(No spoilers for this film, though I’m assuming that if you’re planning on watching it, you’ve already seen Infinity War.)
It’s been almost eleven years since Iron Man was released and kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now Avengers: Endgame is the twenty-second film in that universe, bringing the Infinity Saga to a close. I was reading this summary article by BBC News when it really hit me just how impressive this is: one franchise, twenty-two films, a total box office in the billions. It’s incredible, an insanely successful long game, and the film industry will probably never see anything like it again. Not that the MCU is signing off altogether with Endgame, of course. But for many of the story arcs and characters we’ve been following all these years, this is the end of the road. And what an ending it is.
Having booked my cinema ticket for Sunday, in anticipation of screenings being sold out, I had a long wait till the end of the week while so many other people on social media gushed about how mind-blowing Endgame was, and how it was quite possibly the greatest superhero film of all time. This afternoon, I left the cinema with a big smile on my face, more than satisfied.
In simplest terms, the overall plot is what you would expect: with Thanos having gathered the Infinity Stones and destroyed half of all life in the universe at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the surviving Avengers are now setting out to defeat him and undo what he has wrought. The obvious first step is to track Thanos down and get the Infinity Gauntlet off him – but of course, it’s not as simple as that, and this three-hour film requires the heroes to go on a much longer and more complicated journey to set things right. The story certainly succeeds in subverting audience expectations at multiple points, though unlike with The Last Jedi, every subversion results in a worthwhile payoff. Within the first fifteen minutes, Endgame left me feeling surprised and unsure how they were going to make a satisfying story from that point – but through the quality of the writing and the ideas employed, it comes off wonderfully.
The film definitely feels like a proper finale, in the same way that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows did. The stakes are at their highest, and the heroes are fighting to recover from their ultimate low point. There are also a number of homages to the films that have come before, and unexpected appearances from a few characters we haven’t seen in a while. Naturally, the tone is very sombre and serious at first, with glimpses of how the whole world is dealing with the events of Infinity War; but eventually, more humourous moments do come along, and without feeling out of place. And the whole thing culminates in a truly epic climax.
But the action, while certainly good, isn’t really what’s important. It’s the characters we’ve come to know and love that really drive the film; and it’s because of how well-done they are, and how focussed the story is on their continuing development, that Endgame feels distinct from a traditional superhero film. Some characters, like Bruce Banner, have supporting roles without needing real arcs. And I was a little disappointed not to see more of Captain Marvel, the excuse being that she’s too busy dealing with problems in the rest of the universe. But the key players – Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow – continue to develop through this film, and their personal journeys are enough to give the audience a real emotional hammering. Last year, I thought that Ant-Man and the Wasp felt small and underwhelming, coming immediately after the grandness of Infinity War. Now, after this battering of my senses and emotions, the upcoming Spider-Man: Far from Home is looking like a refreshment break.
As a finale to this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame delivers on every level, making full use of its run-time and feeling like a true epic. In my opinion, it’s the best film to come out of this fantastic franchise. As for whether it’s the best superhero film ever, I’d have to watch it again to judge properly, but it’s definitely somewhere in my top two. Rating: 5/5!