I have no idea how other film critics are going to handle reviewing Avengers Endgame. It’s a film that’s so heavily tied not just to other Marvel films, but since it’s so obvious that the film began as Avengers Infinity War, Part II, writing out the plot of the movie feels like writing out the second half of a shorter film. So with that in mind, I’m going to try something different than the standard formula where I tell you what happens and then give my thoughts. Instead, I’m going to try and impart what it feels like to watch Avengers Endgame, and also give some viewing advice. Hopefully, you already got your tickets, since I hear they’re in short supply.
Avengers Endgame is basically the Return of the King for the last ten years of Marvel movies. While their last ten years have been a mostly high-quality turnout of movies, Endgame goes to extraordinary lengths to let you know this is intended to be a monument of a film in an age where every movie has at least a thousand special effects shots. If you’re old enough to remember seeing Return of the King in theaters, with the triumphant tide-turning moments and multiple story threads playing out simultaneously, only to resolve in one final assembly of the cast, you know what I mean.
If not… Avengers Endgame is basically the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II for the last ten years of Marvel movies. In the sense that, as I said previously, it’s not a separate entity from Infinity War at all. So if you’ve got the time, maybe sit down and rewatch Infinity War before you head to the theater for this one. It’s on Netflix. I actually watched Antman and the Wasp too since the end credits of that film led me to believe it would be important. In retrospect, I probably could have just watched that last scene, but I had a good time anyway.
One thing I will say — kudos to whoever listened to the Russo Brothers in the marketing department. The trailers have shown you almost nothing that’s in this movie. There are plot elements you can infer from them for sure, and knowing enough to be dangerous about Marvel, there were some things that didn’t come as a surprise to me when they happened on screen.
But that’s not the sort of thing that ruins a movie-going experience, at least in my book. Knowing that you’re going to a movie about pirates tells you some things about what you’ll expect. Like boats. And water. And probably some elements of colonialism that aren’t adequately explored. But that doesn’t mean you know what they’re going to do with those elements even if you know they’re going to be included. And that’s why Avengers Endgame is basically the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End for the last ten years of Marvel movies.
I’m really grasping for what to put here. If you’re a Marvel fan or at least a fan of blockbuster action/adventure movies in the general sense, you’ve already got your tickets and you’re just reading reviews to confirm your own thoughts. If you’re in the “superhero fatigue” crowd, you’re bemoaning how people are using words like “Shakespearean” to describe a movie about a villain who was defeated in the comics because he tripped. Yeah, that happened.
If you’re not in either of those camps and Endgame isn’t at all on your radar, what am I really able to say in order to give you a sense of what happens without ruining it for everyone else? It’s like, do I bother bringing up where the characters are after Infinity War? The snap became a meme, so I feel like I’m safe from the spoiler police, but if you didn’t know half the universe was evaporated at the end of the last movie, are you really going to see this one? I don’t think so. You either know what you’re getting already and want it, or you don’t and you’re not about to start now. And that’s why Avengers Endgame is basically the Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan for the last ten years of Marvel movies.
In all seriousness, there is some finality to Endgame. Each of Marvels’ ‘phases’ built to an Avengers movie, so in a way, Endgame serves as the end of a trilogy of the first three phases and ten years of Marvel Studios. Endgame makes as much of that history relevant as possible, which is impressive in its own right. To make ten years worth of films, many of which were written without knowing where everything would lead, feel like they were all heading to one final narrative point, is astonishing. But when everything is over, it feels like the Russos have done right by the characters we’ve spent years with, and have set up intriguing directions for the newer additions to the canon to explore in their future films.
And that’s why Avengers Endgame is a movie you’re going to have to see, so we can all talk more frankly about what happens in it.
Also, it’s a Marvel movie, so you know the drill – the Russos have saved the biggest surprise for the end of the credits.
If you felt like Thanos snapped away half the movie at the end of Infinity War, don’t worry, the rest is here now and it's great.