In 2008, there was an idea. A grand and bold ambition to bring the assorted heroes of the Marvel Comics world to the silver screen. There had been previous outings, most notably Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy and the Blade films, but the depictions of Earth's Mightiest Heroes had been mostly confined to comics and cartoons. With Robert Downey Jr's arresting portrayal of Tony Stark surging onto screens in '08, however, Iron Man's unprecedented success served as the springboard for a cinematic experience like no other. With the release of Endgame we are now bearing witness to the blooming of seeds laid a decade prior, and these seeds bear fruit beyond counting.
In the wake of the devastating events of Infinity War that saw Thanos emerge victorious against an assemblage of Marvel's finest and most storied heroes, the world has changed dramatically. The surviving Avengers, with Steve Rogers at the helm, are left broken and aimless in a world irreparably scarred by cataclysmic destruction. Elsewhere, untold miles away, Tony Stark drifts through the void of space, seemingly without hope of rescue. The disparate protectors of Earth must unite once again to enact a final, desperate gambit with the hopes of taking back what was lost, and finally avenging the fallen.
What follows is a lovingly-crafted paean to all things Marvel within the scope of its vast cinematic universe, a daring and even somewhat complex plot that provides high stakes and high-octane action at every turn, interspersed with the character moments that make this variegated cast so delightful to see – the chemistry between them has never been strong, further bolstered by twists and turns that'll have you reeling. The creative team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the same scribes behind Infinity War and two of Captain America's films, ensure the utmost fidelity both to Endgame's predecessor and to the wider cinematic universe as a whole. The dialogue they have crafted scintillates, fitting each character like a glove, and speaks to the past development of each character involved. Despite the gravity of the plot, however, it's not without its share of levity; to counterbalance the grim denouement of the preceding film and the atmosphere that pervades Endgame, there exists an abundance of humour – perhaps, in an odd sense, one of the film's few hiccups. The comedy is rarely poor as the cast's chemistry shines through in almost every back and forth they have and their delivery and responses are nothing less than believable, but in at least a few areas there are instances of jokes dragging, or seeming a touch inappropriate considering the seriousness of the situation at hand. Rudd, Hemsworth and RDJ all have the opportunity to prove their comedic chops despite this, and generally they do so with aplomb.
Endgame boasts a lengthy three-hour running time, but it never feels ponderous or dull as almost every moment is spent exploring aspects of the setting and characters visually and within dialogue, balancing spectacle with interaction and hitting thematic beats that stretch as far back as RDJ's fateful first outing as Tony Stark. While there are key tagalongs in Rocket Raccoon, James Rhodes and Nebula, who receive their own crucial moments within the wider narrative, Endgame emphasises that it is the home stretch for the old guard and the script underlines that pointedly. We are here for them, to see their journey to the end, and every interaction shared between them brims with emotion, an inherent understanding that this is the end of the line for a decade of storytelling.
The team is not without new additions – to wit, Brie Larson officially joins the Avengers' ranks as the cosmically-powered Captain Marvel, but the role she serves is tertiary at best. As an element within an action setpiece, she's outstanding, but as a character she has yet to be properly utilised – a mild disappointment, considering Infinity War and the writing team's ability to transform lesser-seen characters into forces to be reckoned with, as they did with Thanos and Dr Strange in the preceding film. She is more endurable as a character here than she was in her own film, however, and one hopes that any writers attached to Captain Marvel 2 will take what lessons they can from this.
Regardless, Carol serves a role. Everyone does, working diligently to bind everything together, to see things come to fruition through a plot that certainly does its utmost to deviate from the norm insofar as superhero films are concerned. Appropriating elements of 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp, while perhaps being a touch obtuse in its presentation, it takes viewers on a blistering and breathtaking whistlestop rush that stupefies, amazes and honours the MCU's legacy. With just about every preceding film incorporated into this grand finale, this last hurrah for a saga so intricately planned, the detail and care with which this story has been handled is perhaps the greatest honour that this film possesses. Nothing speaks louder about a film's quality than the effort put into its production, and Endgame is a product that leaks diligence and love from every pore imaginable.
All of this, without elaborating on a third act so giddily glorious that it comes close to defying description, serving as an embodiment of every devout Marvel fan's deepest dream. While elaboration is impossible without revealing crucial details, suffice it to say that this grand explosion over a decade in the making will take you on a rollercoaster of whirlwind emotions. From the deepest valleys of sorrow to the highest peaks of joyous exultation, Endgame is an end to years of meticulously-planned buildup that concludes with a bang that will not be soon forgotten. "Part of the journey is the end," Tony Stark espouses – and this conclusion has been worth the wait.