Film Review: “Avengers: Endgame”

The end of an era — Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” is a finale worthy of superheroes.

An entertainment titan and pop culture phenomenon, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has undeniably been a constant in our collective consciousness for the past 10 years. Merchandise, theme parks, and 22 movies and counting — for better or for worse, it’s difficult to deny the impact that the MCU has left in both film and consumerist culture.

It seemed that the MCU had reached its peak with the universe-colliding “Avengers: Infinity War.” The highest mountain had been climbed. The devastation of losing half the universe’s life forms, killing off many familiar faces, left a burning question for both survivors and moviegoers: What happens next?

Without revealing spoilers, “Avengers: Endgame” answers that question, and many, many more. It explores the aftermath of “the snap” and how our remaining superheroes deal with it in different, sometimes unexpected ways. To recover their fallen friends and family, they find themselves forced to confront their pasts and protect the present.

The film spends only enough time to catch viewers up with the utmost important information, aware of its whopping three-hour runtime. And unlike its brutal, action-packed predecessor, “Endgame” takes its time to let the profound effects of “Infinity War” settle in. While some scenes are slow, they deliberately help the film from becoming too narratively rushed or emotionally draining for its own good. “Endgame” is a welcome change of pace for the franchise, but it’s still cut from the same cloth as other MCU installments in other ways.

While not as abundant in previous films, the humor and amount of fanservice, like easter eggs and cameos, in “Endgame” is what you expect for a Marvel movie — sometimes a little too on-the-nose, but are otherwise much-needed tension-breakers in this case. Winks at other movies like “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Big Lebowski” also liven up somber moments.

Like many other Marvel movies, “Endgame” suffers some technical ills. Besides top-billed actors, most characters compete for less than a minute of screen time each. Even scarcer are interactions between the majority of them. There’s also a lack of attention to the lives outside of the Avengers’, as well as some dubious science for convenience’s sake. In “Endgame,” the impressively choreographed hand-to-hand combat of the Captain America trilogy is traded for brute power and heavy CGI. The CGI doesn’t dazzle like “Doctor Strange,” but fast cuts and dark, muddy colors — while also poor directing choices — mask the flaws.

In spite of technical gripes, “Endgame” still lands on its feet. Its not-so-secret weapon is its likeable characters, who prevent the MCU from enduring the same pitfalls as the DC Extended Universe. The characters might have inhuman powers, but they have very human emotions and responses. It’s a simple formula that works.

Even greater is the movie’s ultimate showdown. Underneath its frenzied editing and visual effects, the adrenaline-filled climactic fight is thrilling to witness. It’s a tremendously ambitious undertaking, considering the stakes and the amount of sheer power involved. It all pays off, some twists and tears later. Marvel has never been the best at creating memorable lines (besides its jokes), but hearing that iconic “Avengers, assemble” is a chilling experience.

Most importantly, “Endgame” is a fitting send-off, and there’s a relieving sense of closure that will leave most viewers satisfied. Loose ends are tied. Rivalries, flames, and friendships are revisited and settled. At times too indulgent or difficult to remember, nods to previous movies make “Endgame” a fun, even giddy nostalgia trip. As much as it’s a run down memory lane, the film is also an evolution of many characters.

“Endgame” is ultimately Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) story. Having solidified themselves as the tentpoles of the franchise, the two characters take the spotlight among a cast of dozens. Against them is Josh Brolin’s Thanos, who remains one of the most memorable movie villains of this decade. Both sides see their goals as noble pursuits, an outlook that makes Stark and Rogers admirable and Thanos even more appalling.

Those sick of formulaic superhero movies that deal with cookie-cutter villains and repetitive origin stories need not worry when they get dragged to see “Endgame.” While it’s not likely to change minds, it’s still a cinematic spectacle worth watching. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting way of concluding over a decade’s worth of films.

As a follow-up to “Infinity War,” “Endgame” is just as memorable, and even more meaningful. Technicalities aside, “Avengers: Endgame” is a touchstone in film and triumphantly passes the torch to a new era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still, one can’t help but wonder again: What happens next? Is this the pinnacle of superhero blockbusters, or just the beginning?

Grade: A-
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Josh Brolin
Release Date: April 26, 2019 (USA)
Rated: PG-13