Howls of laughter. Shrieks of delight. Gasps of surprise. And quiet moments when you could hear a tear fall. All these reactions were forthcoming from the eager throng I sat amongst who were soaking up Avengers Endgame. The audience’s expectations were sky high. Marvel delivered. The film is such a satisfying conclusion to the studio’s more than decade story arc that it’s hard to think how they could have done it better.
Given that Marvel has fashioned a reputation for crowd pleasing, critic pleasing and money making movies, this is perhaps no great surprise. But that’s not to diminish the achievement of Endgame. Sure, we would all expect to see a visually arresting, well acted, drama and humour-filled ride, but first and foremost Marvel had to deliver a worthy story.
And here writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have succeeded admirably, and have done so by hearkening back to the style of storytelling that made Marvel Comics so successful over many decades: a focus on the humanity of its key players. The enjoyment the audience gained from Avengers Endgame clearly came from their knowledge of what happened to the characters throughout the early movies. Add to that a plethora of visual and other script references, and Endgame is both a conclusion to the Thanos/Infinity Stones story, and also a hearfelt tribute to all that Cap, Iron Man, Thor et al have been through over all this time. Suffice to say that the more you recall from those early movies the more you are likely to enjoy Endgame.
I’m saying nothing of how the story develops in this movie because the less you know going into it the better. There are genuine surprises here, and they reflect some brave decision-making on the part of Marvel. I’d say those decisions pay off. Not everyone will like or agree with what happens, but by film’s end you are left in no doubt that this long running chapter in movie making has come to a close. You are left with a set of conflicting emotions. What more could you ask?,
The other achievement of Endgame is to tell a story while balancing such a large cast of characters. At the end of Infinity War Thanos had wiped out half of humanity, including a large swathe of Avengers. The writers find a way of resolving that, and moving us through the story in a way where we’re just managing to hold on to the various plot threads in front of us.
There are many who’ve never been into this genre and will wonder what the fuss has been all about. For goodness sake it’s all ridiculous make believe, a fantasy world of unbelievable people and of no value to any of us negotiating our way through the real world. That’s probably all true. But storytelling of any type is surely about making us care about what’s unfolding in front of us, and that is its value. More than that, in this film as in all which preceded it, Marvel demonstrate the knack of telling a story that is both dramatic but doesn’t take itself seriously either. They’ve nailed that dynamic time and again, and they hold true to it til the end of Endgame.
Marvel Studios took on the job of translating fifty years of comic book stories into film, a task that promised great success but also great failure if they’d not captured the essence of the characters to the satisfaction of millions of fans around the world. They did succeed, and did so over many years and many films. As Stan Lee would have said, ‘Nuff Said.