Verdict on biggest movie of the year
Avengers: Endgame is undoubtedly the biggest movie of the year.
And not just because it's already breaking box office records, that it will make billions of dollars around the world or that it's such an event, the main cinema in Sydney CBD has 44 sessions on today.
It's the biggest movie of the year because of its sheer scale, ambition and what it promises fans who have given 11 years and more than 45 hours of their time to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It's a promise that Avengers: Endgame fulfils with all its might, delivering a spectacle that is genuinely affecting and packed with properly exciting moments that will literally make you draw your breath, clap and whoop, and jump out of your seat.
This kind of grand filmmaking is what superhero blockbusters should be. Even the big all-in, action-heavy final act feels like just the right amount of bombast blended with emotional pay-offs.
No wonder Marvel has hinted that its future movies will be smaller-scale single-character focused affairs. The mega studio couldn't possibly top this.
And if you're worried about the three-hour running time, don't be. It's very well-paced and you'll be so wrapped up in all the frantic action and character moments that you won't even notice how long it is.
I'm not going to go into the plot other than what the trailers have already revealed - which is actually very little once you see the whole thing.
The direct sequel to last year's Avengers: Infinity War, the remaining heroes who survived villain Thanos' "snapture", in which he disappeared half the universe's population, will rally to try and reverse what happened.
That includes the original, core Avengers team of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), plus Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who was absent in the last film. Joining them will be Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).
While Avengers: Endgame works well for even a casual Marvel viewer, someone who has probably seen a handful of titles, it is exceptionally rewarding for those who have followed this franchise for more than a decade.
To say that this movie isn't 60 per cent fan service would be facetious - there are layers and layers of callbacks, easter eggs, references and returning stars that will make even the most stoic fan giddy with delight. Yes, I said giddy.
So the level of excitement you'll have throughout Avengers: Endgame will correlate with how devoted you have been to the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first Iron Man came out in 2008.
At this point in the game, and with more than $US18 billion at the box office, let's not pretend that Marvel hasn't reached wide and deep into moviegoing audiences around the world. This is a real cinematic behemoth and you may as well surrender to it.
Yet somehow, the fan service is balanced with the wider narrative and character demands without ever feeling like it's a sacrifice to tone or story fidelity. That's a real credit to directors Joe and Anthony Russo who have now helmed four Marvel movies and proves once again how good they are at both big action set-pieces and dialogue-heavy set-ups.
Avengers: Endgame is also much funnier than you would expect. Where Infinity War was serious and very action-focused, Endgame gives characters and moments time to breathe - which leaves the door open for a lot of levity (mostly provided by Ant-Man and Thor), and poignancy.
That luxury of letting a scene run a few beats longer means there's a real focus on emotional moments, especially for those characters that have been around since the first phase of the MCU.
The Russos paid proper tribute to the original Avengers - in particular Captain America, in part because the Russos started their Marvel adventure with that character - and when their emotional crescendos or battle triumphs come, it's earnt.
By the time the end credits roll, your heart will be in your throat. This is a movie that's as much about family, in all its forms, as it is about saving the world.
There are a couple of small quibbles, the main one being that it doesn't use Captain Marvel particularly well - and fans who fell in love with that character will find her role in this movie (and the solution in how you bring in a character whose powers are so beyond the other heroes) left wanting.
Avengers: Endgame is a capstone on 22 movies - that's a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of boxes it needed to tick, a lot of stories it had to conclude and some stories to set up.
If the Marvel franchise had finished with Endgame, if this was to be the last chapter, it would've been a worthy end to an extraordinary universe of stories.
As it is, we know that Marvel is forging ahead with loads more projects in the pipeline, and Avengers: Endgame will make you excited about what's next.
Avengers: Endgame is in cinemas now
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