Let’s get right to it. You want to know if Avengers: Endgame is good – and you don’t want it spoiled for you. Fine. Here you go:
It’s good. It’s really good. It’s excellent, in fact. You will laugh, you will cry, you will cheer. You will get every single thing you’re looking for from this film. The Russo brothers well and truly pulled this one off in a way that will most likely exceed the expectations of all but the most nitpicky of Marvel fans.
Actually? There is no but.
In fact, this may be the shortest movie review we’ve ever written because the film is really good and we really don’t want to spoil it for you. We’ll say this, since Rotten Tomatoes needs a pull quote: Avengers: Endgame is a big, loud rollercoaster ride of a movie with jaw-dropping action and a shockingly strong emotional undercurrent that will catch you off guard with its poignancy and depth of feeling.
Endgame is a film about death. It permeates every scene and informs every action. Death is practically a character in the film (which might not be such a surprise if you’re a Marvel nerd who knows her Thanos lore). But despite mortality’s constant presence and reminders everywhere you turn, this isn’t at all a sad or depressing film. It deals with loss in a profound way at times, with several Avengers unexpectedly encountering people they lost in some of the most poignant scenes ever shot for a superhero film. You can watch Bruce Wayne’s parents or Uncle Ben die a thousand times onscreen and never come close to the depth of feeling when you see these heroes drowning in their own post-traumatic stress and coming face-to-face with their dead – not to mention their own mistakes and sins. The core cast all give some of their best performances in these roles – and possibly in their careers.
You’ve probably heard about the film’s insanely long 3-hour run time. It would take a second viewing to fully grasp if that time was as well-utilized as it could have been (we were very caught up in the explosions and emotions), but a big reason why it’s so long is because the film takes the time in the beginning to allow the characters to express and deal with their loss in the previous film. Half of the universe is dead and several core Avengers are clearly stuck in their trauma and unable to get out of it. At least three members of the team are in a state you might not expect, at least one of which is downright shocking, initially quite funny, and then grows more and more poignant and sad as you realize just what this character is going through. The first forty minutes never truly get depressing, but we appreciated the film taking the time to really show how the characters are feeling before all the punches and explosions happen.
It’s emotional in a way that could only truly appeal to a nerd. As we said, there are plenty of scenes dealing with loss and trauma in the general sense. There’s a reunion with a dead family member that honestly kind of wrecked us for a good third of the film. But the most powerful moments, the ones that stir the strongest emotions, are those times where the film pays off the decade-long story of the Marvel cinematic universe. The Russos are very good at giving the audience these moments, which are typically referred to derisively as fan-service. But we defy any person who watched at least some of the Marvel oeuvre not to cheer when an impromptu all-female Avenger squadron, pulling from the cast of almost every other Marvel franchise, rises up in the middle of a massive battle. We defy anyone not to cheer when the respective Captains (America and Marvel) get their requisite “FUCK YEAH” moments, which we will not spoil here. There are fun Easter eggs and more cameos than we can count, one or two of which were more involved and integral to the story than we would have assumed. But make no mistake: Endgame is an extremely well-made film, helmed by two directors who knew exactly what they were doing the whole time. Never once did we get the feeling that the Russo brothers had lost control of this massive story. Never once did it feel bloated or hard to follow.
Having said that, we can’t imagine anyone who isn’t at least a little up on the Marvel universe enjoying a film like this. You don’t have to see every Marvel film to understand this one. Truth be told, you only really need to see Avengers:Infinity War, since this is a continuation of that film’s setup story. But if you’re not at least a little knowledgeable about the Iron Man films, Captain America films and Thor films, a lot of the emotional resonance might be lost on you.
Yes, there are final goodbyes and some of them are quite painful and sad. We can’t give more information than that except to say that those characters who said their goodbyes got really great scenes in which to do so. And when it came time to memorialize the dead … well. We’ll just say we don’t know how any Marvel movie fan will be able to sit through that scene without a Hulk-sized lump in their throat.
Best of all, while this very much feels like an end to the first decade of Marvel’s films, it doesn’t remotely feel like an end to the franchise. There aren’t really what we’d call “loose ends” left by the end. The film is too tightly plotted and directed for there to be any reasonable complaints on that front. This story is well and truly ended. But what is left standing after the end is intriguing for the next phase of Marvel. At least two of their franchises have gone through major shakeups, going by the last few minutes of the film. It will be interesting to see where these familiar names wind up going post-Endgame. One thing is sure, however. The Avengers, in one form or another, end the film standing tall on the proverbial wreckage, ready to assemble again, in a slightly different form, should the world need them.
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