Critic’s note: This review is spoiler-free, but not devoid of critical assessment.
After Thanos snapped half of life’s existence into dust, the surviving Avengers assemble one more time to try to undo the actions of Infinity War.
And that’s pretty much all you need to know, because after seeing the trailers for Avengers: Endgame, and the movie itself, you may be shocked by how little the marketing truly reveals. It only instills a sense of fallout, a few sprinkles of comedic flair and teases that quest for hope. There are no big action sequences, and you don’t know what the Avengers’ game-ending plan is. The idea is to make the experience as fresh, exciting and unique as possible — which is what I plan to keep in motion.
That said, Endgame is not what you’re expecting, yet it’s also exactly the impressive epic you’re chasing. It takes our central heroes to new places and wraps up this 10-year journey so beautifully.
Without revealing the details of the plot, what can we expect?
The most shocking element about Endgame is its emotional depth, and this shouldn’t be a surprise considering how Infinity War concludes. (I am still haunted by Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s death and that childlike fear that actor Tom Holland so expertly employs.) However, Endgame starts with impending doom, and it slowly explores every character’s pain and confusion. Similar to a miniseries, it takes its time to dig into the characters’ psyches. It’s a nice change of pace for the franchise, because we’re so used to seeing the Avengers having no time to think or reflect; their threats are always so immediate.
In Endgame, the filmmakers don’t want to make the audience feel cheated by rushing through the story. As we learned in Infinity War, there are a lot of characters stuffed into one movie. It’s 21 Marvel films coalescing into one three-hour film. Infinity War was decorated in red markings by many critics for failing to juggle its characters and locations. Fortunately, Endgame is down half the characters. So, while the running time may challenge your bladder, everyone shares the spotlight, even Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
Who are the standout characters?
Speaking of Hawkeye, Endgame makes him more interesting than he’s ever been. He had a great pep talk scene with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but here, we spend a significant portion getting to know him and what he’s going through. He takes command of two of the film’s most emotional scenes, displaying acting that feels beyond what most people see in a superhero movie.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth), again, lightens the mood. There’s a fun, unexpected change to his character that makes for great entertainment. That’s not to say his sole purpose is jokes. Thor is dealing with an incredible amount of loss. I’m sure the beginning of Infinity War can illustrate that. Although characters like Thor, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) make you laugh, they can also generate the waterworks.
Then, of course, there’s Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who are the heart and soul of this franchise. The Iron Man movies remarkably kicked everything off over a decade ago, while the Captain America movies changed the game (especially after The Winter Soldier and Civil War).
How Iron Man and Captain America have evolved since their debut is truly a work of excellent character writing and acting. Civil War tore them apart, and in Endgame (as the trailer indicates), we see them together again. Audiences may find themselves choked up over them exchanging words about trusting each other.
Where does ‘Endgame’ crumble to dust?
There are some flaws in the Avengers’ plan. I won’t reveal what their plan is, but there’s a lot of explaining involved. My guess is the filmmakers are trying to distract you from noticing any gray areas. But there are those who’ll stop to question the logistics, and it’s fair.
On the other hand, I have to commend directors Joe and Anthony Russo for trying to make their film critic-proof. It’s as if they wrote the script after reading all the comments online about Marvel’s previous films. They fix many issues and story errors, but they don’t always go about it subtly. There’s a scene toward the end where the progressive paint is laid on pretty thick.
Where does it rank in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
As you could imagine, stuff goes down in Endgame, and it’s going to take time to digest all that happens. It doesn’t have that instant likability like Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok. It’s trying to lay down a bridge for all these different story tones and characters to converge. It’s a tall order, but Endgame delivers.
It ranks above Infinity War, and it’s in the top tier. But like so many conclusions, once the high has worn off, we tend to gravitate back toward the beginning or the moments leading up to the showdown. Personally, Civil War is still my favorite, because of its seamless mix of emotional tension and goosebumps-producing action thrills. However, Endgame is a poetic bookend to treasure. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cheer.