I can still remember the sense of excitement I felt when I first watched the original Avengers movie, and Avengers: Endgame, released on April 24, managed to capture that same sense of excitement and potential.
In the original Avengers, it was so incredible to see all of the familiar characters in the same room, finally interacting with one another and providing the ultimate payoff to all of the teasers and post-credits scenes of the previous six films.
More importantly, Marvel’s The Avengers signified a major transition for the franchise. For the first time, the entire universe was spread out before us; it no longer felt far fetched that the Hulk might show up in one of Thor’s films, or that Captain America and Iron Man would fight with one another over government regulation of superheroes.
The Avengers set the stage for so many possibilities, and it was so exciting to wonder where the franchise would go next.
Avengers: Endgame elevates all the strengths of its predecessors to new heights, while also serving as a tribute to those that came before. It also delivers a satisfying conclusion to the overarching narrative that stretches across the franchise’s previous 21 films. It is gorgeous, hilarious and awe-inspiring, and serves as the perfect capstone to this wave of the Marvel franchise.
Also, a quick warning for anyone concerned about spoilers: Although I will do my best to avoid mentioning specific details from the film, I will be discussing some basic plot points. If you want to go into the movie completely blind, I would stop reading, there are some spoilers.
Endgame picks up shortly after the events of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, in which the tyrant Thanos succeeded in his quest to collect the Infinity Stones and used their power to wipe out half of all life in the universe.
As the surviving members of Earth’s mightiest heroes grieve their lost friends and comrades, they must also figure out a way to retrieve the Infinity Stones, undo their previous defeat and defeat Thanos once and for all.
Endgame can be roughly divided into three sections, each of which highlights a certain strength of the film.
The opening sequence, for instance, focuses on the surviving characters and their attempts to emotionally process the immense loss of life in the wake of Thanos’ victory in the previous film.
It carries a much more somber and introspective tone than anything else in Marvel’s cinematic universe, which allows us to see a new side of characters that might otherwise feel overly familiar. Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) throw themselves into their work helping others, while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) isolates himself from the rest of the world, ashamed of his inability to stop the tragedy.
Even though it is clear that the emotional drama will eventually segue into a more typical, action-based narrative, the opening still does an excellent job of grounding the characters and demonstrating what exactly they are fighting for throughout the rest of the film.
The second — and longest — part of the film centers around the heroes’ attempts to revive their lost allies, which allows the film to explore the dynamics between the surviving characters.
Part of the joy of viewing crossover films is seeing familiar characters interact with one another for the first time, and Endgame fully delivers on that front.
There’s something glorious about watching characters like War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Nebula (Karen Gillian) play off of one another, and all of their interactions, no matter how unlikely, are funny and interesting.
It is also nice to see familiar characters with established relationships continue to interact with one another — Black Widow and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) get some particularly excellent scenes that underscore their devoted friendship.
The middle portion of the film is also an incredible and over-the-top homage to the history of the Marvel franchise that is absolutely amazing to watch.
In their quest to defeat Thanos, the Avengers return to a series of iconic locations from previous films’ backstories in truly hilarious and iconic ways. There are so many references and in-jokes that it almost feels gratuitous, and any fan of the franchise is sure to love all of the little details that pop up throughout the film. It is a lovely tribute to the franchise and its fandom, and End Game was an absolute delight to watch.
The film ends just like all of the other Avengers films. All of the heroes are facing off against a massive army of faceless goons, engaged in an epic fight.
These battles are almost always pure fan service, an excuse to watch the protagonists unleash all of their abilities before the credits roll, and this scene is no exception.
That being said, Endgame’s finale definitely goes all out.
All of the remaining heroes — including some incredibly unlikely ones — get a moment to shine in the fight, and there are some awe-inspiring moments that caused the entire theater to break out into cheers while I viewed the film.
And while it might be mostly fan service, it is done so well that it glosses over most of the potential flaws in that particular scene.
However, Endgame does run into one of the franchise’s most persistent problems: The villain just isn’t very interesting.
Although Thanos and his influence loom over the narrative, his depiction is a lot less nuanced than it was in Infinity War.
He loses any of his sympathetic traits and becomes much more egotistical and power-hungry in return. It’s a surprising depiction that ultimately undermines much of the characterization from the previous film.
Furthermore, there’s no real opportunity for any of the characters to truly engage with Thanos during the final confrontation in the film.
None of the fight scenes seem to have any real emotional weight to them — the conflicts lack intensity, and the ultimate villain of the franchise feels like just another generic evildoer as a result.
Ultimately, it is a fairly minor issue that doesn’t detract from the sheer spectacle of the final confrontation, but the movie’s inability to establish a compelling villain is still a disappointment.
However, even a few narrative quibbles aren’t enough to detract from the overall spectacle that is Avengers: Endgame.
I spent most of the film unable to look away from the screen for fear of missing the next jaw-dropping moment, and I couldn’t come up with a single complaint while I was actually watching the film.
It’s an onslaught of humor and fan service, as well as the perfect culmination to the Infinity Stone narrative. It might be the end of an era, but if this is how Marvel concludes a story, then I can’t wait to see what they do next.