Movie Review: ‘Avengers: Endgame’

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Last year, “Avengers: Infinity War” ended with a monumental cliffhanger. Now, after a year of speculation, “Avengers” Endgame” is here. The film follows the remaining heroes who survived Thanos’ snap. In the previous film (“Infinity War”), Thanos wiped out half of life. In this picture, the heroes embark on a journey, full of surprises, emotion and danger. The end goal is to bring back the fallen. Simply put, “Avengers: Endgame” is a magnificent success that will please audience members around the world.

Credit must be given to the Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony) for executing a unique cinematic vision. At this point, the Russo Brothers have directed four Marvel films, and here, their talents have never been more obvious. Also, the screenwriters of this film, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, have penned an excellent, emotionally charged conclusion, brimful of unpredictable moments. “Endgame” is filled with elements that will subvert audience expectations. Characters are utilized in unconventional ways, and in the long run, the characterizations are immensely successful. Very rarely have I seen a film that wraps up character arcs like clockwork. Ultimately, these subversions hint at humanistic elements that are deeply relevant, like depression, societal inclusion and perseverance.

Of course, every well-written role cannot succeed on its own. A performer has to bring the role to life. In the case of “Endgame,” there are exceptional performances across the board. Every performance is unique when it comes to the larger story. But like every film, there are clear standouts.

In perhaps his final Marvel role, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, the Iron Man. This time around, Downey is playing a character who has achieved peak maturation. Obviously, Downey’s charisma is contagious, but he also gets a ton of material that requires him to question the armored avenger’s mortality. Stark has constantly grown throughout the series, and here, Downey gives us a multi-layered performance that will emotionally impact viewers.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, the god of thunder. In early films, Thor was a figure of immense toughness. In this film, Thor is a broken individual, filled with regret and self-indulgence. Hemsworth’s dramatic acting pulls at our heart strings. Other times, his genuine charm makes us smile from ear to ear. In retrospect, Hemsworth delivers a ton of comedic relief, and none of it feels out of place.

Lastly, there is Scarlett Johansson, who plays Black Widow. Johansson has thrived at playing this heroine, and overall, it is amazing to see how much the character has changed. Now, instead of being a lost and untrustworthy partner, Black Widow is an honorable foe who values family and friendship. Johansson’s charm is still intact, but her ability to convey pain reminds us of how difficult it can be to overcome an evil upbringing. By the end of the film, it becomes evident that redemption is tough to achieve, but it is more than possible.

Thankfully, the narrative doesn’t gloss over the traumatic aftermath of Thanos’ snap. In “Infinity War,” we saw the physical fallout of Thanos’ snap. Heroes turned to dust, while others watched helplessly. In “Endgame,” we get to see the mental status of each character. These instances, often utilized in the first hour, help craft the film’s poignant identity. The first hour of the film deals with slow yet emotionally precise moments that flesh out the characters’ dire circumstances. As audience members, it’s heartbreaking to see these heroes in a state of disarray. By focusing on the depressive nature of each hero, the situation feels innately real. In turn, the stakes are firmly set. We just want to see these characters achieve a sense of contentment.

By spending so much time focusing on narrative despair, the ensuing adventure becomes infinitely satisfying. Through patient direction and precise writing, dark themes (depression, death and loss) are perfectly realized, and it becomes very clear that the act of resurrecting fallen comrades will come at a price. In other words, souls will be lost, so buckle up your seatbelts. Since the Russo Brothers create such a convincingly dire situation, the eventual instances of hope create feelings of joy and relief. Whenever our characters smile, it feels earned, because they have went through hell and back.

Eventually, the plot shifts into heavy science fiction territory. These characters embark on an epic adventure that utilizes nostalgia and time travel. In many ways, this section feels like Robert Zemekis’ “Back to the Future Part 2,” a film where a group of people must embark on a quest to fix a timeline that has been altered beyond belief. After a satisfying time travel story, we get an extravagant third act, perhaps the best hour in comic book movie history. The final conflict, while extremely elongated, is the stuff that comic book dreams are made of. I will not say anything else, but rest assured, this fight is the epitome of epic.

I have to talk about Thanos, brilliantly portrayed by Josh Brolin. Once again, the special effects are top-notch, but in general, Brolin’s performance makes Thanos a figure of great dread and formidability. With his deep, self-assured voice and confident movements, Brolin makes Thanos a force of cinematic villainy. Oddly enough, Thanos is a bit different in this film. In “Infinity War,” he was an experienced philosopher, expressing a demented worldview. In “Endgame,” the Mad Titan is a true warrior, in the midst of cosmic war and genocide. By choosing to delve into Thanos’ commander-like status, the filmmakers enhance the villain’s brooding nature. The Mad Titan becomes even scarier, because his ambitions are even more extreme. Thanos’ newly formed worldview makes his previous goals seem like a blessing in disguise.

Some of the best films ever made have utilized iconic villains, and “Endgame” is not any different. The Mad Titan represents adversity in its most horrifying form, whether it be depression, loss, death and so on. At one point, Thanos says, “I am inevitable.” As a viewer, I believe that many fans will walk out of this movie feeling stunned and euphoric, but at the same time, viewers will contemplate the adverse journey of reality. Like Thanos, adversity is unescapable (when it comes to real life). Human beings are often looking down the barrel of negativity.

In the film, Thanos brings the characters to their knees, but he also makes them stronger than ever when it comes to being a unit. Essentially, this comic book movie is telling us that adversity, even in its darkest forms, can be eradicated if we hold onto hope and loved ones. As humans, we cannot give into darkness. Like our Marvel heroes, we have to create a “never say die” attitude. Life, in and of itself, is more than worth it. These Marvel films are fantastical, yes, but underneath everything, we see a lot of ourselves within these heroes. Like us, these super beings struggle. And like us, they succeed, due to great perseverance.

“Endgame” isn’t perfect. The long running time is warranted, but at times, certain scenes are stretched to uncesessary lengths. Also, while most of the humor feels properly placed, certain comedic aspects are unavailing. Regardless, I implore everyone to see this film on the biggest possible screen. Somehow, after making a bevy of marvelous films that have only enhanced expectations and excitement, Marvel Studios has stuck the landing. In my mind, “Endgame” is one of Marvel’s finest films.

My Grade: A-

Dillon McCarty can be contacted at [email protected]

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