Tuesday 30 April 2019

Fan service writ large in Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Infinity War left our heroes and true believers (myself included) beaten and heartbroken in the wake of Thanos' (Josh Brolin) snap. It was The Empire Strikes Back of the franchise and things will be forever changed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Mild spoilers ahoy, folks! Please avoid reading any further, if you don't want to know anything about the sequel to Infinity War.

In an era of 24/7 digital discourse, I miraculously managed (in part due to a self-imposed social media blackout and the goodwill of fellow fans) to avoid all spoilers and arrived at a sold-out screening that rivalled the comic-con atmosphere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and last year's Infinity War.

The Russo brothers open Avengers: Endgame with a subversive salvo that sees the main villain seemingly victorious after destroying the Infinity Stones to prevent the surviving Avengers led by Captain America (Chris Evans), now joined by Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) fresh from rescuing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) who were adrift in deep space aboard Rocket's (Bradley Cooper) starship, from snapping things back.

However, Thanos is seriously injured and weakened from using the Infinity Gauntlet a second time and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), riven with guilt, takes Thanos' advice from Infinity War and beheads him before wandering into the wilderness. How can our beleaguered band of heroes, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), reverse the irreversible?

Ultimately, Endgame delivers fan service (in the best way) on a grand scale I've dreamed about since poring over the pages of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars in the mid-eighties. A greatest hits compilation riffing on Back to the Future Part II, celebrating the ambitious scope of the MCU (spanning 22 interconnected movies, beginning humbly with director Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008), but at its core are the universal themes of friendship, family and what unites us.

It's an affecting and poignant tale, worthy of comparison with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, possessed of an emotional resonance that will continue to reverberate long after the end credits have finished.

Where do the Avengers go from here? Who knows. Well, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige probably does with live-action series featuring Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision for Disney+. But one thing is clear.

Make Mine Marvel. 'Nuff said!

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