Avengers: Endgame is the 22nd film the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the 4th directed by the Russo Brothers), the culmination of 11 years of storytelling, and the final chapter in what has become known as the Infinity Saga, branching all the way out from the first Iron Man in 2008 to here (technically Spider-Man: Far From Home is actually the Phase 3 conclusion according to Kevin Feige, but we’ll just count it as this one). It stars everyone you’ve come to know and love as all your favorite Avengers (well, the ones that are left), and the world looks very different after the loss they just took. In the aftermath of Infinity War, with half the population wiped out from the snap, the world is left desolate, and the Avengers are hoplessly outmatched. For the first time, our heroes have truly lost, and they’re not quite sure how to deal with it. “I keep telling everyone they should move on; some do, but not us,” states Steve Rogers in the first act of the film. Faced with the world as they now know it, the Avengers decide to make one last ditch effort to undo what Thanos wrought on them, to bring back those they lost (known as the Vanished), and to bring the mad Titan and his mission to an end for good.
Marvel Studios has carved out a name for themselves in the aisles of cinematic history the likes of which no one has ever seen before Right from the first Iron Man, they knew this was a risk; but with great character work, sharp scripts (albeit with a few stumbles), and one game-changing moment in the opening of the original Avengers, they managed to successfully bring comic-book style continuity storytelling to the silver screen for the first time, and the world would never be the same afterwards. Well, the concluding chapter to that story is finally here. We’ve waited almost a year to see the conclusion to this Infinity Saga we’ve been following, and if it fails, it may feel like it was all for naught (though if you’re tracking box office revenue, not only is this not a failure, it could end up being the largest success ever). So, is it good? How does it stack up against the other films? Is this the rousing blockbuster conclusion we’ve been waiting for for 11 years? Well, yes and no.
One of the things that works the absolute best about Endgame is how it goes essentially the direction you would expect it to go, but doesn’t drive towards that direction exactly how you would expect. It’s really remarkable just how many secrets they were able to keep out of the marketing for this thing (minus that one add that keeps popping up everywhere with clips from the third act in it). With that ambiguity comes a chance to try some really wacky stuff within the guise of some more familiar territory, and they do honestly try to pull off some really weird stuff in this movie that I wasn’t expecting, but ended up being fun even though the setting of those weird moments were exactly what I was expecting (not every time though). Almost every major story thread from Iron Man to Infinity War actually gets a sufficient amount of screen time to be gone over and put to a lasting finish, and it’s actually quite impressive how important some of the “lesser” films in the MCU become in retrospect to engage the audience understanding of this one.
If it sounds like I’m being too vague about this movie, that’s because I am. Almost everything that’s in the trailers happens in the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the movie, and because this is a spoiler-free review, I can’t really give away the game…or, rather, the endgame (I am so sorry). What I will say is that this is also a difficult film to review because the script is not, per se, adhering to a traditional three-act structure. Infinity War was originally meant to be two movies, Endgame being the Part II to the original, and looking at it from that perspective, it makes sense. If Infinity War and Endgame, as a combined whole, are following a traditional three-act structure (or something resembling one), Infinity War’s ending is the “all is lost” moment, the point in a screenplay where everything has gone wrong and the heroes are defeated by lessons they’ve failed to learn or missions they’ve failed to accomplish, etc. This effectively means that Endgame’s first act is starting off in “Dark Night of the Soul” territory, with its second act being the “Break Into Act III,” and the third act holding the “Finale” and “Final Image” moments. Reviewing Endgame from that perspective, it really is all pay-off to what came before, which means there’s not a whole lot our characters learn between the beginning and the end of the film as far as lessons go. It’s a constant trying and re-trying to undo the events of the last film, and though it doesn’t always work, Endgame uses its meta-narrative as more of a reflection of how far the MCU has come over the past 11 years by showing us how far the characters in it have come as well, so I was okay with it.
That being said, even though it doesn’t always stick the landing with everything it attempts to set up (these kinds of movies can be tricky that way, if you know what I’m talking about), Endgame delivers both as a conclusion and as a thank you to our original six Avengers for putting in the past 11 years of their hardest work on display for us. It’s got moments for almost all of them, and even many of the supporting characters we’ve met along the way, including plenty of moments for us to openly weep, cheer, and clap for joy for things we’ve waited over a decade to see and hear our characters do and say (seriously, I was crying for almost the entire third act because of how sad and simultaneously happy I was; it was a trip). I desperately want to talk about them, but I won’t here since this is spoiler-free.
This film is not perfect, and truth be told has a few flaws I would have liked to have seen handled better. Thor, after the past two films of the development he’s had in Ragnarok and Infinity War, is a bit too much of a comic relief in this movie and his character is more left to the wayside in terms of development. Don’t get me wrong, Chris Hemsworth is an awesome comedic talent and he nails (almost) every joke he’s meant to give, but we don’t get to see how he grows in this movie, how he learns from having taken yet another major loss and channels it into where his character ends up. As well, the second act doesn’t work quite as well as the two around it. That’s not to say that this is because of what the Avengers are doing in the second act; it’s just not quite as convicting or powerful as the other two. This is the act where most of the experimentation is done, and though it mostly works, occasionally it can’t help but feel like they’re killing time to get to the finale and just decided to throw in some fan service just because. Fan service is not an inherently bad thing and indeed, it didn’t bother me at all personally, but looking back on it, the three hours one will spend in the theater watching this movie will mostly be spent in awe of the first and third acts from a critical perspective.
In the end, Avengers: Endgame sets out to accomplish one thing: bring this massive Infinity Saga story set forth by the MCU to a solid, satisfying, and sensible conclusion. And not only does it accomplish this, it does it while looking good, sounding great, and delivering one emotional gut-punch after the other, both of pride/joy, and bittersweet sadness. At some point, you will cry. I did. While on balance it may not be a good of a movie as Infinity War was from a structural, writing, and character standpoint, the standout moments Endgame manages to pull off will stick in my memory far more, so I personally enjoyed it to a more whole extent. To Kevin Feige, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth Scarlett Johannsson, Jeremy Renner, and everyone who’s put their stamp on the Avengers’ name forever, thank you for a marvelous eleven years.
I’m giving “Avengers: Endgame” a 9.6/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.