AVENGERS: ENDGAME – an Alternative Lens review

Starring: Robert Downey Jr (Sherlock Holmes), Chris Evans (Snowpiercer), Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again), Chris Hemsworth (Rush), Scarlett Johansson (Ghost in the Shell), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Paul Rudd (Role Models), Brie Larson (Room), Karen Gillan (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Josh Brolin (Sicario)

Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo (Captain America: Civil War)

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Pain & Gain)

Runtime: 3 hours 1 minute 

Release Date: 25 April (UK), 26 April (US)

I can’t review Avengers: Endgame. Not like I usually do for other films. Well, maybe “can’t” isn’t the right word, because I technically could. The immature part of my mind wants to let loose and gush like the fangirl I unashamedly was as I watched it, but that wouldn’t be fair to those who haven’t seen it. Saying anything about this movie would doubtlessly give something away. I could take it slow and try to avoid stepping on the mines, but as hard as I try there’ll always be a mine I didn’t notice, and the safest thing to do is not even try and cross that field. I guess what I should say is this: I won’t review Avengers: Endgame.

If you’re just looking for a simple yay-or-nay recommendation, here it is: it’s amazing. Pays off in practically every way you could want to. There’s no other movie quite like it, and I doubt there ever will be again. See it as soon as you can and on the best screen you can (I saw it in IMAX, and it was so worth it!). Go in as blind as possible and just enjoy this cinematic landmark in all of its glory. With that said, the cynical side of me knows talking about this movie right now is what’s going to drive traffic, and I do want to write something whilst this in this state of elation from having just watched it for the first time, so here goes…something.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a remarkable job of translating the essence of comic book storytelling into the language of cinema. There have been some translation errors, mainly in how the truncation of the narrative flow often means less opportunity to go on exploratory tangents and a stricter focus on the central plot. It’s been a staggering journey in retrospect to have watched the MCU grow from the ground-laying solo adventures of Phase One, build to an industry-defining moment with The Avengers, branch out in new and exciting ways through Phases Two and Three, all leading to this very moment. Many have compared the bigger Marvel movies like Civil War and Infinity War to the universe-spanning event comics of their source material, but in comparison to Endgame they feel like meagre tie-in miniseries.

This is a film every bit as sprawling and vast as any universe-spanning crossover, balancing an ever-expanding cast of characters, a cavalcade of locations, clashing tones and genres, and pretty much every other variable you can think of, and yet somehow it all adds up. You’d never would have thought it, but there is not a single prior film in this franchise that ultimately pay off in this film, so if you’ve skipped out on any entries over the years or decided not to revisit certain films because you “don’t think they’ll be important”, I’d recommend you do some revision beforehand. I know that’s kind of an elitist thing to say, but that’s how the comic books worked too. Endgame can be enjoyed by fans who’ve only followed the adventures of their favourite characters through this saga but, if you want to understand the full extent of what this story means, having prior investment in every corner of this universe is going to give you the ultimately desired payoff.

I think there are a lot of people, even those who like these movies, who have misdiagnosed the secret behind the success of the MCU. Some just shrug and point to the spectacle of the action sequences and the special effects, but for as good as these elements are in most Marvel films you can get those moments in so many other blockbusters. Others, and especially cynical Hollywood types, think the formula lies solely in their pioneering work with universe-building, but we’ve seen what has happened with failed franchises that thought fan service and foreshadowing was the magic bullet. All of that is merely the cement holding together the house that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and you wouldn’t try making a house entirely out of cement, would you? The actual building blocks, and the real reason audiences have stuck around for a decade, are the characters.

It’s hard to think back now to all of these characters and remember where they started. The warmongering puckish billionaire, the meek scientist with anger issues, the arrogant prince from another dimension, the sickly but goodhearted kid from Brooklyn; all of them have evolved so much right before our eyes. Like all good storytelling, it all comes back to seeing relatable people grow and change over time, and where better to test the metal of these characters and reveal their truest potential than in the direst of situations? I can’t describe exactly what happens to these characters in Endgame, or even definitively say who is or isn’t in it, but I will say that everyone gets what they need in proportion to their importance to the plot and the MCU as a whole. Maybe your favourite character doesn’t get as much screen time as you’d like, or the film misses the occasional opportunity for an arc payoff, but when put into perspective it’d be unreasonable to expect even more.

Endgame clocks in at just over three hours and still feels like a mad dash to the finish line. The fact is does have as many breathers for character development and tension releasing is a wonder of storyline construction, and only made possible by all of the extensive work done by its predecessors. This is a movie overflowing with content, all delivered in a frenzied manner that no other film would even think of attempting, and yet it still feels emotionally satisfying and worthy of eleven years of build-up? That is a flipping miracle, and to ask for any more from it would risk encumbering the film with more weight than it can handle. People often bemoan how blockbusters seem to be getting longer and longer these days, but Endgame absolutely earns its gargantuan length and there’s nary a moment of it that isn’t captivating, so watch your liquid intake or be prepared for the hardest workout your bladder has ever had.

And that’s all I can say. I have witnessed not only what will doubtlessly be one of the best films of 2019, but a milestone of cinematic achievement in all disciplines, and I can’t even begin to get into detail. Writing this review has made me feel like Roy Batty at the end of Blade Runner, trying to impart the monumentality of what I have witnessed, knowing I cannot possibly do it justice and resigning myself to my fate. Luckily, all you have to do to understand my current state of mind is to go see the film yourself.

No film has quite made me feel so emotionally in awe since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and that was just the third entry in a trilogy. Avengers: Endgame is the finale to a twenty-two part saga stretching over a decade of storytelling, spanning multiple characters, filmmakers, tones and even genres, and concludes in a manner befitting that magnitude. I am exhausted, folks. Three hours of fangirling nearly non-stop has left me drained. That said, as soon as Marvel announces whatever they are planning next, count me ready to go this rollercoaster all over again.



Author: Jennifer Heaton

Aspiring screenwriter, film critic, pop culture fanatic and perpetual dreamer.

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