Spoiler free review.
Fans who stuck it out for 10 years and 21 movies will find Avengers: Endgame a rewarding climax to what Marvel Studios is now referring to as “The Infinity Saga.” Reunions and farewells are necessary when on-going story arcs are closed, brief revisits to memorable moments in past entries are restaged and for a large number of superheroes, much-needed emotional and psychological closure. If the first film last year focused on infinity, this movie centers on finality. Marvel made the wise decision to hold back all of the gimmicks (often referred to as “spoilers” if revealed before the screening) and the trailers promoting the film – for the most part – gave away only scenes from the first 20 minutes of the movie. Mystery abounds, fans are spending what might be $1 billion globally this weekend to discover how the saga comes to a close.
Whereas Avengers: Infinity War was a light-hearted romp with Olympic-style competition to prevent Thanos from acquiring possession of all six infinity stones, the most powerful elements of the cosmos, then emotionally stabbing us in the back with the villain winning and half of all sentient life in the universe destroyed, Avengers: Endgame accomplishes the exact opposite. Five years after “the Decimation,” also referred to as “the snap,” the world is solemn, bleak and depressing. Not everyone has found a way to move on and the world is not a balanced garden of Eden as Thanos hoped for. Some, such as Hawkeye, who took on the persona of Ronin, found guidance where there is chaos. Others sought counseling. Our heroes got so used to winning all the battles that they forgot how to lose. Our heroes took their ball and went home…
Dark, somewhat depressing at times, the film picks up momentum where a shining beacon of optimism gives our heroes something once again to fight for. The ultimate goal is to return everything – and everyone – back and undo the Decimation. Far too long they awaited an opportunity to go to bat once again and prove they are at the top of their game and hesitate to rush into action until they all agree in unison to be a team. (Twenty minutes into the movie they learn the hard way that rushing to action only leads to failure.) All of which can be gathered from watching the trailers, but to reveal anything more would be providing spoilers. Needless to say, our heroes will prevail even if not in the way they expected.
Like any well-thought plan, the process by which the superheroes maneuver through a web of familiar storylines does not go according to design, only leading to an expected climatic battle sequence against Thanos. Their success, however, comes not from strength in numbers but from their heart. In a cinematic buildup where all roads led to the closing chapter, the real beauty of this three-hour spectacle is not good vs. bad, but rather how a number of iconic superheroes find redemption amidst the chaos. Throughout the pit of despair, the bravest and best of us discover the valuable lesson to be who we are, not who we are expected to be.
There is no post-credits sequence but there are scenes of past Marvel movies during the closing credits to acknowledge the actors and their decade-long participation, closing the chapter on what became an entertaining – and extremely profitable – franchise. We can almost predict the direction of future installments, those grounded such as Spider-Man and Shang-Chi, and the majority exploring cosmic potentials, but one has to wonder as a result of three key scenes in Avengers: Endgame whether or not the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to be influenced not by product placement or focus groups, but a political stance.
While both Infinity War and Endgame were scripted and directed back-to-back by the Russo brothers, Endgame comes off like a completely separate movie from the first. Summed up in one sentence, Avengers: Endgame is an entertaining movie, but it is not Infinity War.