Critiquing the final installment of what is basically a 10 year long beloved saga is a bit like me sitting down and analyzing your favorite uncle. Sometimes he brings the best Christmas presents and tells you hilarious, dirty stories. Sometimes he shows up at Thanksgiving really drunk and tries to urinate in your sock drawer. But no matter what you’ve gone through with him, he’s still your uncle, you still love him and you basically always look forward to seeing the guy.
That’s about how I feel about Kevin Feige‘s (and the entire army of talent supporting his vision) work in the MCU. They’ve perfected the modern blockbuster formula to a t, basically reinventing the big budget paradigm in a way that every other studio has attempted – and failed – to emulate. Which has, frankly, been a savior for theater chains finding their ticket and concessions dollars drying up in otherwise leaner times. They make a lot of movies I enjoy, a few movies I love (RAGNAROK!!!), and some that I find a chore to sit through. But in all, it’s a remarkable achievement that’s unparalleled in this medium.
Avengers: Endgame, while not the final chapter of the entire MCU, it is at least a closing of the books in another sense. While Marvel’s Phase 3 has been all about passing of the baton and shifting the focus from the core trio of heroes that were the foundations of the series to growing in fun, diverse, and sometimes more outlandish directions. Thanks to the machinations of the ultimate bad guy Thanos, Endgame pulls that same spotlight back a bit to the core team: acting partly as celebration, partly tying a bow on the whole affair. Logical plot synopsis here is a fool’s errand, but suffice it to say that the film spends its running time devoted to the remaining Avengers going on a nostalgic, against-all-odds mission in one last effort to undo the Snapture that wiped out half of the universe’s population.
It’s a remarkable balance to achieve, and for about two-thirds of its running time, Anthony and Joe Russo, the stalwart, steady hands of the MCU for around half of its existence pull it off expertly and rather cleanly. For much of the experience, Endgame feels like you’re reading a really good graphic novel, heck – I imagine if you pair it with Infinity War for a great double-feature, it would be like spending an afternoon with an entire run of Marvel comics, albeit one that’s drained a bit more of its color than I’d like. Sadly, once again the Russos (or Marvel’s previs unit, take your pick) oversee a granite colored final battle that has a few strong “hurrah” moments, including one amazing one. But that final giant set-piece is devoid of a lot of the excitement that prefaces it in the film, and has a bit of perfunctory air, even reducing its key antagonist to a dumbed-down state. Another obstacle to cross.
With that said, there’s very little I can say that will sway you one way or another in regard to your interest in this film. You probably have purchased your tickets already, you might even be sitting in one of those theaters showing a 48 hour, 22 film movie marathon just to get to this moment. This three hour long moment. Long story short, it’s a mostly satisfying experience, with nice call-backs, some unexpected surprises, and some deeply emotionally resonant moments for a group of characters that audiences have largely grown to care for. If you like everything else that came before it, you’re sure to like this. Even some critics in our circle found they preferred this one over Infinity War. I can see why. I think Endgame, unlike Infinity War, has more fat that needs trimming and its running time really starts to weigh down on you – particularly as the aforementioned muddy third act starts to take over the proceedings. But to its benefit, Endgame is a more resonant and character-oriented experience that pays off your own decades-long investment in this world in spades, and much like crazed Thanos’ obsession with the concept, the balance that Endgame provides to Infinity War‘s plot-heavy structure acts a refreshing reprieve.
Avengers: Endgame is a bloated bit of spectacle, but it remains unprecedented. Not only as a part of a larger unit of cross-pollinating films, but also in its highly-pressurized task in serving as a definitive (mostly) conclusion to the most successful film franchise in history. No movie has ever had to do what this has been tasked with. That it succeeds 95% of the time is rather remarkable. Hawkeye is still really lame, though. So lame. How are they going to make a tv show with this guy?
Also don’t bother staying through the credits, unless you enjoy that sort of thing. There are ZERO post-credits scenes. There is a great comics creator cameo though. Keep an eye out.
Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. He really loves the Legion of Super-Heroes a lot.