Avengers: Endgame

4 out of 5

Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo

All of the Avengers movies up to this point have been pretty crowded.  The first one had to stuff in an “origin” of sorts, while also serving as proof of the MCU’s potential and while also acting as a standalone (-ish) blockbuster; Ultron had a Bigger and Louder sequel issue, and was also stuck between needing to feel like a culmination and yet not shifting things too dramatically to allow for the next phase of flicks; the endpoint of the first round of Marvel movies was so stuffed it had to be split into two, and even the first of those – Infinity War – was on the move from start to finish over 2.5 hours to get the story to where it needed to be for a conclusion.  That conclusion, Endgame, has a simple fix for all this jam-packed business: break the three hour mark.

But it’s time well spent.   And the movie is another celebration of what Marvel has accomplished, though not so much the gee-whiz spectacle of the first Avengers as looking back with appreciation for what these characters have collectively added to the movie world, and, at the same time, essentially thanking the audience for supporting the whole thing.

There are no post-credit moments to Endgame.  It is very much a conclusion for the core characters, which is great.  It steps through all of the required action beats, for sure – and manages one absolutely thrilling iteration of that, that achieves the rarity nowadays of making me wish I’d seen it on the big screen – but wisely uses its runtime to space things out with some quiet moments, spread across its large cast in a way that feels organic.  The movie takes zero half-steps for “new” viewers: while I have no doubt the big sweep of the movie is followable to someone coming in fresh, as it boils down to good guys versus bad guys, none of what’s going on or the way these characters interact is exposited in a “in case you weren’t aware…” fashion.  Endgame is just expecting you’re aware, and rewards you for that with a bevy of cameos and winks to all that’s come before.  To that extent, the plot is almost laughably logical – you built a franchise on connecting things, so now you get to play with those connections – but the film definitely goes a bit heavy with trying pay off everything, and tolerance of that may vary; for me, it got a little repetitive in the back third, but not obnoxiously so, as I appreciated what the movie was trying to do.

Does it pay off everything?  Well, it does so for an amazing amount, but there will always be quibbles, especially when a big ol’ popcorn smash like this tries to be a bit of everything for everyone.  However, Endgame makes a damn good show of it, quibbles included, and accomplished the enviable goal of making 22 preceding films all feel like they were required beats in the structuring of this 181 minute epic.