Marvel Studios hit upon something big when they released “Iron Man” in 2008. It became the foundation of an idea that would see various Marvel heroes appearing in their own films but sharing a single setting. Eventually that would mean they would work together at times, either as partners or even a team. That plan came into fruition four years later when “Avengers” premiered in 2012. By then, Marvel had become a Disney subsidiary. That gave them the movie-making muscle needed to push their Marvel Cinematic Universe as far as it can go. All that welding of plot and story is crystallized in the fourth “Avengers” film, the ultimate “Endgame.”
Well actually, that conclusion really ought to have been last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” But the sheer volume of plot threads and character arcs to address really left Marvel Studios no choice but to split the narrative into a first and second part. It also enabled directors Joe and Anthony Russo to fully immerse the audience into near-complete investment in the loads and loads of characters throughout the MCU that play some role in the movie’s plot. It also allowed them to end “Infinity War” last year in a bold, subversive ending that showed the titular heroes failing and losing.
So it was that we found Earth’s mightiest heroes reeling after the mad alien Thanos (Josh Brolin) succeeded in claiming the six Infinity Stones, physical manifestations of power and authority over six concepts of existence. Thanos’ twisted notions of balance had him use the stones to kill fifty percent of all living creatures across the universe. We see the nightmarish effects of this action back in the ending of “Avengers: Infinity War,” the mid-credits scene of “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” and in the prologue of “Endgame,” this very film itself.
“Avengers: Endgame” thus starts with most of the surviving Avengers teaming up with the surviving Guardians of the Galaxy and the recently-returned Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) setting out to find the escaped Thanos and hopefully seize his Infinity Stones to undo what he did. The mission does not turn out as expected, so the movie takes of properly years after the events of “Infinity War,” as the survivors try to move one from their big defeat to help the much-reduced population of Earth. When Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is accidentally freed from being left behind in the Quantum Realm, he approaches the Avengers with a chance to set things right, based on his experience while in sub-atomic space.
But this part also has the greatest personal spotlight on the characters, showcasing who they are, who they used to be and what they have become since first being introduced to the grander MCU narrative. Some of these are good such as the arcs of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Some are out of the blue like the current condition of Hulk (Mark Ruffallo). But it does serve the purpose of reminding viewers how human these heroes are, as originally conceived by creator Stan Lee (who makes arguably his last posthumous cameo).
Still, when Ant-Man presents his theories of using the Quantum Realm to recover the Infinity Stones, we get to one of the highlights of “Endgame.” We said the film was a celebration of 10 years of MCU storytelling. We are not kidding. The movie actually takes the audience back to some key films in the past and shows them from a different viewpoint. This is to set up the undoing of the decimating finger-snap while also offering closure for the character arcs of top Avengers Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.).
We have talked about all the elements of “Avengers: Endgame” that we could without spilling into spoiler territory. I will offer this last tidbit; the film is just over three hours long. But the sheer superhero storytelling and epic effects-laden action set pieces in the narrative will definitely ensure that almost no viewer will feel bored every step of the way. About the only complaining being done regarding the running time might be your bladder, especially if you brought snacks to the viewing. But who cares really. This is the Endgame of a whole decade of Marvel Cinematic storytelling, and while the franchise will not end anytime soon, there are enough conclusions here to make one melancholy at ending credits.
Image courtesy of Forbes