Avengers: Endgame Review
Avengers: Endgame is the 22nd installment in the monolithic Marvel Cinematic Universe, and serves as the culmination of a decade of blockbuster filmmaking, marking the results of years of work from thousands of people. It is a film made up of dozens of colliding plot lines, and familiar heroes from twenty-one other movies. It’s like nothing Hollywood has produced before, existing as an acknowledgment and reward to the fans for their undying love and adoration. To put it more bluntly: if like me, you’ve been with the MCU since the beginning, it’s very unlikely that you will walk away disappointed. It checks all the boxes it needs to, as well as some I would never have expected to see. It’s a satisfying end to a chapter of blockbuster history that will be hard to top on pure spectacle, and perhaps even emotional resonance. In terms of pure entertainment, Endgame is on the higher end of the MCU. It’s a film that elevates its iconic heroes to the legendary status they deserve and manages to provide legitimate thrills along the way.
I will remain as spoiler-free as possible for this review. The main joy of Endgame is watching its wonderfully complex narrative unfurl. If you want that ruined, there are many corners of the internet you can go to for that. The bombastic Avengers: Infinity War ended with Thanos getting all six Infinity Stones, and wiping out half of existence with a snap of his fingers. We watched beloved heroes like Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Star-Lord turn to dust as the remaining heroes watched on in horror. Endgame picks up a couple of weeks after the Devastation (the official term for the Snap) as the remaining heroes mourn their losses and try to figure out how and if they can reverse Thanos’ decimation.
Whereas Infinity War jumped between multiple groups of heroes throughout its runtime, Endgame is a much more focused and patient film. From start to finish, Infinity War was non-stop action. Here, the film allows its heroes to grieve and gives each one a chance to shine. No longer required to play supporting characters in Thanos’ story, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, and Thor get their chance in the spotlight, assisted by Hawkeye and Ant-Man. This is, in a sense, the new Avengers, and this tighter group of heroes reminded me of the charm of Joss Whedon’s first Avengers film. In that movie, strong personalities were allowed to bounce off each other rather than being railroaded in the same direction. It allows for some of the best acting work in the franchise, particularly from Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. While watching Endgame, it dawned on me that these two have made Captain America and Iron Man into cinematic icons for a generation. Endgame gives the MCU’s two most popular heroes the story arcs they deserve, rather than drowning them in a sea of cameos of lesser characters. The film becomes an ode to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in the way it canonizes Cap and Iron Man.
What works best about Endgame is that one feels, for quite possibly the first time, a sense of looking back instead of merely setting the table for what’s to come. This movie incorporates elements of what fans know and love about the MCU, recalling beats and plots from the likes of Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Guardians of the Galaxy. You can call it cheap fan service, sure. But Endgame is a love letter to the MCU’s past and does very little to set the table for the MCU’s future. Sure, this franchise will go on, but this film has a finality and depth that the MCU’s history lends to it.
Endgame is about rewarding commitment, fandom, and expectations. It manages to do all of that, with a sincere admiration for the fans who have made this universe into a cultural phenomenon. The stakes are high and the conclusions are emotionally resonant. It’s an epic event, the culmination of a twenty-two film saga of heroes and villains. It’s a cultural moment, the kind that transcends traditional criticism and becomes a shared experience with fans around the world. The only question I had as I left the theater was how they could ever top it ten years from now.