Robert Downey Jr.
Avengers: Endgame, Marvel's big and ridiculously expensive finale, finally hit theatres in mid-2019 and quickly became the box-office behemoth it was always going to be. The sequel to Avengers: Infinity War promised an even grander scale, extra character crossovers and an even more devastating and epic climax.
Set after the "Snap", supervillain Thanos' eradication of half of the universe using his trusty gauntlet, Endgame begins with an appropriately somber tone as we see Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) lose his entire family, Tony Stark stuck in space ready to die and we witness the hopeless world left behind after the Avengers failed to save it. Stark is promptly saved thanks to new recruit Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) but refuses to help track down Thanos (Josh Brolin) with the other heroes. This mission turns out to be a bittersweet success as the villain is caught and punished yet the Snap proves to be irreversible as the Infinity Gauntlet was destroyed some time ago. This doesn't help with the Avengers' morale: Thor retreats into depression, Hulk settles his inner conflicts to lead a more peaceful life, Hawkeye becomes a vigilante and Tony Stark spends his time raising the daughter he feared he'd never see again.
In a miraculous turn of events, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is suddenly spat out of the Quantum Realm machine he found himself stuck inside at the end of Ant-Man And The Wasp, while the Snap was happening, and helps the leftover Avengers come up with a potential solution. Said solution, of course, is time travel and, even though Tony Stark initially dismisses that as far-fetched and too dangerous, he later cracks the science of it all and agrees to give it a good old go. A long-shot plan is soon formulated and the Avengers are quickly hopping back to very specific moments in time when the Infinity Gauntlet's stones were up for grabs. They encounter some rather large speed bumps along the way, forcing them to improvise, and a pre-Snap Thanos becomes aware of what's going on. This leads to a massive battle in the film's third act involving all the heroes where big, dramatic sacrifices are made.
Two whole paragraphs it took to relay this plot right there and, while it may sound like a non-stop, action-packed sci-fi comic-book rollercoaster ride, it both is and it isn't. Endgame's approach is very different to Infinity War from the get-go in that it very much prioritizes character moments and closing character arcs over mindless popcorn movie action, though it delivers some of that too. In terms of pacing, this is closer to the first Avengers film which was peppered with a majority of slower scenes aiming to introduce familiar characters into a new plot. Here, it's all about giving certain characters significant, earned send-offs or fuller arcs and, even though this is an admirable endeavour, it also prevents this movie from ever really taking off. The time-travel stuff is the closest we come to the film feeling awake (before the end battle) but getting there takes a good amount of patience.
That said, even if the film may test the average viewer's attention span, it is never too boring for comic-book fans as there is something fascinating about seeing these larger-than-life heroes being completely broken down, then rebuilt and broken down again. It's also a lot of fun to see them interact with older versions of themselves, characters they never made their peace with, meet others from a different Avenger's universe for the first time and eventually fight it out with Thanos' army. The tone throughout is mostly nostalgic and downbeat but there's still a decent amount of humour in there, though it is hit-and-miss. Luckily, whenever the action kicks in, it is very well done.
Visually, this is one of the MCU's most ambitious, slickest efforts as the end battle, especially, is both a shameless CGI overdose and a spectacular treat. Parts of it are essentially live-action two page comic-book spreads and, coupled with some clever twists and big surprises, this makes for a very satisfying last hurrah. The cast does a great job on the whole and it's genuinely moving to see the end of an era, though the film does spread the emotions a bit thick at the end.
Avengers: Endgame certainly has its moments and it delivers all the scale and drama you'd expect for the end of a big franchise. Unfortunately, a rather convoluted plot, the uneven pacing and overall downer mood means it isn't quite as fun or as exciting as the movie before it. Still, it is certainly competent, busy and entertaining enough to please fans of the Marvel saga and not put everyone else straight to sleep.