Avengers: Endgame – Premiere + Short Review + Impact

Credit: Boss Logic/Marvel

Credit: Boss Logic/Marvel

A brisk breeze brushed from behind us as we stood amidst a flurry of bodies eagerly prancing as we waited for the traffic lights to provide us all safe passage. Buses towering over stagnant cars marched steadily through the traffic at... 9pm on a Wednesday night. But this was not your average Wednesday night, no; this was the midnight screening of “Avengers: Endgame”; this was the culmination of an 11-year journey taking place Cineworld Broad Street. Arguably– no, Cineworld Broad Street is the best cinema in Birmingham. Situated a mere 10-minute walk from the city centre in the inner city, its mountainous body covered in bronzed bricks houses 12 screens and a Starbucks, neighbours the biggest gym chain by membership, PureGym, and a 24-hour multi-storey car park, Euro Car Parks.

A year after Marvel Studio’s successful blockbuster “Avengers: Infinity War” (grossing over $2 billion) saw the ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ stranded on a planet, and galaxy, that had lost (temporarily) half of all life and (forever) a few teammates (‘Gamora’, ‘Heimdall’, ‘Vision’, and ‘Loki’ all of which killed by explainable means – pushed off a cliff, stabbed, life source stolen, and neck snapped, respectively) thanks to a purple villain with a ballsack for a chin named ‘Thanos’ (Josh Brolin). “Endgame” is simultaneously retaliation for suffering such a defeat, the end for some and a next step for the beloved characters.

I would like to stress that this piece does contain spoilers – unsafe for those who haven’t watched the biggest film of the decade yet. Then again, the chances of avoiding said spoilers are becoming slim given thousands of posts about the goings-on of the film are being posted across Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, et al., whilst a 720p HD pirated version of the film sails around the web. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem to have hindered the success of the film; already netting over $400 billion domestically and $1.6 billion internationally, according to Box Office Mojo, and on track to surpass “Avatar” (2009) and make over $2 billion by its third week.

Getting into the cinema alone we were given a revision of history. We clearly didn’t get the memo because almost everyone, bar employees, was participating in cosplay; it was a miniature comic-con, people were dressed in outfits of characters from ‘Whiplash’ to ‘Dr Strange to ‘Thor’. I surveyed the reception housing an ice-cream bar, dwarf confectionery aisles, an open Starbucks, four cashiers, and five self-service machines. Whilst in line we engaged in several conversations with other fans, trading predictions and confiding in each other as we divulged the impact these films have had on us – a therapy-on-wheels, if you will.

A super-fan shouted, “AVENGERS...” to which the foyer in unison replied, “ASSEMBLE!” The night was splendid indeed. I’m sure you can imagine the atmosphere of such a cultural event. Another fan – a few yards from us – was cradled in the arms of, I’m assuming, their friend or partner as they sobbed.

This is it...”

The companion countered,

Well technically, no. It’s not really.”

I imagine it would be somewhat difficult to find someone who is not aware of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and its films – more so its films. Commencing in 2008 with the first film, “Iron Man”, of ‘Phase 1’ (‘Phases’ are distinct sections of interconnected films that conclude every few years with an Avengers film or an individual character film, but each concluder links to the next ‘Phase’) Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios President) was given an opportunity by Disney to marshal a plan that would change cinema forever. And in the process become, arguably, the most successful producer of the century – if not century, definitely the 2010s. His long-term plan of a shared universe of Marvel heroes has proved a success with twenty-two consecutive box-office and several critically acclaimed hits. Eleven-years and twenty-two films amassing $20 billion (as of 30/04/2019) is an unprecedented achievement; reshaping the framework within which universe-specific films can exist and, ultimately, pushing the boundaries of cinema forever. Yes, “Star Wars exists, but it wasn’t until Disney brought Lucasfilm in 2012 – 4-years into the MCU – for $4 billion that the Star Wars franchise expanded and had its on extended universe akin to Marvel, albeit being a mainstay of pop culture for four decades. 

Of course, the MCU is not without its faults. For one, there is a general lack of visual consistency throughout the franchise. MCU films tend to have a low-contrast, flat look. Day scenes are, generally, interchangeable because they’re very bland and lifeless – completely contrasting the action. Ironically, one of the most disregarded films, “Thor: Dark World (2013), has arguably the best cinematography. Unlike the flavourful tapestry of covers plastered across stands in graphic novel stores around the world MCU films have been unable to, consistently, physically translate distinct editions onto film.

