By: Hawk Ripjaw (Two Beers) –
**this review contains light SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame**
Avengers: Endgame opens with the aftermath of Infinity War, Thanos victorious in his quest to erase half of all life in the universe with a snap of his fingers in the Infinity Gauntlet. Tony Stark and Nebula are drifting in deep space with no fuel and limited supplies. The remaining Avengers are broken, unsure of how to proceed. While Captain America and Black Widow remain fixated on reversing the Snap, Hawkeye has become a mass killer of criminals, Thor has become an alcoholic recluse, and Bruce Banner has essentially retired, at peace with The Hulk. Ant-Man escapes the Quantum Realm after being trapped there when his friends were erased with the Snap.
Captain Marvel rescues Tony and Nebula and the original band gets back together, but Thanos has destroyed the Infinity Stones, leaving the Avengers with no way to reverse the snap using the Gauntlet. From here, it’s not hard to imagine where the plot will go (given how much speculation there’s been, a couple of more popular and likely theories have cropped up). Exactly how it goes about that and what the movie does, however, is significantly more elaborate and clever.
Infinity War ended with Thanos snapping his fingers with the Infinity Gauntlet and wiping out half of all life in the universe, including most of the Avengers. He left little more than the original lineup of heroes standing, which not only nicely bookends the series with the finale, but narrows the focus down to a handful of characters. In doing so, Endgame is allowed to really work with its characters and begin concluding arcs that have been active for up to a decade. For the first half of the film, action is sparse and the focus is on the narrative as the remaining Avengers try to figure out how to reverse the effects of the Snap. This first half is deeply somber, and the rare moments of humor mostly come from natural character reactions. Yet, the tone rarely feels out of place. Some Marvel films have a specific issues with emotional moments being hampered by humor, but Endgame’s tone is, you could say, perfectly balanced.
At 3 hours and 2 minutes long, Endgame is the longest Marvel film and indeed the lengthiest blockbuster in quite some time. Yet the movie’s pacing is very strong, feeling easily 30-40 minutes shorter than it is and only really feeling lengthy in the last 10 or so minutes as things wrap up. The whole movie has three main plot threads, one for each of its three hours, and each is kind of its own beast. This keeps things moving quickly without feeling disjointed, and almost has the sense of reading three connected comic books.
Once the action gets going, it’s as good as anything the Russos (The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War) have directed in the franchise so far. The action is colorful, dynamic, and exciting, with the final act of the film delivering an absolutely huge battle with many moving parts and extremely high stakes. We know that things have to be resolved successfully, but in the moment, Endgame’s finale is thrilling in a way that most blockbusters, clouded with noise, are unable to be.
Endgame is packed to the gills with shots and moments that are either surprising or simply epic wish fulfillment. Specific moments in the finale had audiences out of their seats, and a scene around the middle of the film had me vocally delighted. There are also satisfying conclusions to many relationships and arcs here, with one of the most notable being Tony Stark and Steve Rogers reconciling. It’s impressive how emotionally resonant Endgame is as the culmination of a 22-film arc spanning a decade, and even more impressive how well it mostly ties everything together.
Endgame backs itself into a corner in a couple of ways, with one of them being resolved satisfactorily and the other not as much. Firstly, the use of time travel in movies has almost always been dicey, because no matter how you establish the rules of it, it’s almost impossible to fully adhere to them because something in the movie will inevitably break them. Endgame’s solution is to a) openly state that regular time travels rules don’t even apply here and b) don’t worry about it, man. By deliberately making its time travel rules very complicated and seemingly breaking them a couple of times, Endgame manages to make its time travel shenanigans simply fun.
On the other hand, first reactions (and shared by yours truly) after Captain Marvel were “Well, Thanos is fucked.” Carol Danvers is an absurdly powerful character, and Endgame’s solution to this is to mostly keep her out of the movie. That’s right, Danvers shows up briefly in the first act, reappears briefly one or two times during the movie, and participates in the second half of the film’s climax. The explanation for why she isn’t in the movie much gets an adequate explanation, but it’s not quite enough to fully justify her absence nor is it all that interesting.
At the end of the day, Avengers: Endgame is still a comic book movie, and it won’t do much for anyone who’s not invested in the genre and the series. But for Marvel fans and superhero fanatics, it absolutely delivers the goods. This may be the pinnacle of fan service without feeling overly pandering. It is the culmination of a decade of films and characters and stories, some of whom have a very special place in the hearts of fans. Each of the core Avengers gets a conclusion to their respective arc, many in ways that aren’t altogether very surprising but emotionally satisfying. Like last year’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this is a very clear labor of love made by fans, for fans. The MCU has changed the landscape for how series operate in Hollywood, and the next phase of Marvel holds exciting possibilities.
Avengers: Endgame (2019) Movie Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever the Avengers theme kicks in
Take a Drink: for every callback to Phase 1
Take a Drink: whenever someone says “Stones”
Do a Shot: every time someone references Back to the Future
Take a Drink: whenever Thor takes a drink