Sometimes there are movies that are more than just a movie. “It’s an event.” Or “a moment.” Or “beyond mere filmmaking” or whatever you want to say to make this or that movie feel important. It’s easy to throw “more than just a movie” around in order to make whatever you want to talk about feel like a big deal. But it’s hard to get around the idea that Avengers: Endgame is more than just a movie. For eleven years we’ve gotten twenty-two movies telling a continuing story like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Something that seemed impossible when it was hinted at in a post credits teaser back in 2008, has gone on to become one of the biggest cultural touchstones of the past decade. Endgame is not only the latest installment in that ever continuing MCU story, it’s not only a continuation of the fight with Thanos that we saw the first half of last year, this movie presents itself as the point that the entire franchise has been building towards. It’s the payoff not only of a movie that came out last year, but of everything that Marvel has put out since Iron Man. There’s a lot of gravatas to a statement like that, but it’s how Avengers: Endgame presents itself, and quite frankly, it’s how the potential audience has been treating it in, the buildup between last year’s Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
[The talk of spoilers has been heated around this movie, and while this review will obviously tread lightly, there is no way to talk about the basic plot or concept of a movie without saying something that someone can consider a spoiler in a world where the specific colors on a movie poster have been accused of spoiling the movie. That being said, if you are somehow trying to go into the movie completely blind, but still wanting to read about the movie beforehand then the most spoiler free review possible is yes. Avengers: Endgame – Yes.]
Some time after The Snap, that ended Infinity War on a massive cliffhanger, the surviving Avengers are still struggling to deal with the loss and picking up the pieces of their shattered world. Captain America runs a support group. Natasha tries to carry on the idea of the Avengers as protectors, struggling to maintain some level of presence in the world. Thor is struggling with his personal failures not only to stopping Thanos, but being unable to protect the remains of the Asgard people from Thanos as well. Needless to say that the surviving Avengers are not in a good place after the end of the last movie. While the first chunk of the movie is dealing with the fallout of The Snap and people trying to figure out how to move forward, Ant-Man shows up, and with him comes an opportunity to undo the effects of The Snap. This sets the team off on their own quest to reassemble the Infinity Stones. Much like Infinity War the movie is framed around this journey only this time it’s The Avengers, not Thanos, who are trying to assemble the collection of stones.
While Avengers: Infinity War felt like the biggest superhero teamup of all time, with Marvel bringing every character they possibly could into the fight, Endgame feels different, more deliberate, more focused. There’s a reason that the group of surviving Avengers included the original lineup of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and Black Widow. (Hawkeye survived The Snap as well and eventually meets up with the rest of the team) These characters have been the team that has centered the Marvel franchise as it’s grown into a full blown universe, and that team aspect is a big part of what carries this movie as well. While Infinity War is an “Avengers” movie in the since that it has a ton of Avengers in it, Endgame is an “Avengers” movie because of how the group of super powered individuals come together to form a true team.
While Avengers: Endgame, is presented as a direct response to the events of Infinity War, the movie is also the culmination of the entire MCU up to this point. Of course this won’t be the final MCU movie, but the movies between Iron Man and this one have started to be referred to collectively as “The Infinity Saga.” As this is the final piece of said Infinity Saga, it does carry itself as a final that is worthy of a story that takes twenty-two movies to tell. Almost every single Marvel movie up to this point is referred to at some point in this movie. Some instances are small, some will only be picked up by the most eagle-eyed Marvel fan, but in some cases the callbacks are easily apparent. The events of previous movies are re-visited, and in some cases, new light is shed on them. We even get one character showing up who has only ever appeared on a Marvel TV show before now.
The amazing thing about all of this, is how little all of this has been planned out. Producers have admitted that the famous “I am Iron Man” ending to the first Iron Man movie wasn’t there to tease a grand story coming next. It just seemed like what Tony Stark would say in that kind of situation. When Nick Fury first showed up to talk about the Avengers Initiative, there wasn’t a plan to get from that moment to thirty superheroes charging across the field in Wakanda a decade later. But that’s what happened, and no matter how Marvel got here, the point is that they’re here now. The epic journey that has unfolded across the decade managed to be just that, an epic journey. Countless people have worked tirelessly for years, trying to piece together ideas from generations of comics, to come up with something that seemed impossible when they first started. And not only did Marvel manage to get twenty two movies out, they built an incredible reputation for themselves along the way. Including Endgame, every chapter of the MCU has a positive rating on rotten tomatoes, and has been a runaway box office success. The MCU is an unparalleled movie event that has changed the way that we have looked at storytelling on film. Avengers: Endgame is the MCU sticking the landing on the saga. They may not have started out trying to create a saga in 2008, but Avengers: Endgame was clearly made with that feeling of an epic saga in mind. Not only does every moment in the movie feel important, it seems to elevate the importance of the earlier movies by its existence. It’s a celebration of the kind of achievement that we’ve never seen on film before.
Tags: Avengers, Black Widow, Captain America, Endgame, film, Hulk, Iron Man, Marvel, MCU, movie, review, Thanos, Thor