We can dispense with the pleasantries. Everyone knows the precarious situation that the Avengers are in following the stunning conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War, where half the life in the universe was turned to dust when Thanos (Josh Brolin) donned the Infinity Gauntlet and snapped his fingers. So it all comes down to this: Avengers: Endgame, the superhero epic film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, is the gigantic conclusion of over a decade of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Fear not, true believer, as this review of Avengers: Endgame will not be dispensing any of the film’s many surprises, so feel free to power forward. Excelsior!
The opening of Endgame is very much a film burdened with grief, as its characters and the world learn how live in a world after “The Snap.” These scenes aren’t the signs of a film that’s hitting the ground and running with its fantastical action like the previous film; instead the film opts for a portrait of wounded heroes. Early scenes focus on Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) adrift after their confrontation with Thanos. On Earth, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) lick their wounds, paralyzed by the pain of their failure. It’s an interesting change of pace from the typical bluster of Marvel’s stable of heroes, though Endgame finds plenty of ways to get quips in at every available opportunity.
Eventually, the gang gets together and are joined by Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hawkeye (Jeremey Renner). The Avengers have one simple mission: Undo the horror wrought by Thanos. Only the simple mission doesn’t make for a simple plot. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely employ ample comic book logic as the plot bounces between time and space. The plotting for anyone, even the most remote outsider of the MCU, will be incomprehensible, and even the most dedicated followers of the MCU (like myself) will have to admit that the meat of Endgame’s plot can’t hold up under the least bit of thought. And yet it’s still entertaining and engrossing if you’ve been invested in these characters.
Marvel’s secret weapon in Avengers: Endgame (and pretty much most of its movies) is the fact that they consistently land the big moments. When it comes to the old adage give the audience what they want in a way they don’t expect, Marvel and Endgame delivers. While I can’t say that Avengers: Endgame is always coherent, it’s a movie that still knows how to deliver a big wallop to the audience. There are a number of “Holy shit!” moments for hardcore fans. Avengers: Endgame is able to deliver these moments because it’s a victory lap for Marvel and Kevin Feige, an unapologetically over-indulgent and self-reflexive work of cinematic weirdness. You can hate Endgame will all your being and still have to concede that the movie is both insane and without anything like it ever before. Yeah, it’s a work of corporate synergy where the synergy ignited perpetual motion of pop culture fandom, but it is truly singular.
Despite my praises I’m still fairly lukewarm on the film as a whole, but perhaps that’s something that might fade with time and another viewing. There’s simply so much hurled at the viewer of Avengers: Endgame. It’s jamming a decade of movies, 22 films in all, and balling them up into a densely packed three-hour movie and hurling it right at your face. Some will welcome the projectile and others will recoil in horror. It’s a whole lot of movie, and that’s at once its greatest strength and most debilitating weakness.
Avengers: Endgame features a number of incredible moments in its superhero epic without peer, but it’s also a brazenly self-indulgent and sometimes bewildering victory lap for Marvel Studios.