3 out of 5 stars.
“Whatever it takes.”
That’s the Avengers’ promise to each other to do what needs to be done to reverse Thanos’ devastating actions at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War.” But that can seemingly also be applied to Marvel Studios’ and directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s approach to pulling out all the stops to make “Avengers: Endgame” the biggest and most epic movie out of a franchise already filled with big and epic movies. But “Endgame” is different in that finally, after eleven years and 22 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it is coming to an end. “Endgame” serves not merely as the second part of “Infinity War,” but also serves as an ending for the heroes we’ve come to know and love over the years.
If you’ve seen “Infinity War,” you know that it ended with Thanos (Josh Brolin) acquiring all of the infinity stones and using them to wipe out half of Earth’s population. I’m not here to spoil “Endgame” for you, but the film picks up with the surviving heroes struggling to cope with their losses and their failure while forming a plan to reverse the effects of the snap. This group is primarily made up of the original Avengers, like Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). And while they inhabit the bulk of the movie’s big moments (and rightly so), there’s also room for some newer faces, like Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), whose cosmic powers are a new source of hope in the battle against Thanos. This film features some of the most emotional moments in the MCU; in fact, the first third of the movie features little action, instead focusing primarily on the relationships between the characters. Many of the actors have been playing their characters for close to a decade, and it’s obvious that they love what they do and are passionate about making what for many of them will be their final MCU appearances memorable. There’s not a bad performance in the bunch; any bits of character development that may be off-putting (I’m looking at you, Thor) are the fault of the screenwriters.
And that screenplay is packed sadness and heartbreak, comedy and action, happiness and hope. If there are certain aspects of the MCU that you like more than others, you will likely come out of this film feeling at least mildly pleased. “Endgame” is probably one of the most fan-servicey movies ever made, and that both helps and hinders it. If you’re a longtime fan of the MCU, a lot of these moments are nice to see, no matter how sentimental they are; some of them are even crucial to the development of the characters. But it simultaneously feels like all of these moments are only there to make up a sort of retrospective of the entire MCU that doesn’t necessarily serve the plot of this specific movie. And then there are other moments in which the filmmakers are obviously pandering to certain groups, trying to masquerade as being progressive when that is something the MCU has never been.
What went down in “Infinity War” was shocking, so it’s rather disappointing to see “Endgame” revert to one of the biggest movie clichés out there to resolve that plot (sure, they poke some fun at it within the movie, but that doesn’t fully make up for it). Don’t even bother thinking about it too hard, because there are inconsistencies that don’t add up, and questions that are left unanswered. The pacing is uneven as well, with each third of the film taking on the tone of an entirely different movie. The film begins abruptly, and falls into the trap of relying too heavily on the other films in the franchise. No, I’m not referring to “Infinity War;” let’s just say that if you skipped “Captain Marvel” in theaters (a movie that was released less than two months ago) and didn’t stay for the end credits, you may have some questions. And while the film takes its time to get moving, the climax is a computer-generated special effects assault on the senses unlike any you’ve ever seen.
Despite all its problems, “Endgame” manages to deliver many surprises and a satisfying conclusion for most of our heroes, bringing years’ worth of stories full-circle and not wasting a second of its three-hour runtime. And that climax, while staggering, is also exhilarating, and includes a handful of scenes that will likely soon become iconic, propelled by Alan Silvestri’s epic score. Regardless of your opinion on the MCU, it’s undeniable that what Marvel Studios has managed to accomplish over the last decade is unprecedented in the history of film. We have never seen a connected universe on this scale before, and we may never see it again. But while this chapter may be coming to a close, others are only just getting started. I for one can’t wait to see what path Marvel takes next.
Runtime: 181 minutes. Rated PG-13.