By Bradley Lane
Iron Man was released in 2008 and was directed by Jon Favreau. It opened to box office success, made Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. into household names, and, most notably, kicked off what we know now as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A long-running and canonically consistent story spanning the course of 11 years.
Creating a consistent story that focuses on the same characters every movie is hard enough, but the MCU has made an art of creating and maintaining stylistic, narrative and tonal continuity through dozens of solo and spin-off movies made by different crews, directors and writers. Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of every solo, teamup and spin-off movie in the MCU, and a near direct continuation of the story told in last year’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were written and directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. Endgame picks up right after the events in Infinity War, and … actually, I can’t tell you what this film is about. For most people it won’t really matter if I spoil small bits of plot, however, for the dedicated MCU fan any talk of plot details is bound to negatively affect their viewing of the film due to the highly secretive marketing and production of this film. The Russo Brothers even went so far as to give redacted scripts to the cast so that not even they would understand the full story until they, themselves, viewed it on screen. This being said, if I sound intentionally vague in this review, it is to protect those people who do not want anything spoiled for them.
Avengers: Endgame does a lot right, the most apparent of which is just how satisfying the story they tell is for those long-time fans. With so much riding on this film’s success, fans can rest easy that most of their favorite heroes’ stories come to a genuinely emotional close. Another aspect of Endgame that impressed me was just how introspective and emotionally mature this film aimed to be. The first act deals with incredibly timely issues and cleverly draws on real-world events to increase emotional impact. Endgame also cleverly reincorporates a plethora of one-liners, narratives and plot points from the MCU’s extensive filmography.
However, this film is not without its flaws. The universe rules it sets up for this film rarely seem cohesive, and even more rarely hold up to scrutiny. Which comes with the territory of the type of narrative device they employ, but that should not be an excuse for lazy writing. Additionally, the movie feels very unbalanced in terms of character development. This is done in order to give more depth to a select few characters, but unfortunately that leaves many characters with unresolved arcs or the sense that a character arc was cheated to reduce runtime. This is disappointing considering Avengers: Infinity War already balanced more satisfying character arcs with less time.
I can guarantee you this about Avengers: Endgame: if you are a longtime MCU fan, I have no doubt you will walk out of the theater satisfied with this film. Like most things, what you get out of Endgame is what you have put into it. My recommendation is to give it a shot no matter who you are, even if it is not perfect, it is truly a once-in-a-generation cultural event. -3.5/5 stars