All leading up to this.
In the wake of Thanos’ victory, the remaining Avengers regroup to figure out how to live up to their name. But there are no easy paths to setting things right and its only through the unexpected return of Ant-Man that an opportunity presents itself – one daring, desperate way to undo what was done.
“Avengers: Endgame” does everything it needed to do, and then some. It does some of the things you expected it to do, but perhaps not in quite the way you expected. You may be expecting an action-packed adventure across time and space as the heroes desperately seek redemption after their first real defeat but what you may not be expecting is how much of a character-driven victory lap the Russos and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have managed to weave organically into the story to propel us to the MCU’s most potent and emotive finale to date.
While it ends well, it has to be said that doesn’t mean all’s well and Endgame has easily the worst first half hour/ forty-five minutes of any Marvel movie to date. The pacing is all over the place, it feels at times like a clumsy assemblage of trailer footage and simultaneously feels too rushed and painfully tedious. Of course, how could it not be? How could there not be a feeling of anti-climax after the crushing end of “Avengers: Infinity War”, bringing with it an impossible burden of expectation and the challenge of recalibrating the story’s momentum so as not to burn out too soon?
Once it gets past the necessary managing of the audience’s expectations, including a sly structural nod to “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan” – not the only gimmick the movie borrows from the “Star Trek” movies – and the story properly begins, it’s an irresistible rise to the spectacular finale.
You’ll laugh (although maybe less than you might be expecting), you’ll cry (probably more often than you might be expecting, happy and sad tears) and you’ll lose count of the number of punch the air moments as they mount up. While I got many – most, in fact – of my predictions wrong, my expectations were confounded in rewarding, thrilling and surprising ways.
At times it feels like it handles the number of characters slightly less elegantly than they did in “Infinity War” when ironically they had far more to juggle. Sure, it tears up the movie convention on causality by staking out a radically different approach but by and large gets away with it thanks to a nifty expository cameo but time and again, it’s the emotional beats of these characters who we’ve come to know and love that gives the film the strength to overcome such minor quibbles. It calls for an amendment of the franchise’s golden rule: a true Marvel fan can now leave their seat before the end credits finish so long as it’s only for a quick pee break and then a quick return to their seat. You won’t want to go during the movie itself, there’s really no moment of the film that’s ‘missable’ – even during that early slog – and I’d be ecstatic if they announced a ‘Lord Of The Rings’-style extended four-hour cut at some point but be aware: there are no mid or end credits scenes per se, but there is a mid-credits flourish and…something at the very end.
“Avengers: Endgame” is a triumphant, poignant conclusion to Marvel’s Infinity Saga, celebrating both the journey and the destination, dazzling with sights old and new in a movie which runs three hours but part of you won’t want to end at all. It doesn’t quite change everything, but it changes a whole lot and while it’s very definitely an end, it’s not ‘the end’ – except perhaps the end of the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Where it goes from here, only time will tell.