WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!
The monumental conclusion to Kevin Feige’s decade-long development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has led to this—Avengers: Endgame, which has the surviving superheroes reeling after Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) half-the-universe reducing snap in Avengers: Infinity War. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), among a few others are left to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward after their friends and families have been decimated.
The movie is full of minor surprises, including removing Thanos and the Infinity Stones out of the equation in the beginning and making a leap five years into the future to show the aftermath of his irreversible snap. Some characters have moved on with their lives (Iron Man) but some have not (Hawkeye), although most have tried (Captain America). With the sudden reappearance of Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), randomly pulled out of the quantum realm into the semi-apocalyptic present, the team have a hope in going into a previous point in time and space to retrieve the Stones and bring back their loved ones. This prompts a delightful trip down memory lane as the Avengers return to moments and encounter other characters in their pasts, from the first arrival of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to Earth with a nod to the infamous elevator scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Tony Stark meeting his own father, Howard Stark (John Slattery), and Steve Rogers seeing his “best girl” Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) again. However, going to Vormir to retrieve the Soul Stone means that Black Widow and Hawkeye battle over who will make the ultimate sacrifice for their friends, and reducing the Avengers to virtually just male survivors.
Until they actually succeed! The Stones are placed into a new gauntlet and Hulk, the strongest Avenger, makes the second snap. Unfortunately, Nebula’s (Karen Gillan) cybernetic link triggers her past self in 2014 to reveal to Thanos what happens in his future and the Mad Titan decides to intervene in 2023. Seeing how wiping out half the universe left the survivors to dwell on the past and work towards undoing his work, Thanos threatens to completely wipe out the universe altogether. The battle over the Stones begins again but with renewed spirit as every single superhero returns and brings armies, from Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). This revelation is when the opening night audience at my screening broke into cheers and applause. This epic clash, staged like a historical Renaissance painting with some truly amazing moments with some of the most iconic weapons in the MCU in action, concludes with Tony Stark making the final snap to destroy Thanos once and for all at the cost of his own life. At the wrap, every character gets his or her final moment of closure while reuniting. Steve Rogers is sent back in time to replace the Stones back where and when they were retrieved and also chooses to stay and live his life with Peggy Carter in the sweetest ending ever.
A few more members of the cast of Community make it into the MCU. This time, Señor Ben Chang (Ken Jeong) and Shirley Bennett (Yvette Nicole Brown) make cameos as a security guard and an observant bystander.
For one shining moment near the end, every female superhero gathers around to protect the Infinity Stones in an unsubtle moment of female empowerment. Too little too late, in my opinion.
This tonally heavy film has its moments of dark humour, like when Thor beheads Thanos and states, “I went for the head.” Endgame also has the most swearing in a Marvel movie. (I counted at least three instances!) It’s a real jolt when the experienced heroes go back to the brighter and more colourful days of the past.
Thor, who it is revealed to have been drinking himself into a smelly stupor after the first snap, is high-key hilarious and tragic all at once thanks to Hemsworth’s balance of comedy and pathos. Once one of my least favourite Avengers, Thor is secretly the perfect middle ground between the quip-ready Iron Man and the emotionally grounded Captain America.
Cap gets to show his brains over his brawn when he tricks SHEILD/HYDRA agents in giving him the Tesseract and when he has to battle his younger self (!). All he needs to say are a few choice words that drew big laughs from fans.
I would say the entire “will Captain America or Iron Man die?” debate is really about giving a satisfying conclusion to both the character arcs. In this case, Endgame does achieve the most satisfying end to their arcs as built up over the course of eleven years and three trilogies. Tony Stark becomes the sacrificial father-figure, redeeming himself of his previous self-centred ways. Steve Rogers gets to live the life that was taken from him when he became frozen in time and he passes on his shield to Falcon (Anthony Mackie).
Ratings (out of 5):
Overall Average: 4.6