Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Josh Brolin
Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
An array of superheroes assailed by self-doubt and crippling numbness - and then propelled by a burning desire to put their failures behind them and regain their purpose in life - regroup for a rousing last stand against the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) in this sprawling, sweeping and seductive finale to a decade and a bit of Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbusters. For fans of the most successful franchise in movie history, Avengers: Endgame delivers the world - and more.
Endgame is a neatly orchestrated, smartly packaged and powerfully rendered culmination to a series that has a committed fan base among those that have grown up on it - and also, going by the unprecedented rush to buy advance tickets, among older fans of superhero movies. It is a medley of action, drama and gentle humour that is infinitely more than just a sum of the CGI-laden, eye-popping, applause worthy moments that the movie is chock-a-block with.
Endgame picks up from where The Avengers: Infinity War signed off: the harrowing spectacle of the malevolent Thanos snapping his fingers and wiping out half of the world's population, including several superheroes. The Avengers who survived that cataclysmic event - Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) - despair over their losses and failures and wonder if what has happened can be undone. It is five years on, and they have a point to prove to the world - and to themselves. But none of them is battle-ready enough to plunge into all-out retaliatory action.
Nobody more out of shape than Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a pot-bellied wreck who has retreated to Asgard to drown his sorrows in beer, has no time for any serious rumination on the repercussions of the ignominious defeat the Avengers have suffered. It takes his mates some effort to pull him out of the trough and get him on the road again.
In fact, when one of the superheroes is confronted with the promise of a second chance to redeem himself, he insists that his 'second chance' is in the here and now - in the company of his loving family, which includes chirpy little girl who means the world to him. I don't want to throw a dice on it, he says to the one who tries to talk him out of his tranquil retirement. Another of the superheroes is seen early in the film leading a group therapy session and harping on the need to move on. It is an interesting way of looking at the masculinity of the kind that superheroes are supposed to possess.
The indication provided by the post-credits scene in Captain Marvel (Marvel's first solo female superhero film) that Carol Danvers will play a part in the concluding instalment of the Avengers adventure across galaxies and realities was a clear enough message about the changing gender-dynamics in the Marvel Universe, and in the world of movies as a whole. The advent of Danvers (Brie Larson) in Endgame energizes the Avengers - one wishes she had a more extended role in the rest of the film.
The others who join the core surviving group of Avengers - Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who has gone scouring the world for bad guys to punish, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who is fortuitously set free from the Quantum Realm and seeks out the other superheroes, and Thanos' estranged daughter Nebula (Karen Gillan), the Avengers come up with a plan to annihilate the super-villain and set things right. It entails time-travel, an idea broached by Ant-Man. Expectedly skeptical at first, the Avengers warm up to the suggestion for they have got to do what they have got do no matter what the risks are.
Avengers: Endgame has been directed by Joe and Anthony Russo with an unfailing finger on the pulse of what the fans want. It is action-packed and hugely entertaining. It is a film that will certainly need no do-over, especially if you are one of the countless blockbuster buffs across the world who have never failed to go into raptures at the very mention of the Avengers, who as a group bid goodbye to us in this the 22nd film of the series. What this film scores big on is its use of the little moments - most of which are provided by the superheroes' encounters with their earlier selves and their dear ones when they travel back in time.
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's screenplay intersperses the grand cosmic-level confrontations with emotionally affecting, intimate family scenes that underscore the human sides of these beloved characters endowed with special powers.Avengers: Endgame orchestrates its multiple story strands with phenomenal balance - it isn't as easy as it seems given the plethora of details that have to be packed into the film's three hours. It is just as effective as a freewheeling meditation on loss and despair, trust and teamwork, mortality and invincibility, mistakes and redemption.
One superhero, now in the past, comes face to face with his mother, whose short and precise pep talk prepares him for the cloak of heroism that he will wear in the future. A hero isn't necessarily someone who wants to be someone he is supposed to be, she says to her boy, but someone who succeeds in being who he is. A superhero as a mamma's boy? It isn't unusual for the superheroes in Endgame to be in tears - they all have a beating heart irrespective of what physical powers they bring to the table.
Robert Downey Jr. delivers an impressively wide-bandwidth performance that serves as the principal anchor for Avengers: Endgame. The rest of the cast - even those that have to make do with limited footage, like Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts - do not their let their individual and collective weight go waste. It adds up to an Avengers ensemble to beat all Avengers ensembles.
Avengers: Endgame strikes emotional chords more frequently than superhero movies usually do. It is almost as if the passing away of the universe that this remarkable franchise has created and sustained over the past decade is leaving behind a massive void. Mercifully, we know that in endings lie many beginnings. If this is how magnificently one cycle has ended, there is every reason to hope that the ones that are in the works will be worth the wait.