The Marvel Cinematic Universe makes room for another gargantuan blockbuster in Avengers: Endgame, a rousing and rewarding conclusion to a 22-film saga that began with Iron Man in 2008.
After the universe-shattering events of last year’s Infinity War, audiences have been waiting with bated breath for a resolution to one of the biggest cliffhangers in film history and thankfully, the payoff is quite satisfying. As one may expect from the culmination of a decade-long superhero series, it showcases both the best and worst aspects of what these Marvel films have to offer and does so on a scale hitherto undreamt of.
Without going into the details of the plot, it’s enough to say that the narrative of Endgame is incredibly complex and requires more than a passing knowledge of these characters and their backstories.
As this is the case, casual moviegoers may find it to be a demanding experience at times and even though I’ve seen every film in this series at least once, there were a few occasions that I scrambled to recall previous storylines for context. This sprawling franchise has always been about investment, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that fans who have spent more time in this Universe will be rewarded accordingly for their efforts.
A marked improvement that Endgame makes in relation to its predecessor is its more deliberate structure in the form of a traditional three-act framework that clearly spells out the ever-changing conflict. Too often, Infinity War embodied the negative connotations of its title by feeling like an endless melee replete with wall-to-wall action and character introductions at a breakneck pace.
While this sequel is similarly crowded and somehow packs even more of the Marvel mythology in its daunting 181-minute runtime, it feels more focused and purposeful, especially at the outset, than its chaotic and unwieldy forerunner.
The script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is more intentionally self-reflexive, and occasionally self-indulgent, than any of the other screenplays from the MCU canon. A common criticism for these films is that they effectively serve as commercials for more Marvel adventures to come, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much Endgame chooses to ruminate on the past rather than tantalize with the future. Returning from Infinity War, directors Anthony and Joe Russo have completed a cinematic one-two punch of monumental proportions that may not be attempted again for quite some time.
With quite a few Marvel films under their belts at this point, it would be easy for MCU veterans like Robert Downey Jr. or Scarlett Johansson to coast along when reprising their iconic roles, but the caliber of acting across the board is worthy of this film’s lofty ambitions. Chris Evans stands out of an incredibly stacked cast, giving a career-best performance once again as Steve Rogers that adds even more emotional resonance to the foundation laid from previous Captain America films.
As the centerpoint of a cultural phenomenon that is still in progress, Avengers: Endgame is a love letter dedicated to the fans who have waited 11 years for catharsis and closure.
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