In a lot of ways, AVENGERS: ENDGAME, directed by the Russo Brothers and starring pretty much everyone who has ever been in a Marvel Cinematic Universe film, is kind of review-proof, in the sense that it’s less a single film and more of a grand finale to the entire Marvel Studios experiment. Can a new viewer come into this cold and really enjoy it? Probably so, at least superficially, because the Russos are so good at framing the colossal set pieces and widescreen action that even if you don’t know who everyone is, it would be hard not to get caught up in the excitement.
But let’s be honest: that’s not who this movie is for. No, this movie is for all of us who have been front and center for all of these films for the last eleven years, and who have been waiting for a big finish like this since the first time we saw Thanos turn and grimly smile at the camera at the end of the first AVENGERS film. So does this film satisfy those viewers? Absolutely, and in a way that I don’t think we’ll ever see again.
After the unprecedented cliffhanger that was AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, viewers are met with an Avengers permanently changed, scarred by their failure to stop Thanos, and as much as anything else, that’s what this movie is really about, about loss and the terrible need for redemption. When the unexpected return of Ant-Man from the otherdimensional Quantum Realm brings about the possibility of bringing back all those countless souls snuffed out by Thanos’ snap, something else comes back for the guilt-ridden Avengers: hope.
That hope leads the Avengers on a whirlwind tour through their own history thanks to some time-travel shenanigans, and brings the film some unexpected laughs, as the Avengers encounter themselves weaving in and out of the past, as well as a tug at the heartstrings or two I never thought I’d get to see, with some familiar faces long since gone. (If it seems like I’m being terribly oblique, you’re right – I’m still hesitant to spoil most of the great surprises ENDGAME has for longtime MCU fans.)
At this stage of the game, it’s hardly a spoiler to suggest that the lost souls of INFINITY WAR return for a climactic, final struggle against Thanos and his forces, and it’s that final hour or so of the film which is kind of hard to believe. Over and over again, things I’ve been reading in comics my whole life, or things I never thought I’d see in a movie, play out on screen in ways bigger and more bombastic than I could have ever imagined. And yet even with the unprecedented scale of ENDGAME, the movie really belongs to the six original Avengers, whose performances here across the board are the best we’ve seen from them in these roles. But also getting the spotlight here in a big way are Ant-Man, Rhodey, Rocket and Nebula, all of whom get meaty action scenes and strong emotional moments to play.
Full of surprises, emotionally resonant, and with a third act like no other comic-book movie ever, is AVENGERS: ENDGAME the best of the Marvel films? If pressed, I’d probably have to admit that INFINITY WAR might be a better film strictly as a standalone viewing experience, but as a grand finale to end all finales, there’s no more satisfying time than ENDGAME.