I’ll be honest: I’ve been wracking my brain for days trying to figure out exactly how to write this. Normally, I like to write out my thoughts on a film pretty early on, while it’s still relatively fresh in my head, usually no later than three or four days after I’ve seen it. Granted, I don’t always finish a piece within that timeframe, but I at least like to start working on it squarely that first few days. Well, here I am, more than a week after seeing Avengers: Endgame, and I still find myself staring at an empty Word document, with no clue how to proceed. It’s certainly not because there’s nothing to talk about. Anyone who’s seen me within the past week or so knows that I haven’t shut up about this movie since I set foot outside of the theater on opening night. And it’s definitely not because I don’t remember specific details of the movie; I’ve seen it three times already.
I also don’t want anyone to take this as a sign of some sort of hyperbolic, obsessive love for the film, either. Like I’m too in awe of it to actually write about it, or I’m still riding the high of seeing it to distance myself away from it enough to be objective about it. Both of those points are absolutely true, but that’s not what’s giving me such intense writer’s block here. No, the problem I’m having stems from the fact that I genuinely think that it’s impossible to approach this film as discrete entity, and review it on its own merits alone.
Endgame is completely unprecedented in terms of the utter hype surrounding its buildup. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s likely the most ambitious film ever made, and certainly one of the most anticipated of all time. After eleven years of set-up, this one single film serves as the culmination of a mind-bogglingly huge, 22-film saga. Suffice it to say, there’s really no other movie or franchise that comes even close to serve as a basis of comparison for this film. It’s like Star Wars on steroids.
Make no mistake: This isn’t simply a movie. It’s an event. This is a movie that people will be talking about for years. Everyone you know will see it, whether they’re invested in the franchise or not. It’s the grand finale in the most profitable and successful franchise in cinema history. And that’s what makes it so tricky to talk about. Because the film doesn’t just represent and reflect itself; it stands for the entirety of the MCU. All of the characters, all of their individual growth and stories, and all of the various plot threads of the film all build off of the groundwork laid by previous films. As such, when seeing Endgame, you’re really not seeing a stand-alone film. Rather, it’s the final chapter in one long, continuous journey. To judge this film solely on its own merits is like judging television show based on its finale alone. While you can certainly critique its individual elements, at the end of the day, the more important thing is always going to be how it reflects on the whole, rather than itself. That being said, despite all of the colossal expectations placed upon it, Avengers: Endgame not only serves as a damn-near perfect conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also as an outstanding film in its own right (with a few caveats).
I’m going to try and remain spoiler-free for this review, but just know this: It’s crazy difficult to talk about this film without mentioning specifics. The entire marketing campaign for Endgame focused solely on the film’s first twenty minutes or so, which means literally anything after that point is a spoiler. And believe me, nothing is minor. Almost everything in Endgame is a surprise. While there were certainly moments that myself and millions of other fans saw coming, the vast majority of this film is completely out in left field, so much so that I’m still genuinely in awe of what they were able to do completely under our noses this whole time. Going into Endgame, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, based on the trailers, set photos, and rumors that I had picked up on throughout the year. Within fifteen minutes, the film pulls a massive twist out of nowhere that completely derailed any other speculation I had. I know this review is late, and it’s probably well past the threshold for safety at this point, but if you can, please see this movie unspoiled. The less you know, the more of an impact it’s going to make.
The plot is impressively ambitious, serving as not only an ending to what the head honchos at Marvel are now calling “The Infinity Saga,” but as a retrospective on the entire MCU up to this point as well. Marvel did an exceptional job with marketing this film, giving fans only a small glimpse of what the actual plot of Endgame actually entails. We were told, truthfully, that the trailers for the film only included scenes from the first twenty minutes of the film. And given that it has a length of almost exactly three hours, it left a lot of room for speculation. All I knew going in was what I assume everyone else did as well: The surviving Avengers are left to pick up the pieces after Thanos erased half of all life in the universe, and must find a way to both kill him and bring back everyone they lost. I was reasonably confident that, at the very least, this general, broad stroke of a narrative was going to be the focus of the film. And while yes, in the loosest terms, that is indeed what Endgame is about, it barely even scratches the surface of everything this movie has up its sleeve. Like I said earlier, within twenty minutes, you’re pretty much forced to abandon all of your own personal theories, and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Just know that it’s one of the most sweeping, far-reaching narratives that has been ever put to screen, not just within the superhero genre, but within pop cinema as a whole. It truly is the Return of the King of comic book movies.
