I feel like I need to kick this review off by saying this is bound to be one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever had to write. There are dozens and dozens of plot points and character moments that I want to rave and cheer about at the top of my lungs but…I can’t. And I won’t.
Avengers: Endgame has been the rare film so steeped in secrecy that even the most well-read internet fanboy doesn’t really have that much clue about what goes down in it. The trailers did a remarkable job of mostly only using content from roughly the first 15 or 20 minutes, which is something so unheard of in the film business that I didn’t believe it until I saw it for myself. And in case you’re not doing the math, at three hours in length there’s a WHOLE LOT of movie remaining to be revealed. And that’s honestly how it should be. So those of you reading this who don’t want anything spoiled have nothing to fear. I’m going to proceed by tiptoeing around every possible story moment not shown in trailers even though my inner self is still uncontrollably geeking out about them.
With the exception of quick cold-open scene, Avengers: Endgame picks up three weeks after the devastating climax of Avengers: Infinity War when the villainous warlord Thanos snapped his fingers and dusted half of the universe’s population. As a result, Tony Stark/Iron Man and Nebula have been stranded in outer space with little hope of rescue. Back on Earth, a surviving group of heroes made up of Captain America, Black Widow, War Machine, Bruce Banner, Thor, and Rocket Raccoon struggle to cope with their failure despite meeting up with Captain Marvel who has answered Nick Fury’s emergency beacon all too late.
Our heroes are desperate to right the incredible wrong done by Thanos and the film wastes little time in giving them an opportunity to try. But despite the breakneck pace that sets in, Directors Joe and Anthony Russo do a masterful job of making viewers feel the full weight of what has happened. It is abundantly clear that the world has changed and everyone is struggling to cope with that trauma. As a fan of the HBO series The Leftovers I found myself slotting that entire series into this world and imagining all the ways in which society would be falling apart. It ain’t pretty.
Have no fear though. This is still a Marvel movie and there are plenty of laughs to be had. The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely packs in more one-liners and comic scenarios than you can shake an infinity gauntlet at, but the Russo Brothers are able to masterfully weave them in without them feeling jarring to the deadly serious stakes of the story. This, and the immense juggling act of servicing all of the characters on display is what I admire most about these latest Avengers films. By all accounts they should be overstuffed and incoherent messes with far too much going on for anyone to follow or enjoy, but by some miracle these filmmakers pull it off! These movies are so fun to watch that it’s easy to forget what a herculean task it is to write and execute a project this complex while keeping it satisfying. For that reason alone I don’t think it’s radical to start talking about a Best Picture nomination for this when the end of the year rolls around.
And what can I say about this amazing cast that hasn’t already been said? Over the course of now 22 films we’ve seen everyone fully grow into their respective roles and make them iconic. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans both deliver career-best performances while everyone from Scarlett Johansson, Karen Gillan, Paul Rudd, and Chris Hemsworth just bowled me over work that deftly balanced comedy with pathos. I could go on forever and include even more names of people that knocked me out but then we’d be swimming back in those murky, spoiler waters again so I’ll stop gushing now.
It goes without saying that the film is also visually stunning with incredible special effects and action set pieces that will blow your geeky mind berries. I’m pretty sure I was sitting on the edge of my seat covering my mouth at the wonder unfolding before me for the last 30 minutes or so. There are moments of pure euphoria that I still can’t stop thinking about 12 hours later. You will clap. You will cheer. And you will most certainly cry tears of both joy and sadness.
It is wild to think that all of this was born out of a throwaway scene at the end of Iron Man 11 long years ago. So much has changed for the worse in the world in those ensuing years, but there’s always been some comfort in knowing that a couple times a year we’d be able to spend some time with a handful of these characters and forget about the troubles of the real world for a few hours. That is what going to the movies is all about. Kevin Feige and the team at Marvel Studios have done something truly unparalleled in the history of cinema with this Cinematic Universe they’ve created and even though we say farewell to some components of it with this film, Avengers: Endgame is a milestone achievement in popular culture that will endure as long as stories are told.