After the epic battle (and defeat) in Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame follows the Avengers that survived Thanos’ snap as they attempt to undo their loss.
Put simply, Endgame is the pay-off of over a decade of superhero films. In order to make sure the audience doesn’t forget that fact, it goes to great pains to ensure it can revisit the events of previous Avengers movies using some unnecessarily convoluted time travel, and, in true MCU fashion, it does so with a slew of pop culture references and blatant nudge-wink-nods to the audience.
Endgame does feature a far smaller group of heroes (naturally, as half of them are dead), and therefore it gives its characters a little more chance to shine. Paul Rudd and Scarlett Johansson (and, to a lesser extent, Chris Hemsworth) in particular shine through in this one, and many of the franchise’s other heroes actually take a back seat. Endgame does a stellar job of sharing its focus among its protagonists, and – while the slightly wacky time-traveling hi-jinks might reek of expositional sci-fi convenience – it all works to drive the narrative forward and neatly tie up the Infinity Saga.
Endgame took the MCU’s pseudo-science to new heights, expanding on the semi-scientific nonsense of Ant-Man and the Wasp and raising the stakes by a factor of several billion, but there’s such a heavy reliance on colossal leaps of logic that the narrative feels a little weak in places. In terms of pace, it’s fairly consistent, but by keeping everything moving at just the right speed it doesn’t allow for too much close examination.
This is also evident in the film’s willingness to play to its audience. By inserting numerous references and Easter eggs to relate things back to earlier films (and previously unseen MCU moments and characters, too), Endgame is able to keep Marvel fans occupied enough that they won’t notice its flaws. By amping up the emotional pay-off as much as possible, Endgame‘s cinematic cracks are smoothed over in a way that they aren’t glaringly obvious, and the end result is an emotionally charged finale to a saga that spans 23 films over a period of 11 years.
However, watching Endgame back, it feels far less powerful than it’s made out to be. While there is something inherently moving in the film’s themes of sacrifice and grief, knowing how it all ends (and how it moves forward for Phase 4) cheapens Endgame‘s final scenes.
The most obvious flaw in the film was how over-dramatic it is – almost to the point of becoming deliberately misleading. When Scott Lang emerges in the post-Snap world, he wanders deserted streets, past abandoned houses and streets filled with refuse, entire neighborhoods in a state of disrepair. This makes very little logical sense given what we know about both the Snap and humanity, but it’s done to fairly transparently indicate how evil Thanos is, even if his intentions were (sort of) noble.
There’s also the utter decimation of the Avengers’ headquarters that all of the heroes miraculously survive unscathed – even the ones without superhuman abilities. Narratively speaking, Endgame operates squarely in convenience, explaining what it deems appropriate and glossing over the rest, no matter how illogical it may seem. It even acknowledges this in its treatment of Captain Marvel, using a few throwaway lines of dialogue to explain why she couldn’t have helped prevent things from getting so bad in the first place.
However, despite some general shortcomings, Endgame does feature one of the most epic conclusions in cinematic history. It’s fan service of the highest order, but there’s a thrill in that final battle that cannot be understated, and it’s not one that diminishes with time.
It’s an incredibly ambitious film, and there’s really no way a mere three hours could ever do true justice to the scale of the story it’s attempting to tell, but Endgame makes a valiant effort.
Summary: Tying up over a decade of over-arcing narrative is no mean feat, and Endgame manages well. There’s a few aspects of the film that feel rushed or oversimplified though – it’s all too easy to get swept up in the sheer momentum of the Infinity Saga’s final entry, but when you put it under a microscope, Endgame isn’t quite the masterpiece it’s heralded as.
Highlights: Seeing all of the MCU’s heroes return to defeat Thanos is bittersweet, and Tom Holland’s tearful realization that his mentor is gone is genuinely haunting.