After eleven years and 21 films its all come to this, “Avengers: Endgame”. It’s truly a once in a generation kind of cinematic event that has, predictably, taken the world by storm as it promised to wrap up numerous character and story arcs in the Marvel Cinematic Universe bringing the Infinity Saga to a close although technically “Spider-Man: Far From Home” will be the final film in Phase 3. Like many other fans, I’ve waited a LONG time to see this film. The buildup to it felt like we were going to see a true cinematic experience like never before and “Endgame” certainly did have a lot to live up to beyond that as the conclusion to a revolutionary strategy in franchise building that saw Marvel Studios connect different series in an interwoven narrative towards an insane conclusion. “Endgame” is probably the hardest film I have ever taken on as a reviewer because I had to look at this film through two lenses: the critical side of me and the fan side of me. It had to please me in two different ways satisfying my love for a franchise that has spanned more than a decade while also impressing me as a self-proclaimed critic of the medium. It had to be a good, satisfying and fun film that provided closure to many different stories to make way for a new future in the MCU. That is a tall order for any film no matter who the viewer is. Then you add in the fact that this is a film with a plot HEAVILY hidden and one I respect too much to spoil. SO that adds to the difficulty of reviewing it. So here is my promise and compromise. This review is going to balance both my fandom and my critical thoughts on the film while also working to be as vague as humanly possible while getting my point across so it will be SPOILER FREE. However, ANYTHING shown in the trailers it fair game to be discussed and if you have NOT seen past MCU films including “Infinity War” well you’re on your own there. Alright with that out of the way lets see how well “Endgame” lives up to the expectations. This is my review of “Avengers: Endgame”.
“Avengers: Endgame” picks up after the events of “Infinity War” with Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) snap having decimated the universe eliminating half of all life. The remaining Avengers, and the world at large, is working to cope with their new realities with loved ones gone and world governments in disarray. However, when an ally thought lost from the snap reemerges he brings with him the knowledge that could present a possible resolution to Thanos’ deeds providing new hope to the Avengers as they put a plan into place to resurrect everyone who lost their lives as a result of the snap. However, their mission is complicated when Thanos reemerges to ensure that the effects of his actions remain and threatens to take his mission one step further. For the Avengers, failure is not an option as they promise to do “whatever it takes” to stop the Mad Titan once and for all. Can the Avengers win in their rematch with the Titan or is the universe destined to remained decimated for eternity? It all depends on how much our heroes are willing to sacrifice and put on the line to make their mission a success.
So, yeah, I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED this movie. Right off the bat, I’m not going to hide it, as both a fan and a self-proclaimed critic “Endgame” was absolutely fantastic! The Russo Brothers have brought EVERYTHING to the table in an attempt to satisfy not just the “Infinity War” plot but many different storylines from throughout the MCU. It’s no secret that this is a lot of actors’ final roles in the franchise. Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans and others are all done after this film, so their storylines had to be brought to a close by the end of “Endgame”. A highlight aspect of this movie is that it does, indeed, take the time to explore and complete numerous character arcs, some more tragic than others, with most of that focus being on the original Avengers like Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor who are all still around after the snap occurs. Joining them are Ant-Man, War Machine, Nebula, Captain Marvel, Rocket, Okoye and Valkyrie among others who have to deal with the results of the snap but whose journeys are far from over. As I said though the focus is on the original six and many of their personal journeys that we have seen progress over the last eleven years come full circle in (mostly) satisfying fashion. While not everyone is going to be happy with the results, which is bound to happen for any film of this scale, for me I found many of the resolutions to be appropriate for the characters although even in my opinion not every hero gets his proper due.
For example, while I appreciate the comic book accurate change they made to Hulk for this movie it was a little out of left field for me and felt like a rushed and random resolution to a character who has struggled with his dual identities for several films. In “Endgame” it’s resolved in a manner that, for me at least, didn’t offer the kind of rewarding end to Banner’s personal torture that I was hoping for. Another character I was a bit disappointed by was Thor who gets an…I’ll say interesting makeover for the second and third acts of the film. This is not the Thor we are used to seeing although this transformation of the character does play into his personal demons which, as it turns out, have been haunting him since his early days in the MCU. I loved seeing Thor have to deal with his inner torture concerning his failures, but the way it’s handled feels like forced comedy that undermines the badass nature of the character we’ve come to know and love.
