Serving both as a conclusion to last years Infinity War, and bringing the entire MCU story arc to a triumphant close, Endgame truly is a landmark moment in fantasy cinema. In fact I couldn't help but be reminded of other such genre moments: The finale of Return of the Jedi, with its firework celebrations; the exultant Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, with its multiple (yet well earned) character farewells; the last scene of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country bidding fond farewell to much loved characters, complete with on screen actor signatures; and the perfect ending of Back to The Future Part III (although the time-travel storyline here borrows somewhat from part II). Endgame joins these classics in similar style.
It's quite a different beast to its predecessor Infinity War, with its straightforward narrative, desperate sense of purpose, action-packed pace and tragic outcomes. Yet it begins as that film ended; on a sombre note starting with a tragic reunion with Clint Barton; an Earth in mourning; Avengers angry and out for [Thanos'] blood; and, in some of my favourite scenes, Tony and Nebula adrift in space. They are quiet, tender moments (it would have been so easy, and lazy, to have them bickering) and are handled beautifully. After a rescue mission and vengeful (yet futile) counter attack by the Avengers, we skip forward 5 years to where Scott Lang has some wacky ideas about how to fix everything, and it becomes necessary to reunite the scattered (and in some cases drastically changed) team for an audacious final mission.
It's here the film suffers from pacing issues, with a lot of preamble, exposition, and generally mucking around before we get to some clever and imaginitive team missions that take us on a nostalgic revisit of some of the MCUs most iconic moments. Its also an opportunity for the characters to have personal moments with key people from their pasts, and to reflect on what gives life purpose. It's funny, heartfelt, and chock full of delightful fan service.
However its in the last magnificent act that it all comes together, providing immense character pay-off and spectacle on a truly mind-blowing scale. Is thrilling, gasp-out-loud, spine tingling, shattering, tear-jerking and utterly fantastic and provides a triumpant and pitch perfect conclusion to to 11 years and 22 movies in what has become the franchise of this generation. It's no exaggeration (in my opinion) to say that this accomplishes the same sense of awe and wonder as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy; or George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy. That dazzling combination of scale and spectacle but, crucially, with characters you really do care about. It truly is a once-in-a-generation event; as the critical and commercial success of the film attests.
Not that its all perfect by any means; this is a choppier, baggier and more unwieldy beast than Infinity War; and arguably it makes a few questionable character choices (the treatment of Thor and Hulk especially may divide fans). It also, by dint of its complex storyline, leaves itself open to plotholes and contrivances that Infinity War managed to avoid. Nonetheless, its a breathtaking experience with the same well written dialogue we've come to expect, and performances that transcend the comic book genre; Robert Downey Junior, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansonn (the Han, Luke, Leia of this century) are especially excellent, with other honorable mentions to Josh Brolin's mighty Thanos (best comic book villain, ever) and, of all people, Karen Gillan's Nebula who has plenty to do. Brie Larson's Captain Marvel may be a late (and, for some, not especially welcome) addition to the roster but she's well utilised; coming into play logically during key moments but without overstaying her welcome or overshadowing the main players. But nearly everyone gets a chance to shine from the heroes and villains we know and love, to returning incidental characters played by such acting heavyweights as Michael Douglas, Tilda Swinton, Robert Redford, Rene Russo and others. Nearly everyone who was anyone in the MCU is present and correct for the franchise finale. Visual effects are as stuning as you'd expect but are somehow more beautiful than ever, especially during the mind boggling final act with its twilight setting across a battle scared (yet terrestrial) landscape. And icing on the cake is Alan Sylvestri's joyous, awe-inspiring and emotional score, which, at its most beautiful, is a match for anything I've heard in recent years.
So, with caveats, Endgame emerges as a phenomenal conclusion to the most audacious cinematic project ever attempted in the superhero genre. Writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, directors Anthony & Joe Russo, producer Kevin Feige, and the best cast ever assembled, are all to be commended for rewarding fans with a true genre classic.