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Game of stones
Is there really any doubt that Marvel’s eleven-year sign off will be bigger than enormous in every way? We know the reset button has to be pressed (characters who turned to ash still have sequels to star in). So to AVENGERS: ENDGAME… Camus clicks his fingers...
 
  "My brother and I are really committed to emotional stakes, and emotion requires story real estate. When you have a sprawling plot with a lot of characters and emotional stakes, it requires time to breathe emotionally. On the scale, you're just going to wind up at a certain run time."
  Co-Director Joe Russo on that 3 hour running time*

 

I have to doff my cap (I wear one once in a while) to the Russo brothers. I wonder how often both men spent in their downtime not thinking of the behemoth that must have engulfed their lives in the many years they've toiled for Marvel. If they close their tired eyes, does Cap's flying shield shine from the blackness of the blink? Making films is a complex business at the best of times beset by the constant creative dilemma of 'how can I/we make this original?' very much set against the producer's concern of 'how can I make this similar enough to reassure audiences and therefore make billions of dollars?' Marvel took narrative chances, bold chances and they've paid off but within the MCU, there is still a stylistic aspect that cynics might call 'conformity' largely drawn from the stupefying amount of effects work that is stuffed into every movie. And yet fans may respond with 'it's what we want!' If Marvel does anything approaching creative and business genius it's balancing these two aspects almost perfectly.

There was never a question about the 'reset' button that Marvel had to apply in order to continue its relentless assault on our popular culture via sequels and continuations. But if you have to do a dirty trick (time travel, who knew? Duh…) then this is the cleanest way of doing it. That cannot possibly be a spoiler. If half the life in the universe is ash (emphasis on the 'is') then the past is the only place to go to get them back. Needless to say, it's one hell of a lot more complicated than that. Just look at the poster (with at least two Avengers joyfully and mischievously utterly misrepresented. “Our album covers lied to us, Dude!”) Marvel is delivering something here that no movie ever has committed to do or pulled off; nothing short of the culmination of a twenty-one film cycle, a neat bow wrap on an insanely colourful gift. It is the $350 million version of the season finale of a long form television series where character development is deepened, stakes raised and sacrifices made. I'm not saying that Anton Chekov (the playwright not the helmsman) has anything to be worried about from the fecund imagination of a certain Stan Lee but he is (or tragically was) the Facebook generation's Tolkein in terms of movies. Of course, Stan was someone very special to we comic book fans in the late 60s and 70s. I'm not sure that this series of films will ever reach 'classic' status (they are too light perhaps, too woke and self aware) but there is a huge amount of pure enjoyment to be had just letting this hugely explosive and expensive train set run you over.

Avengers: Endgame

Is there a synopsis that will stay spoiler free? The trailers give strong indications that Ant Man's quantum realm will be a major plot device (everyone dressed in Pym suits walking purposely) so that's time travel ticked. There's a prologue of a kind with a brutal conclusion and then a convenient five-year gap where survivors have to come to terms with their losses and dig in deeply with their loved ones (or go crazy bat shit murderous without their loved ones). After the tiniest and most significant deus ex machina involving of all things, a rat, a certain insect based super hero is able to offer up his own quantum ballpark for others to play in. Individual Avengers team up and take on their own bespoke stone-acquisition mission. Some of them go well, some not so well and the heroes take a last stand. There are some very moving moments as our teams hop back through time, girlfriends, mothers, fathers and selves all delivering on the entertainment front. By the time the team re-groups, we are primed for Marvel to give us its all and it gleefully goes about doing just that. I cannot simply conceive how much overtime and rendering time was required to give this film what it needed. It is 'burdened with glorious purpose,' so to speak. Thank you Joss Whedon and Tom Hiddleston. This is a massive film in which a remark by Thor to Captain America about hammers gets a spike of laughter well earned. My favourite moment – again, hardly a spoiler as it's pretty obvious Captain Marvel (with a new short haircut) will feature in Endgame – is a super strong Thanos to Marvel head butt. She receives it with the dry look of "Really?" as her head barely moves from the impact. But the action at the climax is a flurry of special effects and while they are never inexpertly executed, their repetition can get a little draining.

If you've seen Infinity War (I'd advise it) then you know what kind of action you're in for and the pall of gloom over which the first half and (let's be frank) some of the second half of the movie lies under. This isn't an emotionally feel great slice of Marvel pie but as the end of a giant narrative it is unquestionably unique and unusually reflective. The Russos and producer Kevin Fiege deserve most of the plaudits. I have to bow to the writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who kept a towering locomotive on track and still emotionally engaging. I have to shout out for the poor soul (whoever he or she may have been) who managed to co-ordinate all these A-List actors and get them to… (spoiler). Not to cast an extra pall over the film itself but while I have a certain respect for all the glowing reviews (Kim Newman's endorsement tweet took me by surprise), there weren't a lot of surprises in the film. Yes, the humour is still there but that has to be tempered with the filmmakers' desire to be moving and heartfelt. While I thought In Bruges director Martin McDonagh's quote a little harsh, there is some truth in it.

"Because it's all about formula, and formulas are fucking boring. That's why you end up with Marvel and DC films every week, where you know exactly what's going to happen. It's just like, 'What kind of computer effect is going to take us there this time?'"

Is that true? Of course not. The films are a few months apart at least. I have to admit that while satisfying and consistently entertaining over its entire bladder testing running time, there were no real surprises in Endgame but this is entirely understandable. It's the result of the tightrope expertise of Marvel and like Middle Earth around about Hobbit Two: New Line Bleeds Rings Good Will Dry, I've sort of had my fill. But I did enjoy the ride.

 


* https://www.boxofficepro.com/avengers-endgame-joe-russo-mcu-interview/

Avengers: Endgame poster
Avengers: Endgame

USA 2019
181 mins
directed by
Anthony Russo
Joe Russo
produced by
Kevin Feige
written by
Christopher Markus
Stephen McFeely
based on the Marvel comics by
Stan Lee
Jack Kirby
and on the comic book by
Jim Starlin
cinematography
Trent Opaloch
editing
Jeffrey Ford
Matthew Schmidt
music
Alan Silvestri
production design
Charles Wood
starring
Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Evans
Mark Ruffalo
Chris Hemsworth
Scarlett Johansson
Jeremy Renner
Don Cheadle
Paul Rudd
Benedict Cumberbatch
Chadwick Boseman
Brie Larson
Tom Holland
Karen Gillan
Zoe Saldana
Evangeline Lilly
Tessa Thompson
Rene Russo
Elizabeth Olsen
Anthony Mackie
Sebastian Stan
Tom Hiddleston

UK distributor
Walt Disney UK
UK release date
25 April 2019
review posted
27 April 2019

related reviews
Marvel Avengers Assemble
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Infinity War

See all of Camus' reviews