Eleven years, twenty two films and countless millions later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it is coming to an end. In the aftermath of the destruction reeked by Thanos in Infinity War, the survivors are coming to terms with the new world they find themselves living in after half the population has been decimated.
Quickly returning to earth thanks to the help of Captain Marvel, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of the remaining Avengers who survived the snap try to get their heads around what just happened and how to deal with it. After a quick, and unsuccessful trip to space in which Thanos reveals that he destroyed the infinity stones just two days earlier, the group of heroes are left adrift and at a loss of what exactly to do.
Skip to five years down the line, where Cap (Chris Evans) is leading a support group, Hawkeye’s (Jeremy Renner) gone on a mad killing spree and got a really bad tattoo sleeve, and Natasha (Scarlett Johannson) is keeping up an intergalactic space force with the remaining gang that have stuck around. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), on the other hand, has gone full Big Lebowski, grown out his hair and lives in solitude in a little cottage with Korg and spends his days drinking and playing video games.
The three hour run time could feel like Marvel exuding a bloated sense of self-importance, in it’s attempts to fit twenty two films of characters in one final, epic film. Unlike some other films that push the two hour mark and feel like an endless drag *cough* Django Unchained *cough* – Endgame, amazingly, is able to balance the different narrative strands with relative equality. What follows is a funny, emotional and worthy tribute to both the superhero and time-travel films alike.
Going back in time to change the future could end up being a pointless, and possibly reductive, narrative – how much of the past could they change without affecting the future? There’s also the danger of the whole film turning into a ‘clip show’ of the greatest hits – but the Russo’s manage to avoid this by slotting the 2023 characters into the smaller moments with a nod to scenes of the previous films, but only as much as a passing glance. The trips back in time are only brief in their nostalgia while being more that simple fan service.
One of Marvel strong points, as opposed the po-face seriousness of many recent DC films, is it’s ability not to take itself too seriously. There are some characters to whom the comic relief comes naturally – Thor, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) – but even these characters are allowed genuinely heartfelt moments during their trips back in time across the universe.
Without spoiling too much, the final twenty minutes genuinely feels like the end of an era as several characters’ story lines come to upsetting and touching ends. It’s able to deal with trauma, a sense of responsibility, questions of right and wrong, while still avoiding a sense of overwrought nostalgia or self-importance.
As always when it comes to the spectacle, the Russo Brothers really pull it out the bag. The scenes in space, especially on the planet of Voramir are almost overwhelming in their saturation of colour and light, with purple skies and a red moon dominating the screen – making it seem almost impossibly far away from Earth.
It’s pretty difficult to image wrapping up a series as huge as the current MCU. Endgame may not be perfect but it’s very, very close.