It’s absolutely insane just how much of a cornucopia of content this film ended up being. To say that Endgame rewards fans would be a massive understatement, and do a pretty severe disservice to just how deep the Easter Eggs, callbacks, references, and winks to previous films go here. I’ve seen the film three times, and I’m still relatively certain that I’ve missed things. It’s that dense. I thought I was over preparing by rewatching the entirety of the MCU before Endgame was released, but in hindsight, it was a really good idea. You don’t necessarily have to have an obsessive, encyclopedic knowledge of the MCU, like I do, to see this film and understand everything it’s trying to do, but it certainly makes it much more fun. And frankly much more impressive. Again, without giving anything away, one of my favorite things that this movie does is shine a spotlight on one of the MCU’s most overlooked and undervalued entries, and suddenly validates its entire existence. The whole film is a fantastic love letter to the MCU as a whole, and the world that it’s created.
I remember watching back when the original Avengers hit theaters what seems like forever ago, and being absolutely incredulous that this movie was actually happening. All these characters, all from their own franchises? It’s insane! Seeing the team assemble for the first time is truly one of the most magical moments I’ve ever had in a cinema. I was certain that there was nothing that would ever be cooler than that moment. Well, fast forward to 2018, and I’m sitting in the theater watching Infinity War with my jaw on the floor. Tony Stark and Dr. Strange fighting Thanos the Mad Titan in SPACE with the freaking Guardians of the Galaxy, while Black Panther and Captain America fought an army of Outriders over the fate of an Infinity Stone contained within the Vision’s head. I was floored. As amazing as the original “Assemble” scene was, Infinity War blew it out of the water. I remember in particular Thor’s arrival in Wakanda as one of the most electrifyingly exciting things I had ever seen (pun very much intended). But just as Infinity War improved upon the spectacle of The Avengers by a laughably large margin, Endgame is magnitudes more epic than its predecessor, as ridiculous as that sounds. There’s one moment in particular that makes Thor’s arrival in Infinity War look downright sad in comparison. Not that it in any way diminished the quality of the previous film, mind you. It’s just that the magnitude of wish fulfillment and well-placed fan service in Endgame’s action and set pieces is honestly within a league of its own. I genuinely can’t imagine another film of its kind ever toppling it from its throne in terms of sheer crowd-pleasing moments. But then again, no other film will likely ever have this amount of build-up, either.
This being the end of such a lengthy and well-established franchise, the character work is here is a real highlight. We’ve been with many of these characters for over a decade now, and we’ve watched them grow from humble or selfish beginnings into the heroes that they are by the time Endgame opens in the aftermath of Thanos’s deadly finger snap. We’ve seen Steve Rogers go from a meek, yet determined patriotic wannabe to a noble leader who works outside of any sovereign jurisdiction. Likewise, we’ve seen Tony Stark evolve from a playboy arms dealer to the ultimate humanitarian futurist. All of the core Avengers, as well as our remaining Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket and Nebula, have had incredibly complex and nuanced character journeys over these past years. And miraculously, Endgame manages to give every last one of them the closure that they have so diligently earned. Each major player reaches an end to their personal stories in an extremely satisfying manner, giving the fans who’ve stuck around this long the perfect endings to some of their favorite stories. I won’t spoil any of them here, but suffice it to say, everyone ends up exactly where they should have by the end of Endgame’s lightning-fast three hour runtime.
