The end of the MCU as we know it
Warning: this review contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.
For a film that could have easily been entitled Avengers: Bad Haircuts Assemble, Endgame is a fitting conclusion to this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By paying homage to the journey taken by this franchise, the Russo brothers’ final Marvel offering is a goodbye letter to characters and fans alike. Retaining some of the typical traits of the MCU was inevitable, but no one could argue that fans were short-changed with what is easily one of the MCU’s best films.
When an angry purple thumb plays God by eviscerating half of all living creatures, Earth’s mightiest heroes must come to terms with their first real loss. Even the Infinity Stones are gone, and no solace can be derived from said purple thumb’s decapitation. Coping mechanisms vary. Some mire in self-reproach whilst others desperately scramble in the pursuit of purpose. One even goes on a homicidal rampage.
As a mournful atmosphere chokes the universe, Endgame remains keenly aware of the winning formula that made the MCU the envy of every Hollywood franchise. By continuously interweaving action and humour, this conclusive instalment doesn’t take itself too seriously. That is until it has to, and its patience reaps remarkable rewards.
A final opportunity to reverse Thanos’ devastation and avenge the dusted is presented by the ‘Time Heist’ – a last-ditch plan in which Tony Stark must risk the life he has since built with Pepper and their daughter, Morgan. This nostalgic return to the events of Avengers Assemble, Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: The Dark World (the latter of which I’m sure was no one’s first choice of destination) quickly becomes one of the finest acts in the MCU’s entire fifty-hour catalogue. It’s a ridiculous plan that conveniently serves the writers’ agenda. But it works so well. Our favourite heroes are gifted a chance to meet lost loved ones. And we’re gifted the sight of Chris Evans fighting another Chris Evans, both clad in their ass-accentuating spandex super-suits.
The journey to the past is where Endgame becomes a marked improvement upon last year’s bloated Infinity War. The satisfying conclusions to Tony and Steve’s arcs have genuine finality. This delivers an emotional resonance Thanos’ snap could only dream of. Moreover, Endgame isn’t riddled with the shoddy combat scenes featured in its predecessor, which looked more like the KO sequences of a two-decades-old Tekken game. And Infinity War’s misguided attempt at a feminist moment is corrected. This time, the women of the MCU band together not to fight just one female adversary, but to fight all opposing belligerents.
Endgame is far from perfect. It is still laden with the quintessential traits of a Marvel film: rigid three act structure; predictable, repetitive score; aesthetically unappealing, dense CGI sequences. It also features a bafflingly mistaken attempt at LGBT+ representation that redefines tokenistic inclusion. Much of this was expected from the world’s most successful film franchise. But Endgame has a refreshing sense of self-awareness, and can boast about a self-justifying three-hour runtime.
Now, the MCU must find its footing in a post-Iron Man world. With Spider-Man: Far From Home out soon, and lucrative Black Panther and Captain Marvel sequels undoubtedly in the works, it will most likely be a return to business-as-usual for the franchise. But at least Endgame stands as an apt quasi-conclusion, with every other moment made all the more enjoyable by the noticeable throwbacks.
The injustice of a well-crafted independent film being snubbed in favour of the latest mediocre event movie is all too common. But Endgame reminds me why we have blockbusters. Being part of an audience united in their emotions, and jointly cheering Captain America wielding Mjølnir and Black Panther’s arrival, is a brilliant and rare feeling.