There comes a point during the climactic battle in Anthony & Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame, where time (presumably) stopped for many audience members as they (probably) thought – ‘this is sheer madness’. Nothing has ever been done on a scale like this. If you, the Marvel fan, thought the Chitauri army entering New York through a space-time portal was a big deal, or seeing the Avengers lift a whole mass of land in Sokovia was bat-shit crazy, just wait till you see what happens in Endgame. Previsiualising such a battle on a laptop is one thing, but choreographing it meticulously so that a whole theatre cheers/screams/sobs in unision, takes an enormous amount of skill. But that’s the end, let’s start at the beginning.
Events take off in the aftermath of Infinity War, where the remaining members of the Avengers must assemble and try to reverse the genocide inflicted by Thanos. But Tony Stark is drifting away in a spaceship between Titan (where he was at the end of Infinity War) and Earth. Captain America’s unfailing optimism is at an all-time low, he’s mourning the sudden demise of his best friend Bucky, right-hand man Sam and half of all living creatures. Stark had warned Captain America about the ‘endgame’ and now they’re on the losing side. There’s spite in the speech, betrayal in the eyes, and a whole lot of distrust among whatever remains of the Earth’s mightiest heroes. The two ‘best’ men are at their most vulnerable and full of doubt, which makes for a great hook.
The Russos along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen Mcflee (responsible for Winter Soldier, Civil War and Infinity War) come up with another supremely well-oiled screenplay. It quickly fills us in on where Hawkeye’s been around while Infinity War took place, and establishes his personal stakes in Endgame. After annihilating half of the universe, Thanos is in ‘retirement’. He gets a splendid re-introduction scene, where he’s seen plucking vegetables from a garden and lighting the hearth’s fire. When was the last time we saw a egomaniac supervillain so… domesticated?
On one level, Avengers: Endgame allows Robert Downey Jr to show off his seemingly limitless repository of talent as an actor. It’s only fitting, that a character which has drawn comments like “he’s playing himself” and made more noise for the monster pay-cheques, allows the actor to showcase the (apparently) shallow character’s many layers. It’s also poetic that a character that has caged Downey Jr for the past decade, sets him free in the end. Few working actors in Hollywood deliver on high-stakes melodrama like Robert Downey Jr does.
Not just a VFX-heavy spectacle, Endgame is actually a study on how to make the audience invest in each character. With periodic throwbacks to characters from earlier films, Endgame walks the line between humour, sentimentality and glorious action set-pieces with ease. Some might describe that as a hard-pressed ‘Marvel product’ that they’ve come to perfect in the franchise’s 21 earlier films, but with Avengers: Endgame things have gone to the next level.
It might be too early to tell, but one can sense that Avengers: Endgame is a game-changer. Much like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and James Mangold’s Logan. Expecting things to surpass this high bar might only mean that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. The film might only do a whole lot better with the Indian audiences, because this is masala film-making of the highest order. There’s the hero, the villain and multiple scenes that unleash those tear-ducts. What a way to bid adieu to this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What a stunning film.