In the last ten years, many superhero films have failed to ignite a franchise, either stalling two films in (Amazing Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Hellboy, Teenage Mutuant Ninja Turtles) or not even making that leap beyond their first instalment (Green Lantern, Green Hornet). This is not a new thing: my 1980s self is still waiting for Krull 2, and the Flash Gordon sequel that never came… In another universe, Marvel Studios placed their bets too early and introduced us to their universe straight in with The Avengers, rather than wisely taking their time and planning out their cinematic heroic dominance. But we don’t live in that universe: instead, in our slice of existence, after more than 20 adventures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we reach what amounts to be a season finale, Avengers: Endgame. So, has all that time been wisely invested? Are we looking at a Return of the King or a Matrix Revolutions? Does it all go up in smoke? Will this franchise finally snap under the weight of years of expectation?
Following the devastating cliffhanger of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War with our heroes being halved along with the rest of the universe, everyone watching had their theory on how the snap would be undone, and what sacrifices would occur, though it is worth remembering we are in a comic book world of talking trees, robotic alcoholics, and heroes that shrink and control ants with their mind, so anything could happen. The answer doesn’t come quickly: the sombre and naturalistic tone of the opening act takes its time so much that, like our heroes, it is difficult to see a way out. With recent real-life newsfeeds filled with too-close-to-home attacks and deaths, superhero movies have recently developed a trend of trading escapism for dark truths about good versus evil in the real world. Endgame balances the grief and desperation by using humour and character growth during this quieter, more mature beginning, later transferring to more humour-based (but still pathos enriched) scenes.
So far none of this sounds like costumed heroes zapping and punching and quipping against a big bad or impossible odds, but worry not! By the second half we are given a ridiculous nonsensical plan that’s unrealisticness is even acknowledged by the characters, by making comparison to the unlikely plots of other science fiction movies.
Discussing how and who the remaining Avengers have to take on is in itself a spoiler, and the densely-packed action and the heart-breaking moments are equally rendered less strong if I even hint at them here. However, I can say that Marvel’s talent of assembling a great cast and a fun and intense and funny thrill ride is evident. Their nearest rival DC have had a couple of victories with Aquaman and Shazam! but neither comes anywhere close to the world building and emotional arcs that have been housed here in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If, like me, you have been shocked how often you have rewatched the Marvel Studios output, you won’t be surprised to find that many loose ends and character arcs really need to be effectively dealt with in this closing film; with a running time of three hours that would seem not an impossible task, would it? Again, staying away from spoilers, you will have to have half a heart to not be sobbing by the end. Not so much an indulgent curtain call ending like Lord of the Rings, Avengers: Endgame gives its ever-growing fanbase what they want by providing surprises and indulges in equal balance. The lengthy run time means that there maybe occasional moments where the tension is sometimes lost for the sake of a fun sequence, but the third act’s epic battle we all knew must be coming is much more powerful than you expect. Does Thanos win? Does anyone else die? Who comes back? I didn’t know going in, and neither should you.
Avengers: Endgame is an uneven gigantic cinematic superhero treat, only failing at times to be quite as out there as you expect as the convoluted plot rushes by you, if you don’t think about it too much. It is nowhere near the noise of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice – and it could have been considering how much had to happen. It’s Marvel delicacy of touch and thoughtfulness for both fun and heart which makes this great way to close this era of their very successful universe.