Review: Avengers: Endgame
Eleven years, 22 films, 47 hours and 59 minutes: the Marvel Cinematic Universe is unlike anything accomplished in film before.
My own personal investment in this mega-franchise is undeniable. I’ve spent countless hours watching and re-watching all the films, a number of which I’ve seen upwards of 10 times, and a few even more than that.
I’ve watched every spinoff TV show and have obsessively kept track of all the news, big or small, revolving around this wide universe of super-powered people.
And now we're here. At the Endgame.
It is here that I find myself fondly remembering sitting on the IMDb for hours and hours researching every possible and knowable detail about this interconnected series of films leading up to the first Avengers film in 2012.
Even earlier than that, I recall my father and brother going to see “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” back in 2008. Meanwhile, I only got unfulfilled promises from my mother that she’d take me to go see them, and that only made me want to see them even more.
Looking back I realize just how much I have been invested in this universe and its massive assortment of characters and branching storylines. It is this perspective that I eagerly, yet cautiously, brought with me into “Avengers: Endgame.”
And let me tell you: it was spectacular.
An Entire Universe, Once and for All
“Avengers: Endgame” is the culmination of so many stories and films, and personal investment in and knowledge of the intricacies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) do play a large role in the film. It’s a byproduct of the type of synergistic storytelling that these films use, and the consequences of both good and bad are more relevant than ever before.
I mention my own personal stake in this series to indicate that what I got out of it, others may not—and that’s okay, but I think it is important to note.
It’s hard to strictly define the MCU in some definitive, singular way. Each and every film bears some significance to the world that it exists within. Whether it’s in the form of a single character dealing with a bit of personal growth or a team preventing a world-ending threat, everything that happens in these films affects the universe in some way.
Like any long-running franchise, there's good and there's bad. Fortunately for Marvel, the good has always far outweighed the bad.
That being said, one thing I have always respected about the Marvel films is that they always take the good and bad in stride. If something isn’t working as well, they always try to improve it while never looking down on what they did before. In this way, despite their massive success, the MCU has never lost its honest, good-natured, scrappy personality that made the original “Iron Man” so great.
Last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” finally brought all the pieces together in a way that I haven’t felt since 2012’s “The Avengers” assembled our heroes together for the first time.
“Infinity War” was a rush of action and spectacle that satisfied on almost all fronts while delicately balancing so many storylines and characters. And then the film did something big.
For the first time ever in one of these films, our heroes lost—which resulted in the decimation of half the population of the entire universe at the hands of the mad titan Thanos. It gave us everything we wanted and then took it away.
The fulfillment found in “Infinity War” was through bringing everything together by means of a threat worthy of the expansive shared universe, only to then subvert that fulfillment by absolutely destroying the potential future of the universe.
So while “Infinity War” was the fulfillment of the universe, “Endgame” is the fulfillment of the characters and storylines, especially for the original Avengers line-up.
An Ending for a New Beginning
*If you don’t want to know any details about the plot of “Avengers: Endgame” then I might advise that you skip to the end of this review. I will not be going into any major spoilers, but it’s nearly impossible to talk about this three-hour journey without some loose context. You’ve been warned.*
The movie is clearly defined into three parts. The first act of the film finds our heroes, and the world, dealing with the massive loss at the end of “Infinity War.” The remaining heroes each cope with their failure to prevent this disaster in their own ways.
Ever since the Russo brothers became the core creative force behind the MCU, along with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the cause and effect of the heroes' actions and how they deal with the consequences has become a major theme. “Captain America: Civil War” really drove this home, and the early part of “Endgame” really allows you to feel the weight of the consequences brought about by their failure.
There’s a lingering sadness and loss that has effected and changed all of the characters, and it’s genuinely impactful to see how they each choose to handle the situation.
What follows the hopelessness at the beginning is amazing. As the heroes try to find a way to fix what’s been done, the film leads us on a massive undertaking that takes everything that's ever happened in this saga and flips it on its skull.
It’s a celebration of an entire decade of films: the triumphs and tribulations, the joy, the pain, all of it. The best and worst tendencies of the MCU are on full display, as it bumbles around balancing the tone with the rapid succession of story beats and universe tie-ins. Everything is done to please the fans, often to a fault, but the story bounces in such an effortless and satisfying way that I welcome the flaws with open arms.
It’s the kind of scrappy, underdog personality and fun, clever thinking that plays such a pivotal role into why I love this series.
The finale of this movie may just be the biggest and most exuberant thing I’ve ever seen on screen. It’s a full-on spectacle extravaganza of the highest order, one that maintains a deeply emotional core that suddenly makes every second you’ve ever let yourself care about something as silly as a bunch of fictional superheroes the most meaningful thing in your life.
It’s the perfect end to the MCU as we know it. It celebrates the past and builds the foundation for an exciting future.
Where “Infinity War” had a broader well of key characters to juggle, in “Endgame” the core roster is significantly cut down. Conveniently, all of the original Avengers survived Thanos' decimation—so we once again follow Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), along with other survivors War Machine (Don Cheadle), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan).
We get to see new sides to many of these characters, and the actors playing them continue to perfectly embody them in all their nuance.
The filmmakers take some big risks with some of these changes, but I believe they really pay off. Some characters try their best to improve themselves and move on, while others are still caught in the aftermath of what happened, unable to move on and start their lives over. Some characters even undergo significant physical changes.
It’s terrific to get this cast together at least one last time, as many of them may be done in the MCU after this. We’ve been able to follow these characters for so long, and so much credit should be given to the actors for bringing them to life for so many years.
At the end of the day, these characters are what many—myself included—love most about these films, and seeing some of their journeys end is an inevitable part of following along with them.
Endgame of my “Endgame” Review
“Avengers: Endgame” is the pinnacle of the MCU. It encapsulates every aspect of why people have come to love these films and gives an emotionally resonant conclusion to the story thus far.
It’s mega popcorn blockbuster entertainment that puts the fans first while not sacrificing the quality of the story the filmmakers want to tell. Despite some flaws and much to nitpick (I can’t get into any of that without spoilers), it is exhilarating, emotional, exhausting, euphoric fandom heaven brought to life by an incredible team that followed through on a seemingly impossible promise.
If you have any issues with the MCU, those things are certainly still present here. But if you’re in any way invested in this world, then this is basically the cinematic equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.
It’s hard to describe “Avengers: Endgame” as any less than a cinematic experience unlike anything that's ever come before. Simply put, it’s the cinematic event of the decade, the likes of which may never happen in the same way again. And the three-hour runtime is not stopping me from wanting to see it again and again.
P.S. - There are no post-credit scenes, for any avid MCU fans who are wondering.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
Runtime: 3h 2min