Moreso than its immediate predecessor, 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, the latest and final installment of Marvel Studios's 22-film Infinity Saga, Avengers: Endgame, is so monumentally predicated on plot that even sniffing minor story beats may allude to irreparable damage in terms of you, the viewer, having as "pure" of a movie-going experience as possible. It's hard to imagine this review sounding anything less than a little peculiar, devoid of detail and otherwise just flat out vague—but I do so knowingly, as to not spoil anything that could even hint at ruining your experience. Unlike my review for Infinity War, there will be no post-score spoiler breakdown and theorizing about the future—so feel free to kick back and read something that may make little to no sense at the moment, but will immediately click if or when you decide to take a trip to your local cinema.
Major spoilers for the previous film, Infinity War, will be included, but I'm afraid that if that's a problem for you, you may have bigger issues on your hands.
Picking up immediately where Infinity War left off, we find our heroes—what remains of them, at least—in a state of distress unlike anything that the franchise has put forth thus far. It evolves seamlessly from that of the state of shock caused by the forbearing rapture-like genocide, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo were clearly in no rush to pleasantly chauffeur viewers into a more comfortable state. The film trudges through this smog of despair at a grudgingly elongated pace, as if refusing to let audiences move on and recover. We're shown glimpses of how each character deals with (or doesn't deal with) loss—and although it's no surprise to see the weight of monumental failure hang high over everyone's head, we're essentially stuck there for such a long duration of time that it's tough to feel anything else but somber. Some may feel deterred by such a strongly negative opening, but I wouldn't have had it any other way, given that the ending of Infinity War painted Marvel in such a different light than previously seen. What's left to follow in terms of the plot, is something that I'm going to dodge altogether. How our heroes attempt to (or not attempt to) right the wrongs of the past, whether or not they succeed—all of that just screams danger, so I'll leave it be.
What I will touch on first, and what ended up being a recurring mantra throughout is the presence of the orchestral arrangements. Most themes presented will feel and sound familiar, but are tweaked in ways that also feel unique to each new moment. The Russos, so far, have done an exceptional job when it comes to showing versus telling, and Endgame is no exception. Lines of dialogue will hang for an extra beat longer than we're accustomed to, and music will flare up to amplify any emotion present. It's effective, yes, but it can absolutely come off as overwhelming. The movie isn't shy about wanting to garner sentiment from its viewers, and those of the more sensitive variety may be found picking up their own emotional wreckage upon the film's conclusion. And I say that not in specificity to any one type of emotion (e.g. crying due to melancholy and heartbreak)—the Russos were ruthless in the sense that they made Endgame a full-frontal assault on every major emotion known to man. In typical fashion, their comedic bits came with tack sharp timing, and with surprising abundance (given that film deals with extremely serious topics).
The greatest surprises to me weren't necessarily anything new that the directors brought to the film, but just the sheer amount of content present. Although it's widely been a hot topic for discussion (for whatever reason), Endgame's lengthy runtime of just a hair over 3 hours feels like an afterthought once the end credits roll. Even when things weren't exploding and fists weren't being thrown, tension was still at its peak and there was always an objective at play to keep wandering eyes from gazing off. Although I typically associate the term fan-service with a largely negative connotation, Endgame manages to dedicate (essentially) an entire film's worth of copious comic book fandom and craft a cohesive story that not only works with its presence, but wholly relies on it. These aren't references that only the eagle-eyed spot in the background, but interactive things, places and people at the forefront. For those that have weathered through the previous 21 installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, this was a gift from the Russo gods. It almost felt like a reward, as if these familiar conditions help stave off inevitable catharsis. And cathartic is probably the most apt way of describing the film's third and final act.
It was somehow everything that I had hoped and wanted, yet continually surprised me at every checkpoint. It wasn't just cataclysmic and awe-inspiring for the sake of showing off the studios' prowess in the CG department—it was the presentation of an attempt to achieve a goal when the stakes could not have been more dire. Don't get me wrong, fists still meet faces in gratuity, but the figurative and literal weight behind each swing has never felt more colossal, seismic and just straight badass. Marvel is no stranger to showing us clashes of gods and men, but in this instance, it was on a scale hitherto undreamt of.
Endgame is unlike any piece of film I've ever encountered. My biggest worry going in was that the directors had written themselves into a corner (which they did) without the consideration of not only getting out, but doing so without erasing important facets of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The idea of wrapping up over 20 film's worth of storylines in satisfactory fashion feels nearly unfathomable. The standard at which the Russo brothers managed to achieve this type of precision and fulfillment comes off as hallucinatory. The sheer execution, let alone existence, of this film is a comic book dream come true. I had only cried once in a film prior (rest in piece, Paul Walker), and not only had I shed tears on multiple occasions throughout Endgame, they were for a multitude of different emotions. At times I even felt my arms and legs go numb. If you're the least bit passionate about what Marvel has done over the last 10+ years, you'll likely resonate similarly. And fortunately, we're here in the 14,000,605th reality in which we—should you choose—get to experience Marvel's crown jewel of a movie, fully realized.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.