Avengers: Endgame Review

In the era of “event films,” they don’t get much bigger than “Avengers: Endgame.” The end of a saga or final film in a series can come after as few as two and as many as eight or nine installments; “Endgame” follows 21 Marvel superhero films in 11 years. It’s a stunning achievement that allows Marvel Studios to make bolder storytelling choices, the kind other studios have barely dreamed of.

“Avengers: Infinity War” got to experiment with a stunning cliffhanger ending, leaving fans with only guesses as to how “Endgame” would pick up the pieces. Screenwriters of both films, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, under the supervision of Marvel movie guru Kevin Feige, craft a monumental story that smartly errs on the side of fan service. It’s a movie that understands and expertly wields all the good will of the good filmmaking choices that came before it, from the prior directors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the pitch-perfect casting of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Leaning into its mammoth 181-minute runtime, “Endgame” ramps up slowly. When you have a story with literally dozens of characters who have all received significant screen time before, you can’t shaft any of them, but neither can you possibly give them all tidy storylines. “Endgame” puts in the effort though, simmering in the drama, the relationships and the deep connection between the fans and characters. Markus and McFeely recognize that this isn’t the Marvel film that starts off with an energizing action sequence, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo follow suit. There’s a patience to their approach, even with so much to get to in this movie; they know that fans will give them the benefit of the doubt and use that good faith to build scenes around feelings and ideas.

Without going into spoiler territory, the conceit of the middle hour of the movie serves the dual purpose of picking up the pace and rewarding fans who have devoted more than 48 hours of their lives watching the MCU’s heroes on the big screen. There will be a strong correlation between fan knowledge/familiarity with these movies and enjoyment. “Endgame” is a total celebration of this movie universe, not to mention a compelling story in its own right.

Unquestionably, “Endgame” is trying to tell more story than any movie reasonably should, but our investment in the characters and watching them at this apex of their multi-film journeys allows the film to bypass all our usual sensors. In other words, we’ll let Marvel get away with a lot if it means spending more time with these characters.

And it’s evident the filmmakers feel that strongly about the characters too. There’s an extra time and energy investment in the original Avengers — Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) especially, but also Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — and resolving the narratives built out in the previous movies. Sometimes the writing forces the issue a bit bluntly, but these choices and resolutions are sound and loyal to fans’ understanding of these heroes.

Objectively and without context, it’s entirely possible that “Endgame” is a a kin to ransacking a Marvel collectibles store and dumping a bunch of action figures into the middle of the floor, but at this point it’s impossible to disentangle the film from the 21 that preceded it and judge it solely on its own merits. That felt a bit more possible in “Infinity War,” a film that a total outsider could maybe jump into and follow along, but that’s not the case with this one at all. Even (and especially) the small, sweet character moments require some previous relationship to the series in order to mean anything.

A massive achievement that does right by its fans because it understands nothing matters more, “Avengers: Endgame” showcases so much of the good decision-making that got Marvel Studios to the point that it could make an ambitious movie like this in the first place. If you’re a big enough of a fan, you may even find tears (from, uh, space dust obviously … ) you didn’t even know you had in you. The journey of these 21 films and the dozens of characters truly feels that personal.

4.5/5 Stars

Avengers: Endgame
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner


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