On the flip side, Iron Man and Captain America’s stories are completely resolved by the end of the movie. Both heroes, who have essentially been the anchors of this franchise since the beginning, were slated to be phased out in this film and “Endgame”, in one way or another, does confirm that their journeys are pretty much over. There’s also some surprising depth in the resolutions for other characters as well. There’s one very tense scene involving Hawkeye and Black Widow that brings their partnership full circle and delves not only into Hawkeye’s more emotional side but also the inner torture Black Widow has faced that has been mentioned slightly in past features but truly takes center stage here.
While it’s confirmed this isn’t the end for either of these characters on the big and/or small screen, “Endgame” does provide a fitting and much deserved moment between these two that pushes their long-running partnership to its breaking point. Even Nebula, a character whose evolution has been undermined by more prominent characters like her sister Gamora, gets a cool story arc. In fact, Nebula plays a HUGE role in the events of “Endgame” forcing her to come face to face with her past as a loyal servant of Thanos and the destructive results of her misguided quest for survival and superiority. The beauty is that all of these subplots feel well meshed and the nature of the narrative, which I won’t spoil here, allows for each character to have those moments of self-reflection without us feeling like we’re missing too much of the action somewhere else. Like “Infinity War” before it, “Endgame” does a decent if not even better job juggling its large cast providing plenty of time for everyone to breath and grow as the story unfolds without overshadowing or being overshadowed by everyone else. As Thanos would say, the way these character stories are handled is, mostly, perfectly balanced.
Speaking of Thanos he also evolves in this film. While in “Infinity War” he’s presented as a more relatable villain whose goals are for the betterment of humanity despite the controversial sacrifice, the events of “Endgame” lead him to embrace the megalomania that fan of the comic books are probably more familiar with. While I wasn’t tremendously thrilled with the creative change to Thanos for this film in the moment, in hindsight I found it to be the next logical evolution for his God complex, especially when faced with the prospect of all his work being undone. I can’t really go into detail here on how or why his character changes so drastically but I will say the Thanos we get this time is even more threatening, capable, sadistic, and dangerous than who we got in “Infinity War” and it more than satisfies considering the build-up Thanos has had from the first “Avengers” film to today. We saw what he was capable of in “Infinity War” but we see the true potential of the Mad Titan on display here further cementing him as a truly great movie and comic book villain.
Then there’s the three-hour run time. Now it might be intimidating to walk into a film three hours long as it requires a lot from the viewer to sit through. “Endgame” however doesn’t feel like a three-hour movie. Far from it. I actually only looked at my watch twice in the film and that was for the benefit of this review to see how long it took for each act to be completed, a measure of balance among the three hours if you will. Interestingly enough “Endgame” ends up being three very different acts and storylines that take up each of the three hours making it feel like a merging of episodes that come together into one story, sort of like the MCU as a whole come to think of it. The first hour focuses mostly on the aftermath of the snap and how the heroes and everyone else has coped with their loses. The second hour puts the focus on the resolution and how the Avengers plan to reverse the decimation while the third hour is an all-out onslaught of fan service that brings everything to a close. The Russo Brothers throw everything they can at the audience to satisfy both devoted fans and the more casual viewers slowing the pace when they need too and amping up the tension where appropriate. The pacing felt fluid and smooth even for a three-hour film although there were a few scenes and moments that clearly had a bit more to them before the film was cut for run time purposes. Overall though “Endgame” had me engaged, invested and thoroughly entertained as one moment would make me laugh, another moment made me ball my eyes out, and there was one moment in particular in the final battle that had me yelling in the theater as how awesome it was. It’s a spectacular mix of emotions that I couldn’t help but appreciate having been invested in the well being of these characters for over ten years.
