The phrase ‘a game of two halves’ has never held truer than in this extraordinary second-parter that skillfully juggles narrative risks with poignant feels.
Dir. Anthony & Joe Russo
2019 | USA | Action/Sci-Fi/Fantasy | 181 mins | 2.39:1 | English
PG13 (passed clean) for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Tilda Swinton
Plot: After the devastating events of “Avengers: Infinity War”, the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Complex
Audience Type: Mainstream
(Reviewed in theatres)
It is highly unlikely that Avengers: Endgame will be considered a game-changer of any sort in time to come (the real game-changer for the genre was really the first movie, The Avengers, back in 2012—subsequent instalments merely upped the stakes and tipped the scales), but as a satisfying culmination of more than a decade of Marvel superhero movies, there is no question that it is one of the studio’s top-tier works, though the very accomplished Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) still takes the cake.
Die-hard fans will no doubt either adore or dislike Endgame depending on how progressive they are in coming to terms with its narrative and characterisations, which make unexpected left turns.
But everyone will certainly take with them a sombre mood out of the theatre. It is almost a rueful film, but where it counts, it delivers the requisite eye-candies (stunning visual effects) and eye-spills (tissues please)… and more.
“If I tell you what happens, it won’t happen.”
When Marvel first announced the runtime to be three hours, one might have wondered how stretched the post-Avengers: Infinity War (2018) aftermath would become, which is a major concern going into a movie operating at this unprecedented level of anticipation.
Hence, the key reason why I enjoyed Endgame so much more than I thought I would wasn’t just down to a fantastic cinematic experience, but how it took sheer narrative risks.
It’s almost too easy to fall into the trap of producing a bloated piece that continues down the same path that has been set up, servicing fans with periodic if perfunctory epic battles and perhaps irking them with gaping if convenient plot holes.
“Some people move on. But not us… Not us.”
Instead, Marvel chose to give us a brand-new adventure with even higher stakes and bigger consequences than before, by slicing short the old one prematurely with a simple trick from Hitchcock’s Psycho-rulebook.
The high-wire balancing act at this level of studio and genre filmmaking is indeed extraordinary as it skilfully—through deep understanding of each character’s trajectory and mythos, as well as very proficient editing—juggles the narrative risks with poignant feels. The best thing of all is that it all works out rather plausibly, one or two headscratchers aside.
The phrase ‘a game of two halves’ has never held truer than in Endgame, both in relation to Infinity War and within itself. If Infinity War was a 6-0 first leg win for Thanos, Endgame is that improbable comeback against seemingly insurmountable odds, engineered through lots of blood, sweat, tears, and some measure of good luck.
In itself, Endgame’s unexpected narrative trajectory relies heavily on arguably sci-fi cinema’s most used gimmick: time travel. Hence, the above phrase speaks to both its inscrutability as well as penetrability—a game of past-and-present, cat-and-mouse, hellos-and-farewells, all in the midst of intertwining temporalities against metaphysics.
There is enough tension to just about suggest things may not pull through for the good guys, and definitely lots of laughs, which make this journey a worthy one to take, if not to seek personal closure, then to properly tip our collective hats to the most successful Hollywood franchise in history and say “well done folks… and till the next one.”