team with the rest of them, so investment in the proceedings is never in question. When the music swells, there are moments to full-on cheer; many did, and after all this time and love, why not? As a film, Endgame works as probably the most expensive look at the condition of grief that will ever be made, but beyond that, the spectacle it delivers is unparalleled. Marketing has only shown you a small sliver of what awaits in the entirety, and I would suggest keeping it that way for yourself.

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Content-wise, the film continues the heavy tone of Infinity War and arguably amplifies it. Language is there, but no more or less than expected. Along that line, Captain America has become a bit of a potty mouth, but considering all he and his team has gone through, we’ll let him slide. There are more savage moments of violence in this film than in the past. Nothing is R-Rated, but it is jarring in comparison to past films. Sexual content really only goes as far as kissing, but there are some jokes that may be inappropriate to some. There are great resonating moments throughout that will prompt discussion from the audience afterward, and elaborating on them in relation to Scripture is something that I truly hope to do soon with others who have seen it. Cram packed with heavy themes, it’s ready to dig into with friends beyond the spectacle; why not reflect it all with God’s Word to get some life understanding?

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How can I effectively rate this film that I have so desperately tried to keep unspoiled for you? Well, in closing, I will say that this film is gorgeously realized and surpasses any preconceived ideas of what all it will entail. Beyond what I’ve shared, many will inevitably go out in search of plot holes, but they miss out on what this film is meant to be: a celebration, and a resounding success of one at that. It’s amazing the highs and lows this film can effectively address and still remain entertaining throughout its length. Fans the world over will surely be pleased with the resolutions it offers and intrigued by the possibilities it teases beyond. Endings are rarely as successful in any series as this was for not just one film series but multiple, and the sheer amount of things this gets right ensure it rises to the top of Marvel movies instantaneously. Undoubtedly, my score may seem hyperbolic, but what else could apply to the visual hyperbole witnessed throughout? I can’t think of any serious reason to fault this film, as it gets so much so very right; I doubt many will either if they’ve been on the cinematic journey that led them here as I have. It’s just a truly incredible and virtually unparalleled moviegoing experience that I can’t wait to have again as soon as possible and many more times beyond that. I wasn’t ready for all it offered, and I am now ready for all that follows it. Mission accomplished, Avengers, indeed.

10

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