Film review: ‘AVENGERS: ENDGAME’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

After 11 years and a seemingly endless procession of ear drum and eyeball pummelling films, the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to a close with the three-hour behemoth Avengers: Endgame.

This collision of superhero action flick, high-tech sci-fi film, Tolkienesque fantasy epic and pompous Wagnerian myth has so far received reviews verging on the orgasmic with some suggesting it’s by far the best in the Marvel series and even an Oscar contender. Viewers who are deeply connected to the characters, have enjoyed the series’ dry humour, exalted in the CGI-drenched action sequences and been enraptured by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s mythology, will probably agree with these reviews and will find this a thrilling and moving experience. Those who (like this reviewer) have been lukewarm about the Marvel movies (let alone those who find them a chore) should be wary, though, as the rapturous reviews may raise expectations too high and leave them wondering what all the fuss is about.

Endgame follows directly from previous instalment, Infinity Wars in which the enormous muscly steroid-abuser lookalike demigod Thanos (Josh Brolin) turned half the universe’s population to ash in a sort of crazed population control exercise. Now, in a devastated world, the remaining Avengers try to deal with the aftermath. Steve Rogers/ Captain America (Chris Evans) and Natasha Romanov/ Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have been left almost paralysed with grief, Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) has given up super heroics and retired to a quaint country cottage with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has turned into a giant, green yet bespectacled and chilled Banner/ Hulk hybrid while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has checked out entirely and become a miserable, beer-gutted slob who, as one character suggests, looks like the Dude from The Big Lebowski.   The reappearance of another super hero, however, provides a spark of hope and triggers a quest that spans multiple worlds and reintroduces us to a vast collection of Marvel characters. Revealing much more of the plot would be a spoiler.

Like Infinity Wars, Endgame is very much about fan service and due credit to directors Anthony and Joe Russo for bringing together such a vast enterprise that references previous films and points to the future while remaining a ‘relatively’ coherent piece of cinema.

As in the previous Marvel films the key characters: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hulk and here Ant Man (Paul Rudd) are played about as convincingly and endearingly as we could hope for in film about people in high-tech muscle suits flying around bashing each other. Also, Josh Brolin, despite having only snippets of dialogue, once again brings pathos and moral complexity to the character of Thanos.

Still, in trying to draw together a superhero universe and pay homage to a vast array of beloved characters, Endgame lacks a centre. It’s not built around a specific character (arguably Thanos provided a stronger centre for Infinity Wars) so it often feels like a Marvel taster platter with many characters only fleetingly glimpsed. Admittedly, this film is mostly about the core Avengers but it’s a little irritating to have some of the more interesting characters in the Marvel universe pop up for a millisecond then disappear.

The pacing is also a problem. The first half of this film is more introspective and slow-moving than Infinity Wars and the other Marvel films. For some, this will be a blessing as it provides more time with a few characters. Other viewers, who aren’t particularly invested in the characters will, at times, find the first half a bit dull. Also, this part of the film relies heavily on dialogue which unfortunately consists mostly of stilted exposition and quirky, ironic but not particularly funny gags that have been all to obviously inserted to break up the dour mood. Added to that, some of the running jokes start to grate – we get it, Hulk and Thor are behaving like vulnerable dopes. Also, there isn’t quite enough of the series’ best comic asset, Tony Stark’s rapid-fire wit.

In addition, while the overall story arc is quite straightforward, the smaller details and superhero missions within that arc often become confusing, particularly when the story flits around from one scenario to another and requires a strong recall of Marvel mythology and events from previous films.

It’s no spoiler to say that, like all the Marvel movies, Endgame leads to an outrageously over-the-top battle sequence and here we have one of the most spectacular in the Marvel or any fantasy series.  The scale of the action and the intricate dynamics of its choreography are remarkable although it is a little disappointing that it occurs in dim light as opposed to the vivid daytime battle scenes of Infinity Wars.

As the culmination of a franchise (or at least a part thereof) the film inevitably has emotional crescendos. Depending on the viewers’ level of affection for the characters and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the impact of these scenes will vary but fans are likely to find these very moving.

The casual viewer will find Avengers: Endgame occasionally spectacular and inventive but a little tiring by the third hour and not a film that will convert them to the Marvel church. Dedicated Marvel fans will no doubt discover additional references, Easter Eggs and nuances in the film that, for them, make it an even more satisfying finale to this chapter of the Avengers cinematic saga.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2

Genre: Superhero/fantasy/ sci-fi/ action.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Anthony Russo, Joe Russo.

Release date: 24th April 2019.

Running time: 3hr 1min.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

 

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