(Lainey: I edit almost every post that goes up on this site. I have not read this post. And I’m sad about that because I love reading Sarah’s articles so much. But I’m also trying to go into Avengers: Endgame as clean as possible and while Sarah has assured us that she’s written a UNspoilery review below, and that she’s given ample warning where necessary, she’s signed off on me not editing it because she doesn’t want to be blamed for whatever dramatics I might cook up when and after I see it - because I KNOW I’m going to be dramatic. Anyway, the point is, I’ve decided my fate. Your fate is in your hands. If you’ve already seen it, and many of you have because you keep emailing me, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.)
SPOILER FREE FOR NOW
I didn’t have super high hopes for Avengers: Endgame. Avengers: Infinity War was big, unwieldy, and representative of the best and worst in Marvel movies. It seemed like team-up movies on this scale were just too big to do anything other than thrust a metric ton of plot at you as quickly as possible, only to still run long. There’s no room for character development or actual story, and while individual moments could shine, overall it seemed the most we could hope for was a coherent but messy super-sized pack of farewells from Endgame. Boy, was that assumption wrong. Avengers: Endgame is big, and long, and stuffed to the gills with, well, STUFF. But it is super fun, deeply emotional, and immensely satisfying. And, surprise, surprise, there is actual, honest-to-god character development and an actual story occurring through all the plot (plot = what is happening, story = why it’s happening and what it means).
If you decide to walk away from Marvel movies now, you can do so after Endgame satisfied. This IS an actual conclusion to a franchise that seemed uninterested in actual endings. But Endgame neatly clips off the many threads introduced over eleven years and twenty-plus movies of storytelling. The original Avengers have a proper swan song, and it is resonant and satisfying. It feels like a real farewell. But it also pulls a neat trick of setting up the next generation of heroes without actually starting up any new plot for them. Endgame ENDS, it is a final conclusion, and yet there is still a feeling of hope for the future that gives the next generation something to build on. It’s a really neat trick from writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo.
But just so you know, if you are checking for the new heroes, even the newly-minted Captain Marvel, don’t hold your breath. This is very much the story of the original Avengers, and the new heroes are just there to offer support in key moments. Anyone who thought Carol Danvers was going to storm in and solve every problem can relax. She makes a difference, yes, but this is not her story. Endgame belongs to the original Avengers, and with the exception of Nebula, Rocket, and Scott Lang, who all have major roles, the original Avengers carry the movie. And they carry it well—this is the best performance for many of the OG cast (the Chrises Evans and Hemsworth for sure, Jeremy Renner finally has something to do, and RDJ gets a new side of Tony Stark to play with). Also, Endgame looks a LOT better than Infinity War which makes no sense because the same people made them both at the same time, but I’m chalking it up to Endgame having less overall action and more chances to perform actual cinema.
A final note before spoilers: Yes, the movie is long, and yes, at one point, it FEELS long. But no, there is no good place for a bathroom break. Every minute of screen time is going somewhere and doing something. So go in dry and plan on staying in your seat. Good news, though, is that there are no post-credit stingers, so once credits roll, you can sprint to the bathroom.
AND NOW FOR SOME SLIGHT SPOILERS
GO AWAY IF YOU WANT TO KNOW NOTHING LIKE JON SNOW
It’s almost impossible to discuss this movie in any meaningful way without dipping into at least a little of the story. Yes, this movie has a time jump. It opens within a few weeks of The Snap, with the remaining Avengers trying to figure out their next move. Carol Danvers shows up and encourages the team to go after Thanos, to get the stones back and use them to bring everyone back. This is ends up not being possible, and the Avengers have to return home and swallow their defeat, and try to move on. Over the course of several years, it turns out that is impossible for a group of people who call themselves “the Avengers”.
Well, almost impossible. One of them does, effectively, move on. But the others struggle, and Endgame actually lets us live with their grief and pain for quite a long time. The sense of loss and mourning is palpable, and Endgame does not short-change this part of the journey. The Avengers have to learn to live with the loss because even if they can undo Thanos’ snap, they still lost people along the way they can’t get back. And Endgame honors that, the permanence of some, if not all, the loss. The emotional core of this movie is surprisingly strong.
But then they do attempt to unf-ck Thanos’ mess, and the middle section of Endgame is arguably the most fun thing Marvel has ever committed to camera. It is essentially “Marvel’s greatest hits”, giving the Russo brothers a chance to recreate famous Marvel scenes from a slightly different angle. One such riff on a famous action scene is BRILLIANT—you’ll know it when you see it, trust me. It also allows virtually every actor who has ever appeared in a Marvel movie to come back for one last hurrah, which for long-time fans of the franchise is a fun way to say goodbye. It definitely only works for fans, though. Endgame does not work as a stand-alone, and it is not interested in catering to the uninitiated. This movie rewards the long-time viewers who have seen every movie and remember all the in-jokes and callbacks.
Avengers: Endgame is a massive undertaking, huge in scale, yet it feels much more intimate than Infinity War. That is undoubtedly because the story is focused on fewer characters, and for all the grand spectacle of Infinity War, I much prefer the narrower focus of Endgame. The story is stronger, the characters more compelling, which in turn makes the payoff that much more rewarding. You will laugh, and yes, you will probably cry (I did, twice, and I am not a movie-crier). Then you will leave satisfied that the Avengers got their due. Endgame is a summer camp goodbye—sad for the friends we won’t see again, but happy for the time we got to spend together. Endgame makes sure it was time spent well.