(This review is free of major spoilers)
As a critic, it’s incredibly tough to talk about Avengers: Endgame in a way that genuinely critiques the film, putting aside fan culture, dramatic reactions, and any surrounding controversies. This is a task you must undertake to review any film, but in this case, when the movie in question is being referred to as a ‘cultural event’ and a ‘masterpiece’, the pressure to experience it through the lens of theories and hype is more intense than ever. But regardless, while I will be acknowledging the films that lead up to Endgame, I will be trying my best in this review to leave all fan instincts aside, and judge it on what I believe to be its merits and weaknesses.
Wisely starting small with a cold open of Hawkeye and his family moments prior to The Snap, the events of Endgame pan out rather slowly through its three-hour running time. This isn’t to say that the pace is too sluggish though – I surprised myself at the cinema by hardly even thinking about how long I’d been sat there, checking my watch maybe once prior to the brilliant final act. We get a good amount of time with each Avenger, and you never really find yourself wondering what another is up to before it switches to their current antics. While we all definitely have our favourites – I’m more keen on the Guardians of the Galaxy characters than the original Avengers – everyone is given a chance to shine, and the Russos make sure that no one is fighting to be seen in this huge ensemble cast.
Though I did certainly find myself wishing for some of James Gunn or Taika Waititi’s visual flair at points, the Russos do a solid job at maintaining a cohesive style and tone when combining so many different volatile elements. Beginning with low key natural tones and more grounded cinematography before shifting into the bombastic space exploration of Infinity War, the film manages to seamlessly transport you between grand scale adventure and more subtle, intimate dramatic moments without either mode losing its significance. This comes to a head in the last parts of the film, that expertly contrast possibly the hugest fight in Marvel history with some of the most beautiful character moments since Iron Man began this enormous saga.
Really, my only criticisms stem from the inevitability of so much of the film. Of course, I enjoyed it as a movie engineered to be as enjoyable as possible, but I couldn’t ignore blatant Audi product placement and several dramatic twists that frankly felt unsurprising and bland if you have any concept of the MCU release schedule for the next couple of years. Add in a forced scene where every female character gets together (embarrassingly proving that you can fit them all on screen with one medium shot), plus a First Gay Character moment that lasts less than a minute, and you have the makings of a corporate product desperately trying to pretend that it isn’t one. I get no joy from reminding myself and others that Disney is not your friend and does not care about your feelings beyond wanting to give them money, but Endgame, despite its brilliance, made it hard for me to forget.
I doubt you need my recommendation to see this film. It’s well on the way to becoming the highest grossing film of all time (though the shadow of Gone With The Wind looms large), and is being treated as a cinematic cultural pillar comparable to the original Star Wars. While only time will tell whether the latter is true, it is a solid and memorable blockbuster that I heartily recommend to Marvel fans – those who haven’t seen an MCU film, however, may want to preface their viewing by doing some homework.