It’s possible that we will never see a movie like Avengers: Endgame again.
This review, like all of my reviews, will be spoiler-free, but I may dance around a couple of spoilers.
Avengers: Endgame is a special movie.
It’s special because it manages to do so many things at such a high degree of expertise, plus it’s the culmination of what was set up in Avengers: Infinity War and every film that’s preceded it in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but— it’s also an incredibly functional standalone movie with multiple satisfying character arcs.
Endgame is one of the most effectively-executed examples of fan service that, somehow, rides the line and still remains believable and relevant to the story in every way.
Technically-speaking this movie is a marvel of blockbuster filmmaking.
The Russo Brothers, who co-directed Infinity War and Endgame, get a lot of credit for these films, but I think we need to give some much-deserved credit to writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Imagine the balancing act here. Endgame follows one of the most interesting and exciting films of all time. While Infinity War was a set-up for this film, it would be easy, almost a foregone conclusion, that Endgame would be a let-down. How can you possibly top Infinity War?
Add to that the pressure of making a film that’s meant to be the final lap of the original Avengers team, a trip through memory lane, and give the fans something they will never forget.
Finally, add to those expectations, that instead of just cramming all of that into an incomprehensible mess of a story that only long-time fans would understand and enjoy, instead you create a standard three-act structure, that serves as a foundation for character arcs within the scope of this one film, AND satisfying character arcs that stretch back to the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film Iron Man, eleven years ago.
Imagine all of that, and then realize that Markus and McFeely not only pulled off that balancing act, but far exceeded expectations on every level.
Yes, the Russo Brothers, Anthony and Joe, also gave us incredible action, genuine laughs, a galaxy full of heart, and poignant moments. They also guided a complex, challenging story that might have easily derailed other directors.
For all the talk of Endgame being three hours long, it didn’t play like that, and I can’t imagine the film being any longer or any shorter without damaging the impact.
Endgame is expertly crafted.
Of course, the special effects are dazzling. I was stunned by how good Thanos and Hulk looked. In fact, I completely forgot that they weren’t really giant purple and green people in real life.
The costumes and production design are top notch and memorable. The cinematography is beautiful. The score is perfect.
The greatest compliment that I can give the creators of Endgame is, despite all the fantastic things happening on the screen, I never once was jarred out of the experience by something that wasn’t done right. That allowed me to just enjoy the story, from beginning to end.
As I predicted a year ago, Endgame is a film that focuses mostly on the original Avengers in an intimate way.
The original Avengers have been changed, broken, by the events of Infinity War. The group that was used to always winning, lost, in the worst possible way.
When we join the members of the team they are all different from how we’ve come to know them.
The cast, filled with good actors, are given a chance to show so much range in Endgame and they all rise to the occasion.
Fan Service, As Compelling Story
In Infinity War the moment that Steve Rogers challenges Thanos was particularly poignant for me because of his history.
Way back in the first Captain America movie he was shown to stand up against bullies, even before he had powers. While Thanos was wildly over-powered, Steve Rogers was there again, standing up against a bully, despite not having the muscle to do so. A bully is a bully, and Rogers was compelled to stand up to him, even if knew he couldn’t win. That was a sad moment, but a moment of triumph still.
The way that Endgame addresses this power imbalance is one of the most thrilling moments I can ever remember in any movie I’ve seen. I screamed so loud that my throat was sore the next day. I wanted to stand up in my chair to cheer for him.
That’s the sort of thing that Endgame does so well. It’s not just a great moment in the film, it also was a perfect beat for the story and the character at the same time.
Taking One Step Back
If I wanted to be critical, I’d have to note that this is meant to be a blockbuster superhero movie, not 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There are some concepts here that are interesting, but this is not a movie that’s revolutionary in structure, or theme, or plot, or storytelling, or acting. It’s not “high art.” It’s not meant to be though. In fact, Endgame is designed to be clear and easily-followed and concise (well, as concise as a three-hour movie can be).
The second act, which I really enjoyed, is going to drag for people with short attention spans and I also suspect that on further viewings that everyone is going to be anxious to get to that third act. Much like wanting to skip all that froufrou crap at the beginning of Titanic to see what happens after the ship strikes the iceberg.
However, for this Marvel fan, this movie was pure delight. Endgame is one of the best popcorn movies ever made.
Maybe the very best.
I can’t tell you how many times I felt chills, or laughed so hard it made me dizzy, or punched at the air when certain characters have their moments.
Damn, this is a satisfying movie.
Endgame is the rara avis that soars because the execution is perfect. Despite all the build-up, eleven years worth, it completely delivers.
I might have even shed a tear or two. You don’t know! Leave me alone.
That’s the most honest assessment that I can give you. Because frankly, this film felt very special to me.
And I suspect most Marvel Cinematic Universe fans will feel the same way.
Because even if Thanos is inevitable, there’s only one Iron Man.