Eleven years, twenty-two films, and over nineteen billion dollars later, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the most successful film franchise in history. Time and time again, we’ve loved the heroes, laughed with the sidekicks, feared the villains, and been consistently thrilled by the action. It all culminated last year with Avengers: Infinity War, which was generally well received, but I personally found it a disappointment. I felt it had a poorly written script, which sympathized too much with Thanos, and robbed most of the Avengers of their personalities. Also, the overabundance of violence and shock-value moments left a sour taste in my mouth. So when the Endgame trailers came out I rolled my eyes and knew I’d only see it out of obligation. But to my surprise, I absolutely loved it. Avengers: Endgame is the epic the fans deserve. After sticking with this wild ride for over a decade, we finally have a wholly satisfying conclusion. No, the MCU isn’t ending any time soon, but Endgame is absolutely the conclusion to the original Avengers line up. From now on, everything will be different.
Endgame picks up after “The Snap,” resulting in a Leftovers-esque world with a largely missing population. The first hour of the film is very introspective, focusing entirely on the surviving Avengers, and how they intend to deal with this huge issue. Some may take issue with this slow burn, deeming it “boring” or “pointless,” but I was shocked by how invested I was. Keep in mind, when “The Snap” happened in Infinity War, I groaned and deemed it a lazy cop-out. But when Endgame recontextualized it, I was on the edge of my seat. That’s quite an accomplishment. We also get to see what’s happened to them in between films and shout out to what they did with Thor. That was hilarious. Despite how dark the film is, it’s astonishing how laugh-out-loud funny it often is too.
Without spoiling anything, the next hour is much more action-oriented, and what they did is actually really clever. The film takes a few turns, which Rian Johnson would call “subverting your expectations,” but the choices made here aren’t in a pointless Last Jedi way. Every decision made here enhanced the story, and I genuinely didn’t know where it was going. Some critics have described this section as “fan service-y,” and while that’s true, I can’t say that’s a bad thing. If you’ve kept up with every MCU film, you’re going to feel like a genius. They do a remarkable job bringing back everything we’ve seen thus far. Even previously skippable entries like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World serve a new purpose in Endgame. When I see it a second time, I wonder how much more I’ll notice.
But of course, what we really want to see is the climax, and boy it delivers. The best way to describe the third act is “Ready Player One’s climax if we actually cared.” Because it’s an impossibly big battle, and in the wrong hands it would have been an incomprehensible disaster. But no, the last hour of this film is movie magic. As cool as the Wakanda fight in Infinity War was, this blows it out of the water. Every hero is doing something interesting. The wide shots and visual effects are phenomenal. It’s a monumental achievement, and it’s possible the MCU will never live up to it again. But I was most impressed by the final twenty minutes, where the film goes for the jugular. Again, without spoiling it, Endgame rivals Logan as the most emotionally impactful superhero film ever. The last shot, in particular, you’ll know it when you see it, made my heart soar.
There is no reason why Endgame should be as good as it is. So many times, Hollywood has screwed up the ending. Anyone who’s suffered through The Dark Knight Rises, X-Men: The Last Stand (or Apocalypse), Batman & Robin, Superman IV, or The Matrix Revolutions can testify. Infinity War may have left me worried, but Endgame truly is as good as an MCU movie can get. Which sort of makes me wish they quit while they’re ahead. I don’t want the MCU to turn out like the last few years of The Office when we all wished they stopped when Michael Scott left. For instance, I was so overwhelmingly satisfied by Logan, that I outright refuse to see Dark Phoenix later this year. Like Kanye said, “It’s not funny anymore, try different jokes.” In the worst case scenario, we should have left it here. But who knows? Maybe they’ll continue to surprise us and keep making us see what happens next. Phase 4 could be anything. After all, we still haven’t seen Mr. Fantastic or Wolverine in one of these. We’ll just see when we get there.