“I am inevitable.” – Thanos
Twelve long months have elapsed since Avengers: Infinity War rewrote the book on epic films, and took us on a thrill ride that equalled anything ever seen before on cinema screens. Its stunning ending became a talking point for fans all year. It’s no exaggeration to say that we had never seen anything like it.
In fact, it’s no exaggeration either to say that we’ve never seen anything like the Marvel Movie Universe (MMU) before. Ever. Yes, film franchises have lasted longer – Jams Bond, is an example and Godzilla is another. But the longevity there has been punctuated by reboots along the way. The Daniel Craig Bond isn’t the same man who faced Doctor No, Red Grant, Oddjob, or Octopussy. The Toho Godzilla of 1984 wiped away almost three decades worth of sequels and was a direct 30 years later follow up to the original.
But the MMU stated off 11 years, and 21 films ago. Each one adding a little bit, whether we realised it or not, to one big damn finish, and now here we are at film number 22.
As usual, I’ll lay my cards on the table and announce straight up that there WILL be plot spoilers here – but not to worry. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, the spoilers are safely tucked away in The Spoiler Zone at the end of the review, and you’ll be warned in plenty of time to read no further. In fact, to help you veer away from the temptation, along with the warnings – I’ll even give you a countdown. If you choose to carry on reading, then the blame for ruining any surprises lies at your feet, not mine. Deal? Okay – then we’ll begin.
The closure of Avengers: Infinity War was one of the most surprising and downbeat endings I’ve seen. Our heroes failed. The day was not saved, and half of all living things were dusted by the click of Thanos’s Infinity Gauntlet. Most of the Avengers were wiped out, including the likes of Spider-Man, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch, Falcon – the list goes on. Following that, Ant-Man found himself trapped in the Quantum Realm, as everyone who knew he was there was also turned to dust.
But we were left with one hope – Captain Marvel, who was introduced to cinema screens last month. She was summoned as a last act by Nick Fury as he too was blown away on the wind.
Not since Han Solo was trapped in a block of carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back have I been this anxiously waiting for the release of a film with (hopefully) a resolution to the cliff-hanger.
Filmed back to back with Infinity War, Endgame had a lot to live up to if was going to meet the expectations of millions of fans across the globe. The hype around the release of the film title and the teasers and trailers was amped up to Star Wars levels.
Cunningly, Marvel Studios have kept the tension by featuring only those cast members we know to have survived on trailers and the film posters. So, when the film starts, taking place a few minutes after the finger snap, which I guess we can call “the snappening”, the death toll is still mounting and the remaining Avengers, knowing they have failed spectacularly, are trying miserable to come to terms with their failure and their personal losses.
It’s a sombre scene, seeing the characters that we’ve been along with for this unprecedented cinematic ride trying to cope with the scale of the devastating loss, not only to humanity – but everywhere in the galaxy. They didn’t even beat Thanos after he accomplished his mission – he merely disappeared on his own terms with his work done.
Fast forward five years, and the Earth seems to be on the cusp of dystopia. Nobody has really recovered from the devastating death toll, but on a side-line – Thanos’s intention of remaining life seems to be coming true – whales have been seen in the Hudson River now that there’s nowhere near the same pollution levels. The Avengers are being co-ordinated by the Black Widow from their HQ, when a means of catching up to Thanos appears. If they can get the Infinity Stones back….
And so, we’re off on a three-hour epic that winds, twists, turns and leaves the audience little time to catch their collective breaths. The film is an amazing hybrid of Days of Future Past (but without the X-Men) Mission: Impossible and a bit of Back to the Future (but with superheroes). Culminating in a final sprawling battle that we knew was coming since being foretold in Thor: The Dark World and is on the scale of epic that we last saw in Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies and Ready Player One.
It’s an amazing feat to round off the eleven-year span of the previous films, while also paying homage to what has gone before. Endgame celebrates the MMU legacy from Iron Man (2008) onward and brings a satisfying conclusion that will please just about everybody. Emotions will certainly run high that the curtain is being closed on this run, BUT – with some tantalizing threads left to be picked up when Marvel Studios resumes its production slate with some standalone films.