But it’s the third act that truly satisfies the most. The final hour of this film holds nothing back in giving fans EVERYTHING that they have waited for over the past eleven years. It’s a spectacular onslaught of destined-to-be-iconic moments, tearjerking resolutions, spectacular effects, and SO much adrenaline and energy that I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear from the first moment to the last. It’s the finale fans truly deserved after all the waiting and everything we’ve been shown in this epic saga that promised us conflict on a scale beyond our imagination. The sheer chaos and spectacle of that final hour was worth the price of admission alone for me and it was made all the more satisfying by all the buildup the first two hours had provided exploring elements of the MCU both new and old as a delightful tribute to the fanbase and the legacy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not too bold for me to admit that the final hour of “Endgame” may be my favorite movie moment in the history of comic book films and possibly one of the greatest cinematic conclusions in movie history. That’s not just the fanboy in me speaking either, although there is more than enough to satisfy the fan in all of us, it’s also the critical side of me who was absolutely blown away and in awe at the epicness thrown my way. Everyone involved in this film should be proud of what they provided us here. They promised us something big, something epic, an endgame like no other, and we got it.
I can’t close this review without personally saying as a fan and a critic I’m grateful for what the MCU has brought us the past eleven years. “Endgame” is a spectacular movie and, in my opinion, the absolute best entry in the entire saga, but seeing what Marvel has accomplished over the past eleven years and having been a part of it with throngs of others fans from the start I have to say “Endgame” serves as the ultimate tribute to not only us, the fans, but the actors, the characters, their journies, and everything in between that has made led up to this three hour piece of cinematic awesomeness. When this all started in 2008 we had no idea what we were in for and here it is, the conclusion to it all…for now. The resolution to years of waiting and character development and buildup to something truly inspired and grand on almost every level. While “Endgame” may have some minor flaws and the logic behind its resolution of the decimation will be debated for years, it’s hard to deny this film its due as a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime kind of movie that mixes spectacle, fan service, and a certain amount of creative flair to give viewers everything they could have dreamed of. Could it have provided a bit more in some places, yes, but it also could have done too much. For me it’s the perfect balance of what we needed and what we deserved as a fan base to tie everything up and leave us satisfied that, for a lot of these characters, this is truly the end but for others it’s only the beginning to journeys yet to be explored.
There’s a lot I could have gone into with this review that I chose to omit in order to avoid spoilers, but I think I’ve said everything I needed to say. “Avengers: Endgame” to me is a masterpiece of entertainment cinema. It’s true that films as art are often judged by how well they can capture the realism and humanity of the world around us, but there’s a second side to that coin. A side that presents films as a form of entertainment more than just an interpretation of life. Movies can help us understand each other, or they can help us escape reality for a few hours to enjoy a fantasy or narrative reality can’t provide. In that sense “Endgame” is the ultimate example of cinematic escapism at its best providing an amazing experience that asks you not to think too hard but to remain invested, not to worry too much about your life but to understand someone else’s, and, most of all, it provides a jaw-dropping presentation and conclusion that allows us to just simply have fun at the movies. It’s not above depth though as “Endgame” also challenges viewers to understand what it really takes to be a hero, the sacrifices, the risks, the hard decisions, and the will to put everything above yourself in order to get the job done. I’ve never seen anything like “Endgame” before. Few films, if any, have ever left me as satisfied, entertained, or emotionally scarred in all the best ways like “Endgame”. I’ve seen a lot of series come to a close. “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hunger Games”, “Harry Potter”, all of them providing a certain amount of closure and emotional satisfaction. While this is far from the end for the MCU it’s the end of an era and one that left me more satisfied than any other franchises before it combined. Call me a fanboy, call me an overzealous critic overlooking minor flaws for the sake of the grander elements of this film, call me whatever you like. My opinion is the same either way. “Endgame” is a masterpiece, a fitting conclusion to a massive story arc like no other before it, and one of if not the greatest comic book films of all time that satisfies both on its own merit and as the end of the epic saga that began all those years ago.