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Photo: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) squaring up for battle. Image credit: Entertainment Weekly

Avengers Endgame is the superb culmination of over a decade of Marvel’s Cinematic history that perfectly delivers the most emotionally affecting and crowd-pleasing film yet.

The Russo’s had a hill to climb when they took on delivering the first part of the Avengers films in the Infinity Saga. After that broke box office records with its billions and wooed the hearts of critics and fans alike, they gave themselves a mountain to climb for Endgame. But oh did they deliver it with aplomb and brilliance.

After the initial prologue, Endgame picks up 5 years after the events of Infinity War. The remaining Avengers, still weary and grieving from the emotional trauma of Thanos’s victory, continue to search tirelessly for any hope that they can reverse the snap and bring everyone back. There isn’t so much determination on the faces of our heroes but desperation; each survivor running on fumes unable to consider what they might do should they lose hope. Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) seems particularly broken mourning the loss of the only family she ever really knew and even Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) plucky optimism does little to bring much comfort. However, a glimmer of hope arrives in Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who though presumed dead, turns up at Avengers HQ after fortuitously escaping from the his entrapment in the Quantum Realm. Lang believes that there is a way to bring everyone back using this microscopic otherworld, and together with Cap and Widow, they get the band back together to pull off the most important mission of their lives.

If the first act is a slower, drama focused opening with lots of character interactions to set up the stakes for our heroes, then the second is much lighter and ingeniously conceived. With the remaining Avengers hatching out a way to get back each of the Infinity Stones to use against Thanos, the interconnectivity of Marvel’s universe becomes expertly realised. Throwbacks to the franchise serve to aid the progression of the narrative whilst also providing some well-considered fan service. These moments elicited some of the biggest cheers and gleeful reactions from the crowd in my screening and not once did they feel forced or cheap. Throughout this burgeoning franchise, the talents at Marvel have always recognised that the most important part of what the fans are connecting to in these films are the characters. There is always time for a character beat even in the midst of the action, which keeps them personable and relatable and distinguishes everyone from each other. We have grown and attached ourselves to Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk et al, and the writers (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) know this all too well. They give something back to longtime fans which feels genuine satisfying and rewarding whilst never quite directly repeating themselves. Endgame feels like the setlist of your favourite band’s gig were all the best hits have been saved until last.

Just as Endgame becomes in danger of losing some of its pacing and the extended runtime feeling unjustified, it ramps up and delivers the encore in a spectacularly large and thrilling finale. The air punch moments of Infinity War (Thor storming down into Wakanda, Peter Parker becoming an Avenger) will seem muted by some of the moments that the Russo’s give us here, as the scope of the action is scaled up to 11. The action as a product of being bolder isn’t as clear or smooth as it has always been, with a few choppy cuts that do lose some clarity. We must remember however that the Russo’s delivered Marvel’s best action film with ‘The Winter Soldier’, so it’s ok for some minor issues to be allowed when everything else has been executed with near surgical precision.

But we won’t get out of this journey easily. Let’s just say that I was brought to an emotional state that I don’t get to often and I was left feeling like a child watching the end of ET again. The emotional heft that is felt by the end of this film should be enough to cut through the sternest of hearts and shows that blockbusters truly can deliver more heart and soul than what they are given credit for. It also beautifully ties up the end of the saga, providing a resolute end that gives comforting signs the future of Marvel is still looking bright and that we still have much to look forward to moving into Phase 4. The biggest peak may have been reached and it’s unlikely that it will be surpassed for some time. For Avengers Endgame has delivered a legacy of stunning cinematic history in one epic instalment that doesn’t falter at the final hurdle. What more could we ask for?