Over the course of ten years and eighteen films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the iron will and resolve of the beloved Avengers seemed unbreakable. While they may have hit low points at times, they always found a way to come back out on top and win. That all changed in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. While it was predicted that it would be somewhat of a cliffhanger due to it being the first half of a two-part story, no one expected the magnitude of the Avengers’ failure to be so large, let alone loom over us for the past year.
The MCU has, for the most part, dealt very little in death. It wasn’t until Infinity War that our heroes finally faced death and failure in Thanos, whose goal of collecting all six Infinity Stones led to half of all life was wiped out, including many of our favorite heroes. This left the survivors, including the original Avengers lineup, to try and pick up the pieces and move on. Enter Avengers: Endgame.
This film had to do several things: live up to enormous expectations, tie up a decade’s worth of storytelling, do justice to dozens of characters, and bring a satisfying conclusion at the end of it all. What directors Joe and Anthony Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely were tasked with doing seemed impossible given the scope and extremely bold ending of Infinity War. Avengers: Endgame manages to do all of what was mentioned and then some as the filmmakers give us the most character-driven, emotional, satisfying, and possibly best MCU film yet.
After the events of Infinity War, the remaining Avengers attempt to undo the death and destruction Thanos wrought upon the universe. That is about as much as I can say without delving into spoilers. However, given the box office tracking and records that Avengers: Endgame has been shattering, I gather that most people reading this have already seen the movie. So from this point forward this discussion, dissection, and review of the movie will involve HEAVY SPOILERS. Do not read beyond this if you do not want the movie spoiled for yourself.
After a shocking opening that no one saw coming, which was the death of Thanos at the hands of Thor after it was discovered the Titan destroyed the Infinity Stones, we are taken forward five years into the future to see our heroes still picking up the pieces of society after their devastating loss. Steve Rogers is leading support groups in a way only Captain America can, urging those with him to move on. “The world is in our hands, guys.” He says. “It’s up to us.” Tony Stark, after suffering a brutal defeat and having a bitter attitude, moves on and starts a family with Pepper Potts. Tony seems to be the only one unscathed in all of this, as he spends his time having lovely interactions with his daughter, Morgan.
Natasha Romanoff continues to monitor threats across the galaxy with the likes of Rocket and Captain Marvel, trying to continue the good fight. Clint Barton, once known as Hawkeye, has gone rogue and is massacring those he deems unworthy to have survived the snap after the loss of his own family. Bruce Banner has taken their loss in a positive way and merged the personalities of Banner and Hulk into one. Thor, the strongest Avenger, has become secluded in New Asgard, unable to handle the guilt of his failure.
Within the first act, the script firmly establishes that the original six Avengers are scattered, broken, and trying to do the best with what they got. It’s in these character scenarios that the Russo Brothers are able to do their best work in Avengers: Endgame. While Infinity War was about the spectacle and the massive fights with hardly any breaks in between, this film’s three-hour runtime leaves so much room for the smaller, more intimate character moments.
This is exactly where Endgame starts becoming the better film, with different, quiet moments for the original six Avengers. This also gives the audience to soak in the melancholic atmosphere and tone the film sets from the very beginning. While the world has tried to move on from the events of Infinity War, most of the Avengers have not. It isn’t until Ant-Man reappears from the Quantum Realm that the Avengers discover that there is a chance to rise to the occasion and try again. Scattered and broken, the Avengers must assemble once more to save the universe and reverse what Thanos did.
While the first act may have set the melancholic mood for the film, it is not without its humor as Captain America and Black Widow bring the old band back together for one last hurrah. Seeing Hulk in his new ‘Professor Hulk’ persona was amusing to see and allows Mark Ruffalo and the directors to show a side to him that hasn’t been seen before. Tony Stark finally reuniting with Captain America after their conflict in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War was fun to watch as well, as this film rewards longtime viewers and fans who have been on this journey from the beginning. The reunion of the original six and their subsequent planning of the Time Heist were some of the funnier and more lighthearted moments in the film. Even seeing newer characters like Rocket, Nebula, and War Machine join in on the banter was fun to watch.
