If Marvel never makes another movie again, Endgame is a worthy end to the franchise.
I’m not sure what I was expecting walking into the theatre. After Infinity War, the stakes and my expectations were incredibly high. I watched every trailer, every TV spot, read every trailer breakdown I could find, and wondered what they would do with Endgame’s 3-hour runtime. I was thinking of Return of the Jedi, Return of the King, the Matrix: Revelations – every fitting end to a story that I could possibly imagine and wondering, with some small amount of dread, whether Endgame would live up to the hype.
It did not disappoint.
Not for a second, not for an instant, not with the resolution of the major conflict, not in the way it handled any of the character arcs, not in the way it wrapped up a story told across eleven years and twenty two films. Most of the Marvel movies have been epic in some way – either in moments of beautiful CGI, or in battle sequences, or in the scale of a story and setting, or in the emotional beats they strike. But nothing, nothing that Marvel has done comes even close to what Endgame delivers.
Endgame is powerful. In a way that nothing before it really has been.
It is the end of the story of the Infinity Stones, a story that began with Tony Stark in a cave and took us to far corners of the universe and back again. It is a story of home, of friends like family, of love and loss and bravery and sacrifice, and of the choices that make a hero. Because, truly, more than any of the other movies in the franchise, perhaps more than any superhero movie ever made, this is a story about heroes.
It began quietly, with more surprises than I was expecting. (I thought, since the trailers were all from the first fifteen minutes, that I had already seen plenty of the opening but I was constantly, thoroughly, incessantly surprised. And that surprise continued on throughout the movie.) The story centers itself on the survivors and their different ways of coping with the fallout of their failure. And the quiet emotional tone that the opening minutes take is something that continues on throughout Endgame. Despite moments of humour – expertly delivered by Thor and Ant-Man and the occasional moment of levity from the rest of the cast – Endgame finds a way to keep its emotional weight from its beginning moments to its final ones.
Endgame’s first act is entirely about consequence. Thanos’ snap at the end of Infinity War basically shook the foundations of the universe and Earth’s people aren’t even close to recovering from the mess that it created. It’s a very personal look at how devastated the survivors are – not just our heroes, but also everyone else on Earth who’s dealing with the fact that people they loved simply ceased to exist. It underlines the desperation that drives the second act. Recovery feels impossible, so the only way to really move forward is to fix what Thanos did.
So in Endgame’s second act, we see a desperate plan come together in a very, very interesting way. We get what amounts to something resembling a greatest hits tour of the MCU but with a twist to each of those revisited moments. At this point, Endgame becomes laser focused on the original Avengers. This is their most desperate hour, and the culmination of the long and winding journey they’ve made together over the years. There are difficult choices to make, moments of levity, and, above it all, true emotional heft – catharsis and resolution for many, many of the personal struggles that we’ve seen our heroes face in the choices they’ve made that led them to this moment.
And in Endgame’s final act, we get the grand payoff. The climactic battle. The epic showdown. And while I’ve seen a lot of talk online about fan service, which had me somewhat nervous before the movie, fan service really is the best way to describe it. But it isn’t shoehorned into the experience, it isn’t there just to be there and to give fans what they want to see. Each of the moments that each of the MCU’s many, many, many characters get in the biggest onscreen clusterfuck in the history of movies feels carefully, thoughtfully integrated into the narrative whole. (Except maybe for one scene featuring Captain Marvel and an … er … let’s call them her escort? She’s Captain Marvel; she doesn’t need one. But, barring that one bit, everything else was expertly done.)
At the end, when I left the theatre while the credits were still rolling, I felt a strange sense of farewell. Endgame felt like a long, loving goodbye to the franchise even though it isn’t one; Marvel has more stories to tell and another movie out in a month or two. And I realised, the more I thought about it and as I write this, that I was really saying goodbye to a group of characters that I have come to know and love – because after Endgame, nothing is really going to be the same.
All of the movies that pulled me, and most of the world, into the franchise – the first Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor – came out at roughly the same time. And simply because of how much time that cast has had in the MCU, they’re the ones with the deepest histories. And what Endgame does best – above everything else, perhaps – is walk us through the concluding beats of those stories.
All of the original Avengers – who really are front and center here in a way that they haven’t been for a while as the cast grew to gargantuan proportions – receive personal, emotional story twists that are delivered in surprising, fun, unexpected, and sometimes heartbreaking ways. And through each character’s arc, braided and interwoven through the middle of Endgame, leading up the final, climactic battle, we’re reminded of how far they’ve come.
Tony Stark was a selfish, arrogant billionaire who built his first suit in a cave. Steve Rogers was the simple soldier with the heart of gold. Thor was the boy who would be king. Natasha Romanoff was the assassin-turned-SHIELD-agent who took on the jobs that no one else would. Clint Barton was the guy with a bow and arrows. And the Bruce Banner was a scientist and a rage monster at war with himself.
None of those characters, today, are the people they were when we first saw them. What they are when the credits finally roll on Endgame, what they have become, is what Nick Fury always believed they could be. A group of incredible individuals who came together to be something more. To fight the battles that we never could.
They are the Avengers. Earth’s mightiest heroes.
They couldn’t protect the earth. But they sure as hell avenged it.
All of the movies that pulled me, and most of the world, into the franchise – the first Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor – came out at roughly the same time. And simply because of how much time that cast has had in the MCU, they’re the ones with the deepest histories. And what Endgame does best – above everything else, perhaps – is walk us through the concluding beats of those stories. These are the Avengers. Earth’s mightiest heroes. They couldn’t protect the earth. But they sure as hell avenged it.