More an event and institution than a film, the conclusion to 21 other films and 11 years of releases, Avengers: Endgame is ambitious, heartfelt, satisfying, and a testament to the generation-spanning appeal of comic book heroes. While an instinct may be to compare this film to last year’s Infinity War, the truth is that Endgame is a natural companion piece to that story itself – more an epilogue or coda than a brand new adventure on its own.
When Infinity War was announced some years ago, it was originally split into Part 1 and Part 2. Later those titles were changed to Infinity War and Endgame, but personally, I still feel like they are a Part 1 and a Part 2 of one complete story.
Endgame starts about a month after Thanos and his Snap caused half of all living creatures to fade into dust. The heroes that are left, aided by the freshly returned Captain Marvel, rally together in hopes of tracking down Thanos and undoing his actions. However, it doesn’t quite go to plan, and the Avengers can do nothing to change the damage caused by the Infinity Gauntlet. There’s a time skip, and the team mostly breaks apart and goes their own way to live in the new Post-Snap world.
An accident releases Ant-Man from where he was trapped in the Quantum Realm at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp, and he finds out what has happened in the world in the interim. He heads to the Avengers’ hide-out and reveals a plan: the Quantum Realm could, theoretically, be used for time-travel as well.
I’m not going to discuss much more of actual plot details in the interests of those still to see them, but in general, the plot is mostly in service here to the characterization and character interactions. This is a film for fans, not only because it won’t make sense to anyone else, but because people who have watched all of the MCU will understand the personalities of these characters, where they have been and why they are acting the way they are now. None of that is easily explained in the film for newcomers, which is fair I think, and it really will have the most impact if you have watched the MCU in its entirety.
While Infinity War was mostly about interactions between heroes that have never met up before (Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange and Iron Man, etc), Endgame is much more about the core set of Avengers and how they have grown over the course of their adventures together.
The initial set-up is one of misery, especially after the time-skip early on. Each one of the remaining heroes is coping in their own way, some better than others, and we get to see these characters in new contexts and new emotional states than before. The first hour of the movie has very few fantastical elements at all, comparatively speaking. Its mostly people talking, which is strange for such an action-packed movie series and genre, but it’s so important to lay that groundwork after the drama of Infinity War, and I’m very glad they took that approach here.
Once the characters split up into different teams to travel through time, we have a lot of call-backs and references to previous films, and a lot of those films have their contexts and scenes re-examined in new and interesting ways. I am especially grateful that so many of the supporting actors from those scenes came back for little scenes to add to the reality of time travel, such as Robert Redford and Natalie Portman. It’s in scenes such as these that this film really starts to come across as a capstone for the entire MCU series of films up until this point.
The action does eventually pick up towards the middle and end of the film, and there is a spectacularly huge and over the top battle scene that caps off the main action. I found it wonderfully stirring, emotional on many levels – action-packed and dramatic. Great care was taken to give almost every character you could imagine a proper showing in a battle that could easily have become overwhelmingly chaotic. The way the characters fight and move and use their superpowers is a love letter to comic fans, and you have to take a couple rewatches to catch everything and every combo that is happening in these scenes.
And then the story ends. The entire Infinity Stones saga. Will it please everyone? Probably not. But I think its about as decent an ending as you could have expected. While there are more MCU films planned, this is very much the end of an era, and that is reflected with great understanding and respect for the material and characters. Depending on how much you like certain characters, you may be quite upset (that’s all I’m saying about that), and there is a definite tone of passing matters on to the next generation of heroes. I particularly loved the very last scene of the film and felt it was a perfect way to close things off on this era.
On a shot-for-shot ranking, Infinity War is probably a lot more spectacular on average than Endgame is, with far more CGI heavy battle scenes and amazing fights. But Endgame is far more emotional and reflective in turn – this is why I describe it as an epilogue to the story of the previous film.
If I have one major criticism to make, it would probably be in the treatment of Captain Marvel. Regarding her, some of my expected fears were realised. Firstly, it is clear that she is just too damn powerful at this point to make much of her into an interesting character. She shows up twice in the movie as a result, each time acting pretty much as a deus ex machina that solves a big immediate problem with very little effort. The alternative would have been to keep her around the whole time, but then all of the challenges would have been entirely different. It seems the scriptwriters didn’t really know what to do with her, and as a result, she is a very limp presence in Endgame that doesn’t nearly deliver on what could have been if she was scaled a bit more to the rest of the universe.
Regardless though, it’s hard to dislike Avengers: Endgame in any significant kind of way. Its heartfelt throughout and delivers some truly spectacular moments made all the better by respecting the history of both the comics and the films that have come before. My only worry now is, whether this is the peak of the MCU, or how on Earth they would expand this concept any more than it has been done before. That will be the challenge in the years to come.
Although I do suppose Disney has just acquired 20th Century Fox…
It's a film that not only delivers some truly spectacular moments but remains respectful to both the comics and films.