This is a SPOILER-FREE review! As such, certain plot points and thematic elements will be talked about in a general fashion, so as not to ruin any specific moments from the film.
All journeys must have an end. Whether we’re talking about a journey of self-discovery, a journey through time and space, a journey of taking some jewelry to a fiery mountain, or a journey of a three-hour tour, it’s often said that the experience is about the journey itself, not the destination. The journey for the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the last 11 years and 22 films comes to an “end” of sorts with ‘Avengers: Endgame’ – yes, I know that technically, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home‘ is the conclusion to Phase Three of the MCU, and that the franchise will continue onward and upward with more films to come, but I think we all understand that ‘Endgame’ is the culmination of so much that this franchise has set in motion for so, so many years.
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If you’ve been following along with Marvel’s recent films – and let’s be honest, you’re not interested in this movie and this review if you haven’t been – then you know what’s been going on and what the plot of this movie is looking to accomplish. After the devastating events of ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ in which Thanos was successful in wiping out half of the universe’s population of living beings, those that remain are left to deal with their new reality. For the remains of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, two burning questions task them: where is Thanos now, and is there any way to fix what has been done?
That one sentence above is pretty much all you need to know about this film going in, but make no mistake: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is so much more than something that can be compressed into one line of text. The film has a run time of three hours and one minute, and every single second is used by directors Joe and Anthony Russo to tell one of the most epic comic-book stories to ever hit the big screen. The emotions run high; from the opening scene to when the credits were rolling, I was intermittently crying with sadness, crying with joy, audibly gasping, and audibly cheering. I had the opportunity to see the film with a group comprised of only members of the press – and everyone was feeling the same emotions and letting it be known, loud and proud.
If you’ve been following the marketing push for ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ then you are aware of certain elements of the film, particularly which of the surviving team members are reunited, which team members go on a markedly different personal journey, and even a vague idea of one of the ways that the heroes will attempt to fix the situation. While you may feel like some of this pre-release info made available to the general public has “spoiled” part of the movie already, I promise you that ‘Endgame’ has so much more in store for you than you are mentally prepared for.
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ felt like the largest live-action comic-book “crossover” film to date, with characters from so many different Marvel films all coming together in one grand story; in this department, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ puts its predecessor to shame. You’ll see characters you’ve forgotten about. You’ll see characters you thought you’d never see again. You’ll see characters you never thought you’d ever see, period. This film is, unequivocally, the largest-scale crossover and gathering of Marvel characters ever shown on the silver screen. It is, quite simply, an experience like no other.
If you want to get super-nitpicky with the movie, you’ll find a few tiny cracks here and there. Yes, some characters escape seemingly-inescapable situations. Yes, there are dynamics of a very specific sci-fi trope (trying to stay intentionally spoiler-free and vague here, sorry!) that are a little head-scratching and may not make perfect sense. With the story being presented to the viewer, however, these are incredibly minor quibbles, and they should in no way detract from the enjoyment that you’ll receive while watching this movie.
In my review of ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ last year, I called that movie “the most comic-book ‘comic-book movie’ that I’ve ever seen.” Let me tell you: it now has some serious competition. Let’s allow ‘Spider-Verse’ to retain that title for an animated film, but for live-action comic-book movies that provide the true “feel” of a comic book, there is no comparison to ‘Avengers: Endgame.’ Every second of its three-plus hours feels like it has poured right off the pages of the Marvel books – and what is reported to be the last Stan Lee cameo is short but sweet, just as we’ve come to expect from “The Man” in the movies. There is a scene towards the conclusion of the movie – you’ll know which one I’m talking about once you see it – that literally gave me minutes-long chills and figuratively gave me a heart attack from sheer amazement in the one single-most glorious “holy crap, look at all of THIS” moment I’ve ever experienced from a film.
Truly, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is a love letter to fans; a sincere and emotional “thank-you” for the years of dedication and support. Some of us grew up with comic books and have loved seeing these well-known characters come to life in a brand new way. Some of us had little exposure to the comics before the films, and have been able to discover a brand-new medium in which to enjoy these characters further. Some of us literally grew up over the last 11 years with these characters on our screens, teaching us valuable life lessons and what it truly means to be a hero. No matter which camp you fall into – this film is for you. Joyfully, brilliantly, heart-breakingly, thrillingly, poignantly, breathlessly, entrancingly for you.