The Exhilarating 'Avengers: Endgame' is Triumphant and Bittersweet
Avengers: Endgame is a cultural event. There simply hasn’t been any film like it in the history of cinema—a culmination of 11 years of storytelling and character development that spans 21 movies.
It's a phenomenon that has prompted cinemas everywhere to open and sell out showings at ungodly hours, a testament to how deeply invested audiences in its collection of heroes. It also hardly needed any marketing, buoyed almost exclusively by the fact that audiences the world over have a stake in the final fate of its universe.
And Endgame is just that, the end, as it closes the chapter on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it.
It's Not Easy To Set Things Right Again
Even more so than Infinity War before it, Endgame demands prior knowledge of previous films in order to make any sense. In particular, familiarity with the events of Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, and the first Avengers film will help audiences keep up with the story.
From the soft, emotional opening that grounds the film and anchors it firmly in the lives and family of our heroes, Endgame is a slow burning journey that is paced differently, deliberately, from any other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Endgame picks up right where Infinity War left off, with the remaining Avengers dealing with the loss of family and friends, struggling to make sense of a world where half of all life has become dust in the wind. Thanos has won, hied off to his rural retirement home, and even with the addition of the supremely powerful Captain Marvel, the Avengers find that it’s not a simple matter to set things right again.
The Russo brothers, who’ve directed the last two Captain America films and Infinity War, adeptly balance the story with an ensemble of characters unlike anything seen on screen. The first half of the film takes its time reintroducing all the heroes of the past decade, and audiences get to see sides of these characters they’ve never seen before.
It’s slow-going and extremely expository. This builds up the emotional weight necessary to see everyone to the end. The film reminds us of all the friendships, old hurts, regrets, missed opportunities, but also of second chances.
Paths That Were Unexplored Are Taken
Endgame utilizes an extremely convenient science fiction plot device in a different way from how it’s been used in other films. It’s convoluted and confusing, badly prone to plot holes, but sets the stage for a lot of funny as well as sentimental moments.
The Russos take care to tie up loose ends for characters, bringing closure to stories unresolved, so that goodbyes that weren’t said are said and paths that weren’t taken are taken. In particular, Endgame takes a deeper look at Hawkeye (aka Ronin) and Black Widow’s friendship; explores unresolved parental issues; and reignites lost loves.
While the first and second acts tend to plod somewhat, the third act brings some of the most mind-blowing and exhilarating sequences in the entire franchise. The conclusion is simply one of the most epic cinematic moments of all time and begs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
There’s no shortage of moments to cheer for with every other scene worthy of a fist-pump and a yell. There’s also an abundance of nods to comic books that fans will spot and enjoy. There’s even one moment of pure, unabashed girl power and it’s insanely great.
Almost every hero has a moment, and it is breathtaking.
The Story Must Always Move Forward
But the one important thing that Endgame stresses is that the story must always move forward. Even with retrospective moments, the focus is on the now, on what happens in the future. It encapsulates the thrust of the MCU moving forward, as it closes the book on Thanos and the Infinity Stones.
While there are several films in development, Marvel president Kevin Feige has announced that Endgame will be the last MCU film in a while. Feige’s long game has paid off, and now the epic story Marvel has woven finally comes to a close. Every second of its 181-minute runtime feels bittersweet, even in its most triumphant moments, because as the film crawls to its epic conclusion, the reality of saying goodbye becomes inevitable.
After over a decade of setting things up with one film leading to another and post-credit scenes teasing the next chapter, Endgame is the first and so far only MCU film that doesn’t set the stage for what comes after. There is no teasing or gimmicks here, but only a real and final resolution to the fates of some of Marvel’s most beloved movie characters. The end has come, and it’s beautiful.