Studios, such as Universal, have attempted to replicate Marvel’s success, but haven’t been quite successful. The failure of it’s ‘Dark Universe’ is an embarrassment they hope moviegoers have forgotten about, but the sheer size of the studio, and thus mishap too it’s quite hard to forget. Kicking off with a marketing blunder in December 2016 as the wrong trailer for “The Mummy” (2017) was uploaded the universe took off with squeak from Tom Cruise in action rather than your idiomatic bang! It received the meme treatment on various social media sites, cementing its notoriety for eternity. Although, the film was a box office hit it didn’t fair well with critics, so Universal, seemingly, axed a slew of planned films from its pantheon of classic monsters: ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, ‘Dracula’, ‘The Wolfman’, ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’, and ‘The Invisible Man’. Much hinged on the success of “The Mummy”, it would’ve set the foundation for all the monster films. The link being an entity called Prodigum: a secret faction headed by ‘Dr Jekyll’, played by Russell Crowe, who monitored the supernatural – similar to Marvel’s Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. Similarly, Tom Cruise leading the film as adventurer ‘Nick Morton’ was a role in the same vein as Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark. However, Universal has announced its first extended universe film for its “The Fast and the Furious” franchise – which is 8 films in – titled “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” set to be realised this August. This will see Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as the titular characters ‘Luke Hobbs’ and ‘Deckard Shaw’.

Standing at three hours and two minutes (182 minutes) “Endgame is a lengthy conclusion to Marvel’s ‘Phase 3’ and the first eleven-year era of a new age in cinema. Also, making it the longest MCU film to date. Naturally, my heart was elevated from the moment we collected our pre-paid tickets. Serenaded by theories from our allies we marched down the stairs armed with just the memory of the previous twenty films. Swiftly grabbing the door from the person in front and heading into the dimly lit screening hall, the end was nigh. Only managing to find its pace once the first frame ignited the screening hall... and YEET! The scene ended and my stomach sank...

Upon our exit from the cinema our conversation was more of a symphony of unrelenting voices, collectively describing what we had just witnessed; switching from scene to scene neither of us allowing each other to finish a sentence before interjecting.

“That part when Cap dashed Mjölnir– “

“Oiiiiiiiiiii! He started swinging the hammer like he’s been doin’ it for years lol”

“I’m not gonna lie, that scene has got nuthin on Tony’s death tho...”

Ultimately, leading to the overbearing topic that has been resurfacing for the past few years: Disney’s accrescent monopoly. The rocketing success of “Endgame” has, once again, raised questions about Disney’s monopolisation of the entertainment industry (which they now own 40% of thanks to the acquisition of 20th Century Fox’s entertainment division – franchises and shows, such as X-Men and “The Simpsons”). We agreed that Disney is fulfilling an unprecedented position whereby it now has the ability to dictate a major cinema release circuit by deciding the terms distributors and cinemas have to agree on.

The success of the MCU has also accelerated trends that are detrimental to the industry, for example, it has made event films popular and helped establish it as a norm. By creating a monoculture that is dictated by a handful of popular topics from specific genres, such as comic book and horror, it exacerbates a dependency on presold films. This encourages studios to invest heavily on the biggest films, which means fewer films are released overall, and thus increasing lacklustre box-office weekends and the causing cinemas to be closed down.

We wondered, “How do we combat this?” Well, for one, we (regular filmgoers) could, or continue to, support independent films buy actively seeking them and purchasing tickets in local theatres or the film itself on VOD services, such as iTunes. Similarly, if you’re in a financially stable position buying subscriptions for streaming services focusing on independent and arthouse films, such as Criterion and Kanopy. But ultimately, this is an “issue” far too great for the average filmgoer to “fix”.

As for my initial reaction to the film: happiness, sadness, ecstatic, depressed, and satisfied, but still longing for more... Even at three hours, this convoluted giant of a film manages to remain light on its feet. Its claustrophobic narrative is unpacked with a leisurely pace that celebrates the original characters’ bond and roots. Its length is earnt by basking in the most intimate and basic moments between the characters. Climaxing with one of the greatest fight sequences ever! “The Lord of the Rings” wishes... Anything less would’ve still extracted the same jovial response from audiences.

