It’s finally here – the epic conclusion to a story arc spanning an incredible 21 prior movies over an even more incredible 11 years. While we know there are many, many more Marvel movies to come, none of that makes Avengers: Endgame any less exciting, any less heartfelt or emotionally satisfying for those true believers who’ve been following Marvel’s cinematic saga since 2008’s Iron Man set the tone all those years ago.
Avengers: Endgame is the end of this particular cinematic chapter that began with Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor and Black Widow and gave way to wily magicians, machine-gun toting raccoons, Black Panthers, ant-sized heroes, and endless Stan Lee cameos. Maybe because they were called the Infinity Stones we thought this adventure would go on forever. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and this will be the end of the road for some of these iconic characters.
There will be cheers. There will be tears. There will be a lot of rewatching previous films because there’s so much to take in as Endgame literally ‘assembles’ elements from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to bring this enormous superhero saga to a fitting conclusion. With galactically high expectations from its massive fanbase, I’m happy to report it didn’t fail to impress – though they did ruin poor Thor, which I’ll get to in this largely spoiler-free review.
Avengers: Endgame opens with a short, yet moving scene showing where Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) was just before Thanos (Josh Brolin) clicks his fingers at the end of Infinity War, disintegrating half of life throughout the universe. This helps explain why the arrow-slinger was absent for the last adventure and sets the dark tone for the story and provides the motivation for the drastic change we find with Hawkeye later in the film.
Following Hawkeye’s return, we jump forward a little bit in time to find the surviving Avengers all in various states of suffering, sadness and anger after their tragic defeat at the hands of Thanos in last year’s Infinity War. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is particularly emotionally broken after watching Peter Parker (Tom Holland) die in his arms and leaves the team to start a new family life. With the help of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), the remaining heroes travel to a distant planet to confront Thanos one final time to retrieve the Infinity Stones…only to discover he’s destroyed them. There is no way to undo what has been done. Any hope that was left in these defiant heroes is crushed and they must move on with their lives as best they can. Some deal with the loss better than others…
Five years later Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) returns from the Quantum Realm to find the world very different from how he left it. He goes to the Avengers facility with a plan to travel back in time via the Quantum Realm to undo what Thanos has done. However they will need the brains of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in order to figure out how to achieve this crazy plan safely. Once the reluctant Stark is on board, they have no room for error to achieve this dangerous task. And of course, things don’t go according to plan. Or do they? I’m looking at you, Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).
At this stage of the game, the performances are pretty much what you’d expect from the Marvel movies. From veteran actors to relative newcomers, these are talented actors playing roles that fit them like the most comfortable gloves in the world (or should that be body-hugging super-suits?). Any attempt to even try singling them out individually would turn this review into a Wiki page, but if you’ve enjoyed spending time with this crew up to now, you’ll be (mostly) ecstatic here. Even among this gigantic cast, however, there are two notable performances that really stood out for me.
The first is Robert Downey Jr. Once again, he’s nothing short of incredible in his portrayal of Tony Stark. The story has given him much more to draw on and there are some stellar moments where he literally steals the show from the other cast. Most notably is his scene when he returns to the Avengers facility after drifting through space and being rescued by Captain Marvel. He’s bitter, angry and grieving at the loss of Peter Parker and has a very powerful and emotional encounter with Captain America (Chris Evans) and the rest of the surviving heroes. You almost forget you’re watching a superhero movie as Downey Jr. reminds us what an incredible dramatic actor he is – and really the lynchpin of this entire saga.
The second standout performance, for very different reasons, is Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor. I don’t know what they were thinking when they once again changed the character (let’s be honest, Thor is different in every film) but this is the worst rendition of the God of Thunder put to screen – and it was for cheap laughs.
Thor takes his failure at saving his friends quite badly, and becomes a drunk. So when we encounter him 5 years later, he’s overweight, more inebriated than normal and grown out his hair and beard like a pot-smoking hobo beach bum from Byron Bay Australia (I speak from experience). It’s funny at first, however this “beach-bum Thor” is maintained throughout the entire film. I was waiting for the Rocky-like “get back into shape” montage or the use of time-travel for him to go away and come back ready as the thunder-powered badass but it never happens. It doesn’t help that his hair looks like a cheap wig and Hemsworth, honestly, lacks the acting chops of his seasoned co-stars. He looks out of place compared to the other characters and ruins many emotional moments when the camera pans to him looking ridiculously cheesy. It’s such a disappointment given how well everything else is done in this movie.
Directors Anthony Russo & Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War) have done an impressive job putting this mammoth movie together. Ignoring the woeful portrayal of Thor, the rest of the film is simply outstanding. Yes, there’s some Hulk-sized plot holes but the story is so massive that it’s going to happen – especially when time-travel involved. With so much focus on the relationships of so many characters and the juggling of elements that tie in with previous scenes from many of the previous movies, it’s not hard to forgive some of the shortcomings and simply appreciate how well done this finale is.
With a run-time of 3-hours it would be easy to make a movie like this feel like a drag, however with the perfect balance of comedy (get ready for Hilarious Hulk) and real heartstrings pulling drama, as well as jaw-dropping action sequences, those hours fly right by.
The thing that I really loved about this movie is that while it’s very much a comic book story, there are strong themes driving that story. This movie is about hope. It’s about never giving up on those we love. But it’s also about saying goodbye. And not just for the characters, but for the audience as well. Make no mistake: this is the end of the line for some heroes and it’s time for fresh blood to take up the mantle.
With an impressive cast of big name actors from all previous 21 films, Avengers: Endgame is a highly enjoyable and satisfying conclusion to the Infinity Stone story arc. Despite the cringeworthy “Beach Bum Thor” played for cheap laughs, this is truly an amazing cinematic journey that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, if only to take everything in. Above all the insane effects, the incredible action, or even the miracle of concluding an 11-year story arc in such amazing fashion is the realization that we still care about these characters, and still aren’t ready to say goodbye. And it’s definitely time to say goodbye, at least for some. Pack your tissues and prepare for the emotional rollercoaster ride that is Avengers: Endgame.