And that leads me to what is perhaps the most impressive quality of the film: Its heart. This is the end for The Avengers. It’s their swan song, their magnum opus, their one last hurrah. As Cap says in one of the film’s few trailers, “This is the fight of our lives.” And it truly feels that way. There’s such a bittersweet sense of finality about the entire film. There’s moments of humor and levity, sure. It is, after all, a Marvel film. But while the movie definitely delivers on spectacle and awe-inspiring action, it also gives us some of the most viscerally satisfying conclusions to the emotional journeys that all of these characters have been on than I could have ever hoped for. Infinity War’s impact carries a real weight. The feeling of dread, of loss, and of complete and utter hopelessness lingers in the film’s opening scenes, as the characters process what has happened to so many of the people they love, along with those they failed to protect. Like Infinity War before it, Endgame is imbued with a genuine, palpable sense of consequence. These heroes feel vulnerable, without the usual protection of tried-and-true franchise plot armor. You feel like any of them could be in danger of not making it to the end of the film alive. And the characters feel this as well. The film is a reflection, it’s a mourning, and for some, it’s also a farewell. You see these characters deal with profound losses, with bitter failures, and with harrowing, impossible choices. But for all of that, this is also a movie full of triumph. Infinity War found our heroes at their absolute lowest point. They lost, worse than any of them have ever lost before. As much as Infinity War was about loss and failure, Endgame is about correcting mistakes, no matter the cost. “Whatever it takes.” This really is the film where “The Avengers” actually means what its name represents. But victory is costly. Not everyone is going to have a happy ending. By the end of the film, we see the end result of decade’s worth of character development and growth, and the consequences of each journey. It’s beautiful, uplifting, heartbreaking, and inspiring, all at once. I promise you, by the time the credits roll, you will be bawling.
To be perfectly honest, I’m hard-pressed to think of a more fitting conclusion to this era of Marvel Studios films. It seamlessly picks up on and satisfyingly ties up countless plotlines and character arcs from nearly two dozen films in such a way that feels wholly natural and earned. It truly feels like the end of a sprawling, 10-year journey. Some characters may have deserved slightly more screentime, but given how massively stuffed to the brim the film is already, it’s understandable that some compromises had to be made. I truly have no complaints about the film. It is the perfect crescendo for this incredible, colossal behemoth of a franchise. That being said, while its scope and scale is likely Endgame’s biggest strength, it may also be its one real weakness. Most Marvel films can be jumped into with relative ease for casual audiences. Sure, they may miss some establishing information from previous films, but it’s never enough to make them incomprehensible to first-time viewers. Heck, even Infinity War, with its massive scope and frankly daunting number of characters, gives enough information to somewhat hold the hands of anyone in the audience who has, for some reason, waited until now to jump into the story. But Endgame offers no such niceties. This movie assumes that not only have you seen Infinity War, but that you’ve seen the preceding 20 MCU films as well. For newcomers, this movie is nigh impenetrable. Nearly every set piece, every conversation, and every major plot point is some sort of callback to previous films. While Endgame is definitely the more satisfying film by virtue of its position as a concluding chapter, Infinity War is perhaps a more well-rounded, self-contained narrative. But again, that’s only if you’re jumping into the MCU at this very moment. And frankly, if you’re doing that, then this film really isn’t for you in the first place.
I cannot stress enough how much I love this movie. I have not stopped thinking about it since I first saw it almost two weeks ago, and it’s still as fresh in my mind as it was the first night. I’ve seen it multiple times now, and still want to go back and watch it again and again to experience with a crowd. It will go down, assuredly, as one of the most memorable movie-going experiences of my entire life, and I highly doubt I’ll ever see anything like it ever again. It’s been an incredible 10 years, with some amazing films and some of my fondest memories of seeing them with my friends and family. To think, I was only around 11 years old when Iron Man was first released, and now I’m well into my twenties. I’ve grown up with the MCU, and while it will continue, it’ll never be quite as magical as those first, formative years. When I compared the franchise to Star Wars earlier, I did it with genuine love and adoration. It really is something special, a monumental pop culture phenomenon that hasn’t been seen since the original trilogy. And I truly hope its legacy is just as long lasting and revered in years to come. It’s certainly earned it.