At the end of “Avengers: Infinity War”, the big question was how would the team get out of this one? They didn’t just lose, they were decimated, figuratively and literally. Half the universe gone in a snap. Earth’s mightiest heroes are at their lowest point with no way out. Given the stakes and cliffhanger ending, it isn’t surprising that “Endgame” is shattering box office records around the globe. The result is a magnificently emotional, if tonally unbalanced, film that brings to a close over a decade of storytelling in sweeping superhero fashion.
*mild spoilers ahead*
Picking up right after the events of the previous film, the Avengers must confront Thanos (Josh Brolin) after he assumes the power of the Infinity Gauntlet and wipes out half of all life. When their plan of attack fails, they must suffer through years of anguish with no clear path forward until a small glimmer of hope emerges. But after so much heartache and turmoil, can this team come together one last time to save the universe?
The film brings to a close the stories of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the rest of the original cast. But being six characters plus all the other superheroes to some degree, a lot can get lost in the shuffle even with a three-hour run time. While “Infinity War” was very much a streamlined story that followed Thanos and his quest, the focus here turns to the Avengers with an array of different storylines and different motivations, resulting in a somewhat denser film. While a natural segue, the result is not as focused. And the solution to Thanos’ problem (*spoiler*) is time travel, which inevitably leads to a lesser impact with the reasoning of “Well, if this doesn’t work, can’t they just go back and do it again?”
And shifting focus results in a different conglomeration of tones, “Endgame” really feeling like 3 films pushed together: a somber first third, a comedic second third and an impactful third third. It’s tough to take it together as a whole and one almost wishes the goofy middle part were taken out somehow, but it serves as a greatest hits playlist in a way and delivers some much-needed moments of levity.
The heart of the movie is the relationship between Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). The film bridges the themes that have been building up since their first meeting 7 years ago: loyalty, family, duty, sacrifice. Other storylines built up over the course of the previous films are discarded (a Hulk and Black Widow romance, Bucky and Steve, Wanda and Vision) but you pretty much forgive the filmmakers for the devotion they give to Steve and Tony. Borrowing from such battle-intense series such as “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars”, “Endgame” utilizes the kinetic energy of combat combined with personal journeys to deliver a satisfying end where each realizes that there was something to the other’s argument.
We all know there will be more Marvel films. For a film that grossed $1 billion in its first weekend, there appears to be no loss of interest from the public. We’re still guaranteed more Spider-Man, Black Panther and Dr. Strange films. But will it be the same?
Probably not. Without Iron Man, without Captain America, without who knows who else, one has to wonder if the attraction will continue. And where else could a franchise really go after the stakes of this film?
But savor “Avengers: Endgame” for now. It’s taken us so long to get here, and we’ll probably never see something of its kind again: a fitting conclusion to 21 films, dozens of characters and a whole world of comic book lore that fans had dreamed about for years.