It was the snap that was heard around the world as the Earth’s mightiest heroes were defeated for the first time as Thanos took command of the Infinity Stones and rewrote reality to his own twisted conception, ending half the life in the cosmos to ensure that there might be sufficient resource for the survivors to thrive, physically if not emotionally.
Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Bucky Barnes, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, and billions of others across the inhabited worlds, gone in an instant; Hope is lost, along with her parents Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, but Scott “Ant-Man” Lang was apparently only misplaced, exploring the quantum realm when Thanos executed his plan and apparently shielded from its effects.
Those that are left find themselves faced with the accusations of each other or their own feelings of guilt, coping with their loss, their anger, their disappointment in themselves and each other for failing to save their friends and family from a threat beyond imagination, a power beyond that of the gods.
The Infinity War is over, and it has been lost; in the ruins, those who have survived find themselves in the endgame, but is the best they can hope for simply to survive, to accept the will of Thanos, or is there something more they can fight for, a chance to bring back what they have lost?
Filmed back-to-back with Avengers: Infinity War and from the same team of directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, Avengers: Endgame picks up in the immediate aftermath of the battle on the plains of Wakanda but could not be more different in tone.
The twenty-second film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it is the most technically and structurally ambitious, and, as might be expected, the longest, running to over three hours, a culmination of the interconnected plot threads woven through eleven years of motion pictures and concurrent television series, but rather than offering “more of the same but bigger” Marvel have once again reinvented the series.
A new direction unlike any of the previous films, the near static opening act is one of reflection as the remaining Avengers attempt to assemble some kind of life in the ruins of what was the Earth, Steve “Captain America” Rogers, Tony “Iron Man” Stark, Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff and Bruce “Hulk” Banner all having reacted differently.
Having had his life displaced before when frozen in ice for decades, Steve knows what it is to be forced to move on, so why is this different? The undercover operative who always worked outside the rules, Natasha is now the one who runs what is left of the organisation to give herself purpose, while their former self-appointed leader Tony has withdrawn almost entirely from the Avengers, his focus now elsewhere.
Like the scene in the Avengers’ headquarters which opened Age of Ultron, this extended period of downtime may not immediately advance the plot but it is necessary, a chance to spend time with characters whom the audience have come to know and love over the previous decade without immediate threat, time which is by now well-earned, a reminder of the best and worst of who they are and what they have done.
This prelude also serves to reinforce that between Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner and the extended family which has grown around them that Marvel have assembled the greatest screen ensemble of modern times, perhaps of all time, and Endgame offers new facets to these established characters, particularly Thor, Hulk and Hawkeye, while Captain America comes to appreciate a new view of himself.
Beyond the top billed stars, not a moment of the three hours is wasted as the convoluted plot of Endgame enters quantum realms of new complexity and presents opportunities for dozens of established supporting characters to play their part, many of the guest appearances unexpected, including perhaps the most joyous cameo ever by the much-missed Stan Lee, and despite the multitudes involved the Russo Brothers manage to keep the final act flowing coherently and offer every individual onscreen a purpose for their presence.
An astonishing achievement by any standard and the penultimate film in the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Avengers: Endgame is a culmination and a summation of all that has gone before, aware that the characters, the actors and the audience have all grown together and that for some it is time to pass the shield to successors who have already proven their ability, for in every end there is also another beginning.
Avengers: Endgame is currently on general release and also screening in 3D and IMAX 3D