The execution and concept of this film’s time travel were also quite interesting, with the rules being different in this film as opposed to say, any other film about time travel. Not only does it justify immeasurable amounts of fan service, but it also develops the characters further in the story and in their own separate arcs. The Time Heist, which serves as the film’s second act, serves as both an MCU Greatest Hits Reel and a personal self-reflection for the individual six Avengers. Each one has their own separate moments to reflect on how far they’ve come in their journeys, their personal struggles, and of course the physical altercations they’ve had in the past.
One particular Avenger makes the ultimate sacrifice for the Soul Stone: Black Widow. This movie not only brings her journey as a character to an emotional and amazing conclusion, but it also sees Scarlett Johansson in her best performance yet as the character. She shares her last moments on screen with Hawkeye, a fitting last character interaction since the two have had such a long history together as alluded to in 2012’s The Avengers. The remaining five Avengers dealing with the aftermath of the Time Heist was a pleasure to watch as well, with some much-needed levity after some of the more humorous interactions throughout the different time periods of the MCU.
The original six Avengers aren’t the only ones that get development through this second act either. Returning from Guardians of the Galaxy and Infinity War is Nebula, who takes center stage along with the other Avengers. Throughout the film, we see how far her character has come from an antagonist in the first Guardians film to now being a part of their ranks. Nebula deals with her past in the most literal sense making her arc, while shorter than those for the other characters, one of the more compelling aspects of the film. War Machine, Tony Stark’s faithful companion and partner since Iron Man 2, gets some much-needed screen time and interaction with all sorts of characters not named Tony Stark, and is the backup and morale boost some characters need.
The third and final act is without a doubt the biggest, most epic, and most cathartic sequence Marvel has ever pulled off and brings every technical achievement possible to it. With Alan Silvestri’s amazing score backing up DP Trent Opaloch’s beautifully composed shots, the battle for the fate of the entire universe is what makes Avengers: Endgame the best Marvel film and one of the best films overall. With fan service moments like Captain America bringing the thunder with Thor’s hammer to Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America fighting Thanos at once and even Cap finally saying the iconic “Avengers Assemble”, this final fight has it all. In terms of scale and character beats, this epic battle gives the finale of Return of the King a run for its money.
Thanos remains as menacing and calculating as ever, even though he takes more of a background role this time. Although he does not have the power of the Infinity Stones, Thanos manages to go toe-to-toe with most of the Avengers and nearly succeeds at his goal a second time, until Iron Man harnesses the stones and uses them to wipe out him and his army. In a tragic and beautiful moment, the character of Tony Stark comes full circle in service of the greater good as opposed to his own self-interest. This is noteworthy because this is something his own father admits to struggling with regularly. By wielding something so powerful that it kills him in the process, Tony can finally surpass his father’s shadow and do something even his own father couldn’t: make the sacrifice play.
What follows is an extremely heart wrenching and sad tribute to the founder of the Marvel Universe, with nearly every character there, giving a sense of legacy while also still serving the story; this is what Avengers: Endgame was all about. The film still ties up loose ends after that, with Captain America not only fixing the alternate realities created by their time travel but also creating one of his own; staying in the past to be with his one true love after fighting the good fight, and possibly still even helping others then. It is with this retirement of Captain America and other original Avengers that new heroes rise up to the occasion.
While this may be the end of one amazing cinematic journey, it is also the beginning of another. Thanks to the countless actors, directors, screenwriters, production crew, and more, Avengers: Endgame is the perfect culmination and love letter to everything that came before, and I for one, am excited to see what comes next. Thank you, Marvel. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Grade – 10/10
Avengers: Endgame is now available in theaters.
The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and Don Cheadle.