With only the six original Avengers remaining: ‘Tony Stark/Iron Man’, ‘Thor’ (Chris Hemsworth), ‘Steve Rogers/Captain America’ (Chris Evans), ‘Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow’ (Scarlett Johansson), ‘Bruce Banner/Hulk’ (Mark Ruffalo), and ‘Clint Barton/Hawkeye’ (Jeremy Renner). Supported by the trustee ‘James Rhodes/War Machine’ (Don Cheadle), ‘Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel’ (Brie Larson), ‘Scott Lang/Ant-Man’ (Paul Rudd), ‘Nebula’ (Karen Gillan), and ‘Rocket Raccoon’ (hilariously voiced by Bradley Cooper). This ensemble tugs at heartstrings with emotional performances and raises heart rates with stunts and sequences from literal comic strips.

By the end of “Infinity War”, audiences were left gobsmacked as the Russo brothers – Anthony and Joseph – made us watch our beloved characters being reduced to ash and evil triumph. With “Endgame”, they’re back with an original script written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (making this their fourth film together as a quartet) which is based on the “What if?” comic series. 

The film begins, once again, with a completely different tone than the film before it, as all “Avengers” films do. Contrasting the wild end of “Infinity War” we’re welcomed back into ‘Barton’s personal life – first time since “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) – as he’s enjoying a picnic with his family; his wife, tending the grill, asks what sauce they’d like on their hotdogs whilst he’s helping his daughter perfect her archery. He turns away only to realise his family has disappeared. In the next scene we’re transported to somewhere in space where ‘Tony’ and ‘Nebula’ are drifting destination-less before being saved by ‘Captain Marvel’, and thus actually commencing the film. Given this film is, essentially, an attempt to reverse the effects of “Infinity War” we are treated to a wild proposal during one of the most notable moments, when a broken ‘Romanoff’, five years after the devastating snap, is confiding in a weary ‘Steve’ and accepting defeat only for the energetic ‘Scott Lang’ to conveniently pop up and provide fresh hope: a “time heist”. As this time heist is brought to life and, finally, executed the film comfortably progresses; the story shifting from doom & gloom and, eventually, into epic mode. We’re given a reminder of the visual blandness that I mentioned earlier. But nonetheless, developments provide relief for this ailment Marvel can’t seem to get rid of as the interpersonal bonds that link the 22-film franchise are celebrated. It’s a testament to the Russos’ effective direction and vitalisation of a jam-packed script.

In the eleven-years since Marvel began this experimental universe of interconnected superheroes, the studio has assembled an impressive roster of stars to portray these characters, costumed and otherwise. And “Endgame” fulfils on the promise of a satisfying ending for the original six, especially, ‘Tony’ and ‘Steve’. However, no other character has been given a more compelling arc than ‘Tony Stark’; Downey Jr’s depiction of the exuberant billionaire genius over the past eleven years have been nothing short of amazing. And we got arguably the most emotional moment of the entire franchise... That gut-wrenching, heart-breaking scene during the climax where ‘Tony’ swiftly regains possession of the infinity stones from ‘Thanos’ sending him and his army back to their timeline with the snap and finally saving the world from the threat that had troubled him for years prior to “Endgame”, before he finally ‘rested’.

What remains now is an indescribably successful franchise and Marvel regaining almost complete access to its original characters. The experiment evolves with no end in sight, as several new subjects line up to enter production, such as “Eternals”, whilst others are ready to be released, such as “Spider-Man: Far From Home”. The future of MCU looks promising and just as lucrative, but I wonder whether the Avengers name brand will continue; will the success warrant replications or will Feige & co. continue straight ahead and leave the newly established tradition of heroes assembling till their contracts finish in this era? I’m not too keen on answers and I trust Feige and Marvel have good intentions for the future. 

But what I am sure of is that I’ll be bound to experience nights, and the moments that accompany it, like this again. Part of me dreads the day it happens for the last time, but reality insists on making me accept the inevitable. So, for now, I’ll continue basking in the glorious variations of Marvel’s ambitious experiment, whilst facilitating their ever-growing empire – hey, at least the journey into darkness is lit with glorious CGI.