What can you say about a film franchise that stretches over a staggering twenty-two movies? How do you even begin to unpack that? It’s impressive enough that something like this was ever even created to begin with, much less successfully thought through. When you think about it, the biggest lapse in continuity throughout all of it was when Don Cheadle replaced Terrance Howard to continue the character of James Rhodes / War Machine. Considering the cast stretched amidst all these movies—and given the fact that people die, sometimes tragically, in the real world—it’s amazing that something as jam-packed as Avengers: Endgame was even ever possible. Any master tactician would have struggled to even think through the logistical nightmare that would have been filming this movie. All the credit in the world is due to the Anthony Russo and Joe Russo duo for bringing this organized insanity into reality. In lesser hands, it would have been a jangled mess of titanic proportions. As it stands after a first viewing, it’s a superhero finale that fans have yearned for, literally for decades. Nothing we’ve seen to this point has rendered a movie this close to what childhood imaginations would envision. It is all things simultaneously: credible, cathartic, hilarious, and poignant.
The difficulty herein lies in trying to review something in which practically every single scene would spoil some piece of a story that has been carefully crafted going all the way back to 2008. There are many twists and turns. Long lost characters return. Places previously visited are seen again. Yes, bad things happen. The stakes are high and nothing this climactic would play out easily. But we can’t tell you much of anything without ruining the experience. If you have come this far and seen some or all of these movies, you owe it to yourself to see this one, to laugh and cry along with these characters you have invested so much in, in this, their greatest and most important battle. What the producers have said is true: damn near every minute of this film is a spoiler. We’ll confine ourselves to what we can say that won’t ruin the magic for everyone that deserves to see it come to fruition in-person.
The story here was slaved over by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who wrote Avengers: Infinity War and all three Captain America movies) over a period between two to three years from stem to sternum. The work shows in the end product. This film is a nod to and exists within almost every major series that Marvel has crafted these last eleven years. If you were a fan of any particular franchise, pieces of what you see here will show you the benefit of that knowledge, much like the best-crafted jokes from The Simpsons. You prosper from having been engaged, but at the same time, if you missed certain story arcs, it won’t leave you feeling lost. But the tapestry is rich and that may be the film’s strongest defining attribute. Knowing how what transpires means to the major characters is what makes this viewing so wonderful and fulfilling. Markus and McFeely must have slaved over every MCU script to pull each and every thread that has poignancy and power to build the fibers of this cinematic juggernaut.
The cast is just stupefying. Avengers: Infinity War had a bit of this in the assemblage of so many top-notch stars. Endgame takes it to a level that will likely never be replicated. Just seeing all these legit stars commingling in the same scenes alone is a dork-out session; never mind when you factor in the story, the characters, and the mythology people love so much. The trailers aptly hint at some of the major players as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) try to puzzle out a solution to the mother of all catastrophic losses. In many ways, this movie is the grandest delivery of the character progression for each and every one of them. The characters reach their logical and necessary, evolved states in this story. You will be surprised at how funny this movie is too. One would expect Ant Man (Paul Rudd) to deliver the comic relief in such a huge action drama, but in truth, he’s but one of ten actors/actresses that deliver pretty much nonstop hilarity in this film.
Where Avengers: Infinity War was a story about Thanos’ quest to assemble the Infinity Stones and re-balance the universe, the heartbroken nature of this film revolves around how those around us who we love are what make everything special and our heroes’ efforts to try to undo their unspeakable decimation. That desperation hangs on nearly every character’s face, and some—understandably considering the immense weight of true grief—grapple with it better than others. Some are broken all the way down to their core while others just try to hold on. It’s that stubborn insistence that fuels the rising action of this picture as over three-dozen actors chew the scenery to bits before even one punch is thrown. Many characters who fans know and love appear here—some delightful surprises—but we’ll leave those all as pleasant surprises for you as this three-hour saga unfolds. We will pause to say that Brie Larson’s portrayal of Captain Marvel here lives up to the massive potential of the character in a way that will make audiences cheer, doubly impressive considering she shot this film before she shot her own origin movie, Captain Marvel.
There are some small things left unexplored. Most are obvious threads that will be delved into by the future pieces of fiction Marvel Studios has recently announced but a few hanging chads remain. It’s likely there were no mistakes in this film and time and greater insight to why decisions were made will bear out eventually (both through interviews and editorials we’ll do later on). All in all, those are small complaints in something this epic. The grand totality of it all will have fans coming back, again and again, to just drink it all in.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
This is it, folks. The one you’ve been waiting for. Quite possibly the greatest story ever printed in Marvel comics by one of its most brilliant writers, Jim Starlin. Here, Avengers: Endgame is done as perfectly—or as close to perfect—as anyone could dare to ever accomplish. You will want to see this one in the theater and you will not be disappointed. It’s massive, it’s funny, it’s continuity on steroids and most importantly, it’s a wonderful story. This may be the greatest face of superhero cinema we’ve yet to see. The bar has been set high indeed for generations to come. Kudos to Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige for getting us to this point.