One of the most hotly anticipated, epic and spoiler-filled movies in years, this fourth and final Avengers saga is the culmination of 11 years’ worth of Marvel pics and therefore can’t help but feel just a little overblown.
However, there’s still plenty here to admire and enjoy, not least the darkness that infuses much of the first half, as we observe a world shell-shocked by the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and wonder (given the title, the secrecy and the fact that most of the main cast members’ contracts are up) who is going to die heroically.
(Please note that while spoilers have been carefully avoided here, there are quite a few for Infinity War, but it can also be safely assumed that if you’ve come this far, then you’ve probably seen it. If not then that’s your problem)
It’s three weeks or so after formidable alien Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers and spectacularly eliminated half of all life on Earth. The surviving Avengers are reeling and understandably doubting their ability to, well, avenge. So many are gone: Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Dr. Steve Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson), T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Avengers assembler Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and others.
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) is adrift in deep space with the now-virtuous Nebula (Karen Gillan), while Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a half-Hulky Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and former ‘Guardian Of The Galaxy’ Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) are in shock and almost teary. These early scenes are among the best in all Marvel cinema, with strong work from the whole cast and a sense of genuine melancholy, even when a little cool humour creeps in as a traumatised Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and ‘new girl’ Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) butt heads.
Later, and, by sheer chance, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd in terrific form) turns up bemused and things start to get super-secret, as Marvel-friendly co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo keep proceedings surprisingly quiet and sad for rather longer than many fans can surely stand. After so much build-up we get down to some mighty (and mightily drawn-out) action, but not before the plot has grown so confusing that even a chronology-tampering X-Man could find it confusing.
With a continuation of ‘girl power’ themes from Captain Marvel (still guaranteed to annoy incel fanboys), the last quick cameo by the late lamented Stan Lee, a sense of authentic grandeur and the unmistakable feeling that we’re watching a final fond farewell from all your beloved characters and players, this is, despite its faults and three-hour running time, a fine end to a cinematic series that’s become a bona fide cultural phenomenon.
But is it really the finale? Note that at least one of the ‘dead’ characters here has another solo movie coming out soon (a prequel?), and although dear old Stan’s gone, there’s still more than enough scope to create new Avengers, recast old ones and keep the whole thing chugging along Marvellously for Hulk’s sake.
Avengers: Endgame (M) is in cinemas from April 24