We all enjoyed discussing the events of Infinity War, but the paradigms raised in Endgame will be debated for a long, long time. There’s nothing to complain about here – the film is pure, unfettered joy with the cast giving some of their best performances to date, in particular, Chris Hemsworth who just stood out this time in my view. Lightening Thor up a bit in Ragnarok has worked well, adding dimension to a character who previously seemed both pompous and stiff.
And that’s it for those of you who haven’t seen the film yet. Don’t walk – RUN to the nearest screen and wallow in pure escapism at its best. Those of us who’ve seen it need to discuss some stuff that you won’t want to know – for we are about to enter……THE SPOILER ZONE!
(Okay, seriously – go away if you haven’t seen the film.)
And you’re in The Spoiler Zone.
Wow, so many rumours online about how the film was going to go, and how it was going to end. How was Thanos going to be defeated? My personal favourite was the one that stated that Ant-Man was going to shrink to microscopic size, fly into Thanos’s butt and grow to Giant-Man, thus literally bursting him from inside. Ewww – can you even imagine? Would you even want to see that?
Things that particularly impressed me in the film were:
The sparing use of Captain Marvel. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brie Larson in the role. But she’s so damn powerful. Maybe too powerful to be effective in the story because, seemingly during the first encounter with Thanos in the film, she takes him down with relative ease and physically restrains him (yes, it was a sneak attack, but still…) I’m glad she was limited to saving Tony Stark (how come NOBODY saw that coming? It was so glaringly obvious that she’d be the one to fly into space and carry out the rescue) and appearing to lend a hand at the end.
The Hulk. How cool was it seeing an articulate Hulk? Particularly when he resisted being destructive when they visited the battle in New York and was clearly embarrassed by seeing his former enraged self.
The genial interplay between the characters, the casual humour – straight out of the comics, but not at the expense of the drama and never sending up the characters. Effectively used, it actually heightened the drama and the tragedy unfolding on the screen. This was particularly true of Chris Hemsworth’s stunning portrayal of Thor, having given up and become an overweight, beer swilling slob, rarely leaving his cottage in New Asgard.
The time travel along the MMU timeline, visiting various points – and in particular, making good use of the plot of Thor: The Dark World. That’s always been the weak link in the series for me. I’m happy that this film gave it an extra layer of relevance to the overall arc. Plus, a cameo for Natalie Portman that nobody saw coming. Jane Foster had disappeared from the series quickly, without explanation. I’m glad that was rectified.
Captain America wielding Mjolnir was an amazing sight – and again, hinted at in Age of Ultron when he almost moved it, while Thor looked on, worried. Thor seemingly had a suspicion that Cap would one day be worthy. Another nice tie in, all tied up nicely.
I found the timeline confusing until I read an explanation from directors the Russo Brothers. I couldn’t get my head around Captain America changing his own history by remaining in the past and marrying Peggy Carter. Does that mean there are two Caps? One in hiding while the other gets thawed out and busts crime? What happened to Peggy’s original husband? Hmmm? Well, according to the Russos, after completing his task to return the Infinity Stones to where they needed to be, he went into an alternate dimension. PLUS – Peggy never actually named her husband in the films; it could well be Steve Rogers. What this does is (if you don’t think about it too deeply) close off the original Captain America arc pretty elegantly, leaving us ready for Sam Wilson’s tenure as the NEW Cap. But it also leaves the door open to explore further what Captain America did in those years in the alternate dimension. So, for us, Cap is equally active AND done. To apply a scientific principle – Schrodinger’s Cap.
I am CONVINCED that Loki is alive, well, active and living up to his job title of God of Mischief. He disappeared with the tesseract in his hand. Mark my words. He’ll be back.
And finally, Asgardians of the Galaxy? I like it. Yes please. I’ll be waiting for that.
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