It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Avengers: Endgame in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The culmination of 21 films and several television series weaving together a singular narrative over more than a decade, Endgame is not just the final chapter in Marvel’s “Infinity Saga,” it’s the final exhibit in a billion-dollar proof-of-concept for both Hollywood and movie audiences.
At this point, everyone knows Marvel’s powerful production team, led by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, can tell a great story, but with Endgame, the question becomes: Can they end it?
The answer to that question is no simple affirmative. It’s an emphatic, comprehensive “yes,” resulting in a film that somehow manages to be as epic as fans hope and as dramatic as the MCU deserves.
Simply put, Avengers: Endgame is the biggest movie Marvel has ever made, and it just might be the best, too.
Directed by Avengers: Infinity War and Captain America: Civil War filmmakers Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame picks up in the aftermath of the climactic events of Infinity War, which saw cosmic conqueror Thanos (Josh Brolin) turn half the living creatures in the universe to dust with the snap of his fingers. Reeling from their defeat and hopelessly adrift — some quite literally — the heroes of the MCU find themselves faced with one final opportunity to reverse Thanos’ actions and bring their allies, friends, and families back.
Precious little can be said of the plot that brings Endgame and the MCU’s “Infinity Saga” to its conclusion without spoilers, but it should suffice to indicate that plenty of surprises await even the most all-consuming Marvel movie fan.
Endgame is a master class in building and maintaining drama.
At this point, it’s becoming a Marvel Studios (and Disney at large, for that matter) tradition to feel like there’s been too much footage released in the lead-up to a film’s release, only to have the final product offer all manner of narrative twists, turns, and unexpected meme-generating moments. That holds true for Endgame more than any prior MCU movie, as the potential for spoilers was massive, but the number of think pieces and op-eds to accurately glean even a few — if any — plot points from the film is shockingly small.
Marvel deserves plenty of credit for whatever secret-keeping strategies it employs, because Endgame is a master class in building and maintaining drama.
Much was made of the film’s three-hour running time in the lead-up to Endgame’s premiere, but those three hours fly by without ever feeling jumbled or forced. Endgame keeps a quick pace, but it’s a pace that feels familiar in the MCU, with every moment efficiently put toward building out a character, driving the story forward, or evoking a particular emotion — even when that emotion is a bit of levity in an otherwise dire moment.
The cast of Endgame is crowded, certainly, but the Russos take painstaking efforts to give each character a moment to shine — from new favorites like Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) to MCU veterans Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth).
It’s those latter three, along with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Hulk (Marc Ruffalo), and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who truly shine in Endgame. Along with Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), these surviving MCU characters (following the events of Infinity War) are tasked with showing the audience the physical and emotional toll of losing so many friends and family members in a conflict they believed themselves certain to win.
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The aforementioned characters’ disappointment in themselves and the world they failed to protect — something that had become, for many of them, their entire purpose in life — resonates throughout their arcs in Endgame. Fortunately, the cast delivers some of their best performances to date in exploring how each character processes that kind of trauma, and if any uncertainty surrounding Marvel’s casting decisions still remained, the actors’ performances in this concluding chapter should finally and decisively put those doubts to rest.
While the spectrum of emotions that Endgame tackles is surprisingly robust (and features an impressive level of nuance when dealing with certain characters’ responses to the events of Infinity War), the bar-raising scope of action comes as less of a shock.
To the surprise of no one, Endgame boasts some of the largest battles of any MCU film so far, both in the number of top-tier, recognizable characters appearing on the screen at various points and the sheer cinematic scope of the events playing out there. Yet, amid all of the chaos, the Russos somehow manage to find just the right balance between the cheer-worthy spectacle of it all and the sort of focused, character-driven action that makes the stakes of the battle feel authentic.
Looking back at Infinity War through the lens of Endgame, it’s easy to see the former as a film about the way heroes can set aside their personal differences for a cause greater than all of them. Endgame, however, is a film about the true costs of war — both for those who fight in it and those around them.
All of this will likely be the subject of countless think pieces in the weeks to come, and Endgame brings the MCU full circle by focusing on the characters who kicked off Marvel’s unbelievably ambitious experiment a decade ago.
After years of battles fought, seemingly unbeatable odds soundly beaten, and countless enemies and diabolical schemes foiled time and time again, the two-part experience offered by Infinity War and Endgame is a cathartic one. The loss felt by the characters across the two films is one of the most powerful emotional journeys the MCU has given audiences so far, but so is their path to redemption in Endgame.
In the end, it’s somewhat fitting that Marvel chose to buck tradition with Endgame and not include the usual mid- or post-credits scene, leaving us hanging when it comes to what’s next for the MCU.
If Endgame was indeed the final chapter in Marvel’s movie-verse, it would be a perfectly satisfying send-off to one of the greatest franchises ever brought to the big screen.
Fortunately, the MCU still has plenty of stories to tell — and if they’re half as good as the story that Endgame brings to an epic, wonderfully satisfying conclusion, we have a lot to look forward to.
Avengers: Endgame premieres April 26 in theaters around the US.
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