Eleven years ago, Tony Stark built a suit of armor out of a box of scraps in a cave. Walking into Avengers: End Game, the grand finale to last year’s epic Avengers: Infinity War as well as the first decade of Marvel’s cinematic universe, it’s almost funny that a film this large started out with a box of scraps.
From Anthony and Joe Russo, two directors whose biggest credit to date before their first Marvel film, Winter Soldier, was being series directors on Community, if you can believe that, End Game is a story very much worthy of its three hour run time. And to the Russo’s absolutely credit, it never once feels like three hours.
Picking up a few weeks after the events of Infinity War finds us with a surprisingly heavy story for Marvel. A story of survivors guilt, identity, anger, and loss. Shying away from it’s more “safe” recipe for filmmaking is a risk for Marvel that film critics have been jumping on them for. Disney may own the studio, but this is a Marvel film through and through. But if I can paraphrase another comic company, the night is always darkest before the dawn.
Disney may own the studio, but this is a Marvel film and the writing on End Game from Marvel favorites, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, harkens back to the brilliant storytelling you found in the comics. For as dark as it got, there was always heart, there was always hope, Captain America would always get back up. And what makes End Game’s story particularly powerful is telling a more mature (for lack of a better word) story, putting literally everything on the line, after we’ve been with these characters for a decade is that these characters had you from the start.
But that doesn’t work without a cast that can pull it off. Fortunately for Marvel, this cast was more than up for the kind of challenge that end game presented. Every single member of this cast gave a performance that will be looked back on in another decade as a defining moment for their careers. You felt the wait on their shoulders, you laughed, you were on the edge of your seat. And not one time in the three-hour runtime did any of the 70 characters if you can believe that, in this cast feel like they were forced or filler for something else.
Robert Downey Jr reminded us that he’s not only Iron Man but he’s more than capable of being at the head of an extremely talented table of actors. When Chris Evans started breaking out of teen roles, he was getting comparisons to Tom Cruise. It’s a comparison that he more than lives up to with what he gives us in End Game. Constantly nuanced that keeps you guessing, the man can hold the screen with anything he’s given. This core cast, Downey Jr, Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeremy Renner close out End Game with the best performances they’ve given in the eleven years they’ve been playing these roles.
But any hero is only as good as the villain. And Josh Brolin proves yet again to be more than a match for this cast as Thanos. Despite the fact he’s 8 feet tall, purple, and can bang with this Hulk and walk away, he never once chews the scenery. Brolin delivers an understated performance that just feels so powerful with just a look that can rack up the tension in the scene.
But to Marvel and the Russo’s credit, it’s not just the core cast that gets the spotlight. The Russo’s incredible eye for character and pacing in this film gave us performances from every role like Anthony Mackie and Tom Holland that felt powerful and connected.
It speaks to the credit of the cast and the filmmakers that the pacing of this film feels as good as it does when you consider those 70 characters and the fact that over an hour of this film is a solid character drama. It was an unexpected move that paid off huge because of the cast that they had and the fact that the story needed it. Anthony and Joe allowed us the time to become invested in the Avengers plan and allowed the Avengers the time they needed to naturally get there.
But when it comes to the action, as the old saying goes, you do have to earn it. But do you ever earn it! To say that Marvel’s done some truly amazing things on screen these past 10 years is nothing new. They’ve fought aliens, a robot army, had a moon thrown at them. You can name as many examples as I can. But believe me, when I saw that End Game outdoes every single film Marvel has ever made for action is not an understatement.
Anthony and Joe’s eye for character and pacing translates incredibly well into massive action sequences that keep you invested as well as the drama does. The go for the massive wide sweeping shots and long takes that use every inch of the frame. And it pays off in so many ways and that includes the best ending to the first ten years that anyone could ever ask for.
Is End Game perfect? Absolutely not. But the problem with that is, there’s so little wrong with this film that anything negative feels like nitpicking for the sake of it. Because The cast delivers, the action delivers, the drama delivers, and Anthony and Joe Russo created a true masterpiece of cinema that is well worth 5 stars out of 5.
See this film. See it in the theatre, if you can, to do this story the justice that it deserves.
About twelve years ago, when Avengers was going into production, I actually said that it would be such a mistake. Having all of Marvel’s live-action heroes in one film wouldn’t work.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. And I am so happy that I was.