The following is a SPOILER-FREE review of Avengers: Endgame.
Avengers: Endgame is not the best Marvel movie ever made. It’s not the prettiest or the funniest; it won’t blow your mind with new ideas or complicated character development.
But it is the most Marvel movie ever made, and there’s something incredible about that.
This is Marvel flexing, building on over 10 years and 20-plus films of careful groundwork and intricate planning to show us what it can do that no other movie franchise can. As such, it’s an immensely satisfying finish to this era of the series.
Its magic does require some prior buy-in. This is a film designed for fans, stuffed as it is with callbacks, cameos, and Easter eggs. Certain arcs come full circle after years and years; others are revisited and refashioned into something different. Newcomers will likely find themselves totally lost in this tangle of characters and relationships and mythologies.
It’s an immensely satisfying finish to this era of the series.
Those who’ve been following along for a while now, though, will find much to cheer, cry, or swoon over. At both the screenings I attended, the audience reactions were so loud at certain points that entire lines of dialogue were swallowed up. Which is probably just fine with Marvel: all the more reason for fans to go back and see it a second time.
Endgame essentially plays out as the second half of Infinity War, picking up where that film left off, and with many of the same tools — characters we love seeing interact, worlds we enjoy exploring, moments we’re eager to reminisce about, and a deeply tragic event encircling them all.
But Endgame also benefits from the groundwfork laid by Infinity War. Whereas the previous film strained to pull everything and everyone together, Endgame is able to hit the ground running with all of the elements already in place. Infinity War floundered, it seems, so Endgame could soar.
The bet pays off. The story feels more organic this time, the emotions more earned, and the interpersonal dynamics richer and more lived-in. It’s woven together tightly enough that screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who also wrote the previous film, are able to stitch in more elements from other previous films. They loop in plot threads and emotional arcs that were left unresolved before or were resolved but never very satisfyingly.
And while the lingering trauma of Infinity War doesn’t dissipate so easily, one of the nicest surprises of Endgame is how fun it is. Once the plot engine kicks into gear, it’s a pleasure just to sit back and watch our heroes bounce off of each other as they get to work. So much so that the three-hour run time seems to fly by.
Endgame is Marvel’s crowning achievement.
(Do go to the bathroom beforehand, though — this film moves so quickly that you’re at risk of missing something exciting or important if you step out at any given moment.)
Sure, there are quibbles to be had here. Some characters are still more interesting than others; some arcs progress gracefully while others lurch ahead. A lot of the OMG moments follow fridge logic rather than logic logic. A whole lot of the film is given over to naked fan service and shameless pandering. And while it’s sweet to see so many familiar faces return, it does start to feel after a while like Marvel showing off. Does this character really need to be present in that scene, or did the studio just want to remind you that they’re big enough to rope in this celebrity or that one for a five-second cameo?
In the moment, though, it’s hard to mind. Who’s stressing about the logistics of this twist or that one, when everyone around you is screaming with joy over the big reveal? So what if a promising development seems unlikely, upon more sober reflection, to add up to much of anything down the line? The analyzing and unpacking can be saved for later; for now, there are treats to be enjoyed.
Endgame does not, despite its title, spell the end of the entire franchise. There’s still Spider-Man: Far From Home to come, and movies about Black Widow, Black Panther, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Eternals, etc. in the works.
It is, however, a moment to stop and look back in amazement (or terror) at what the MCU has pulled off. From the relatively humble Iron Man — a Paramount picture about a then C-list comic book hero — the MCU has grown into an empire. And Endgame is Marvel’s crowning achievement.