Over the span of its three-hour length, Avengers: Endgame cobbles together all the strengths and a few of the flaws of Marvel’s cinematic expanse into one burly narrative: At different points, the story feels genuinely epic, dramatically intimate, thrillingly well-staged, and disarmingly funny. And indulgent. And exhausting. Taken as one coherent story arc, Infinity War and Endgame attempt something irresistibly audacious and sweepingly ambitious by herding heroes and villains and plot threads from twenty different movies under one sprawling circus tent. Given the inherent difficulty of that task, both films work as well as they possibly could. It is, in fact, an enormous achievement that they work at all.
If Infinity War was a giddy, action-fueled romp with a smoldering, apocalyptic coda, then Endgame centers on the glum aftermath, and the stunned survivors left to sift through the ashes. Thanos (Josh Brolin) has defeated the Avengers, and his barbarous arithmetic has reduced the population of the universe by half. That includes our spandexed superheroes, with many audience favorites culled from existence. Those left behind live with hobbling grief and self-doubt: Could they have done more? Is there more they could do? Some fall into spirals of violence and self-destruction, while others retreat and try to better themselves. All of them feel a nagging suspicion that the biggest battle has yet to be fought, and I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to say that the sullen remainder of the Avengers eventually will eventually unite for some purple ass-whoopin’. I mean, imagine the movie if they didn’t?
Okay…I’m gonna avoid spilling secrets by being vague as humanly possible: As mentioned earlier, Endgame clocks in at just over three hours, and the plot churns along for most of that time. This ain’t no movie for pre-theater beers or an 84oz Dr. Pepper. You might sprint to the bathroom, only to return and find out your favorite character has shuffled off this mortal coil, or some kinda world-shaking event just happened. I understand if you gotta go, but consider yourself fairly warned.
Endgame aims for greatness and ends up being just really good. Those who seek the emotional payoff that Infinity War left hanging will be satisfied. Hell, if you’re a Marvel fan, this movie should quench all your thirst: Big speeches are made, goofball jokes abound, and an opera of CGI action fills the climactic battle. The epilogue doesn’t quite reach a weepy Return of the King hug-a-thon, but it gets dangerously close. Scenes linger longer than they need to, prompting the movie to stretch like a rubber band. And I get it, when you’ve come this far with so many characters, parting is such sweet sorrow. I’ll pilfer another famous quote and say this doesn’t feel like the beginning of the end so much as the end of the beginning. This marathon will lead to other marathons, with an ever-expanding list of runners. When it’s said and done, Avengers: Endgame offers an exciting travelogue of where the franchise has been, and supplies a strong boost of momentum to where it could go from here.
Check out my review for Infinity War here: