Avengers: Endgame movie cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Runner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan
Avengers: Endgame movie director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Avengers: Endgame rating: 4.5 stars
If — and that is a big if — this is indeed the endgame, there could scarcely have been one better. Having laboured over setting up the final battle in Infinity War, Directors Anthony and Joe Russo get their act together to give a proper, emotional, funny and, yes, even spectacular, send-off to a cast of characters we have come to know (and, mostly love) over 22 films and 10 years.
Where they seemed to be having trouble tracking the many heroes, and superheroes, and justifying their pay grade and presence last time, the Russos find a way to hold it all together now — though, admittedly, they have fewer heads than in Infinity War given that Thanos had made many vanish. Still, when the storyline seems to be getting out of hand — as tales involving time travel, quantum physics, and infinity stones can invariably do — the Russos with commendable clarity reel it back in. There is pathos in levity here and levity in pathos, with writers Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (who have many Avenger films on their resume) tackling love, fatherhood, motherhood and parenthood with a light touch which would do even better films proud.
It also ultimately gives us a great villain in Thanos — brilliantly performed in motion-capture by Josh Brolin. A villain convinced not just of the motivations of his own villainy but also that it may just be a set piece in the larger endgame of the universe — in his words, a man like him, believing in and triggering the cycle of extinction and renewal, for continuum, is “inevitable”. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, let’s just say it’s fraught with risk where Endgame chooses to meet him — though expected given the pensive ending of Infinity War — and how it sets up the clash this time.
Choosing the path it does, allows Endgame to flash back to the many high points of this franchise’s 22 films, set up some great encounters, show the evolution of its characters right from the first threads of their spandex suits, and underline the camaraderie that is ultimately the greatest strength of this bursting-at-the-seams cast.
Iron Man a.k.a Tony (Downey Jr) gets to settle his father issues, Captain America aka Steve (Evans) to have a shot at a normal life, Thor to choose between being god and man, Hulk aka Bruce to make peace with both his brain and brawn (though Ruffalo is Ruffalo, and sorely missed in his new green mass), Hawkeye aka Barton (Renner) acknowledges his feelings for Black Widow aka Natasha (Johansson), while the latter learns about her dad and has one of the most profound moments in the film, while just eating a sandwich. Of the main people this time, only Ant-Man aka Scott (Rudd) doesn’t impress.
Starting with Downey Jr and Evans, the actors put their heart and soul into the goings-on, even when the film gets incredulous over its 3-hour-plus length and sags, like in Infinity War, in the real bang-for-the-buck bits. However, the clear winner hands down is Hemsworth as Thor, now with straggly hair and a paunch, who has let himself go in the years following Thanos’s destruction of the world, wallowing in self-pity and beer. Hemsworth has time and again proved that he is the actor with the best comic touch here (forgive us thou Chris Pratt fans), and it is to him that the best line of the film is devoted — when Thor, top undressed and trousers hanging below his bulging stomach, demands to know what is wrong with how he looks, Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) says, “You look like melted ice-cream.”
There are other nice lines here, about failure and finding oneself, about “ending being part of the story of a hero’s gig”, about “no amount of money buying you a second of time”, about the choice between freedom and control, about the things that are better left alone (a Wakandan on an earthquake under the ocean), and about even time travel (“either all of it is a joke or none of it is)” — though some of it might sound less brilliant in retrospect.
And there is an ambitious but pleasing passing-of-the-baton here — with women (probably, maybe) hinted at playing a larger role in the films to come. Till then, go with the thought that in a roomful of men struggling to pay attention as six infinity stones are traced across space, time and quantum realm, Natasha knows what is required — she takes notes.