Main cast: Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Dr Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Don Cheadle (James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Gwyneth Paltrow (Virginia “Pepper” Potts), and Josh Brolin (Thanos)
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Good lord, I think this review holds the record for having the most number of tags ever. For the main cast listing, I’ve limited it to the core key players, but yes, be assured that nearly everyone and anyone who is in the last 600 Marvel Cinematic Universe movies shows up here, although amusingly Black Panther seems to have misplaced his sweetheart since his own movie.
As you can see from the list, Avengers: Endgame nicely shines the spotlight back on the core heroes that started the whole thing – Tony, Steve, Nat, Clint, Thor, and Hulk – before the cast of heroes bloated up considerably after the first Avengers film back in 2012, and actually strengthens the bond tying them together to bring on so much feels. Oh, and for Captain Marvel fans, sorry, after the rah-rah during the publicity tour for her movie about she is the most powerful hero ever, she basically gets what amounts to a few glorified cameo appearances when this movie needs a deus ex machina to move the plot.
If you have been following the previous movies, many things finally fall into place neatly. Ever wondered why Ant-Man even had a movie of his own? Well, after the events of the previous Avengers movie, those that remain – Captains America and Marvel, Black Widow, Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Nebula, Rocket, and War Machine – manage to track down Thanos only to learn that the genocidal villain had destroyed the infinity stones after he’d used them. Thor decapitates him in a rage, and… that’s it.
We cut to five years later. The world is slowly recovering. Captain Marvel heads back to help other planets – bye, and we won’t see her until much later in the movie – while Clint grows a faux-Mohawk and turns into a bitter vigilante killing criminal heads all over the world in a crusade to exercise his own survivor’s guilt and self-loathing. Steve tries to move on and even starts a support group, but he keeps going back to what-could-have-been’s. Nat tries to keep the Avengers together, although she wonders why she is doing that most of these days. Tony and Steve have a big blow-up because Tony blames Steve’s defection as the main cause of the Earth being so vulnerable to Thanos, and heads off to start a family with Pepper while swearing off heroics. Bruce manages to co-exist with Hulk in the same CGI body – which also conveniently gives the film makers an opportunity to make a new solo Hulk movie without needing to de-age Mark Ruffalo using expensive studio gimmicks – and is probably the only one having some semblance of inner peace, while Thor retreats to get drunk and grow flabby. I wish I’m kidding about that last bit.
And here’s where Scott demonstrates why he has two movies to his name: after the events in his own previous solo outing, he manages to escape from the quantum world, only to learn that what was five hours in that place were five years in real time, and he had missed the great dusting apocalypse. Desperate, he seeks out Tony and Nat, to tell them that he has a wild idea: perhaps they can travel through the quantum world to exit an another point in time – a time when the infinity stones still exist, and they can grab these stones back to present time to create their own infinity gauntlet. Will what Scott calls a “time heist” work?
Now, if you have read my reviews of the movies in the MCU, you will know that while I am generally a fan, I am not a raving fanatic determined to tell everyone that these movies are classics. They aren’t – some didn’t age too well if I watch them again today – but what makes most of them work is how good they are as a vicarious joyride. It is so good to switch off the brain and just sit back and enjoy. The movies in this franchise have generally below average to mediocre stories, and this one is no different. The story is… well, let’s just say that it’s there. Many of the momentous things that happen in this movie are foreshadowed in a heavy handed and clumsy manner, so much so that my brain recognizes the tropes instantly and is not surprised one bit when the tropes eventually play out like expected.
My heart is a different matter.
This is where I should also point out that Avengers: Endgame is not a grand rush into the battle of the century from start to finish. The script calls for some emotional scenes especially in the early half of this three-hour rear-end numbing movie, and the cast delivers. Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and to a lesser extent Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner all go beyond the call of duty to transform what could have been hammy lines to heartrending moments of pathos or heartbreaking crowning moments of inspiring heroism. Chris Hemsworth gets to deliver some comedy in a fat suit, but when the scene calls for it, he can also do some serious moments of pathos, although his ability is at the same tier as Mr Evans instead of Mr Downey Jr. Speaking of the latter, Mr Downey Jr looks ancient next to Mr Evans.
As for the inevitable grand battle, I like how every key character gets some moment to shine. But for the rest of the movie, however, I love how the underappreciated heroes Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Black Widow are the most valuable players here next to Captain America and Iron Man. Nat, especially, is given the role of the heart of the team that binds them all together, and this role feels natural rather than contrived. It also gives the character an added layer of poignancy: her self-loathing, clumsily introduced in the second Avengers film, contrasts beautifully with her determination to do her best to the only family she knows.
What I really like here is how the movie remembers the close bonds between Nat, Tony, Steve, and Clint and capitalizes on that to deliver some genuine gut punches full of feels. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this is the first movie in this franchise that has me tear up a few times during the whole thing. The brain recognizes that my emotions are being manipulated in a blatant manner, but my heart doesn’t care, because all those feels are glorious to behold. I am swept up in an emotional roller-coaster ride as I bask in the larger-than-life portrayals of selfless heroism and sacrifice.
Some of the heroes here find closure, and I find myself smiling through tears as I see them off. It’s crazy, given that I am not that enamored of the movies in this franchise, but I feel like I’m saying goodbye to old friends that I have known for a decade – sadly, because it is a parting of sorts, and gladly, because they have earned their goodbyes. Others will clearly have more adventures in this franchise, and I find myself thinking that I don’t mind going along for the ride. It’s hard to get up from my seat and leave even after the credits have stopped rolling, because I feel like I will be losing hold of something precious if I leave the cinema. That’s such a stupid notion, I know, because Disney isn’t going to stop making movies in this franchise anytime soon. I would probably be sick of them again a few months down the road, complaining with others that there are too many cape crap in the big screen these days.
But for now… a part of me is even thinking of subscribing to Disney+, so god help me, I hope I recover my sanity soon.
See, that’s why I am giving Avengers: Endgame five oogies. The story is mediocre, but watching it, I don’t care about all that – I only know that this movie is giving me the time of my life, surprising me with just how hard-hitting it can be in the guts so many times, and I love it. If that has been the endgame all along, this is one stop I’m glad to reach. It’s been a pleasure, so let’s hope Kevin Feige doesn’t get run down by a truck or something anytime soon, as I’m really looking forward to finding out what the future will be like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.