Courtesy of Marvel Studios
When the mad titan Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped out half of the entire universe in last summer’s “Infinity War” the world stood in shock. For Earth’s mightiest heroes, it was the first instance this group had felt the sting of defeat, a culmination of 20 movies before, only to arrive at a finale that, more or less, left our jaws on the floor. We all knew the waiting game was going to be rough, and, finally, we’ve arrived at what’s being billed as the grand finale in what is now known as the “Infinity Saga” - the epic, thrilling, emotionally dense follow-up “Avengers: Endgame” serves as both a perfect ending to 10 years of storytelling and opens the book on the next chapter.
As I stated, last summer’s “Infinity War” ended on a bleak note, we saw heroes like Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy get dusted in “The Decimation” where Thanos collected all six infinity stones, (an arch that’s been teased since the first “Avengers”) snapped his pesky paw, and completed his destiny of killing half of all living creatures in an effort to bring balance to the universe.
Considering all those elements in their corner, directors Joe and Anthony Russo, along with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are terrific in finding the humor - (Iron Man and Nebula playing paper football stranded on a ship, Thor undergoing some “setbacks” and Banner sporting a slick cardigan sweater and taking selfies) - and emotion in what’s happened before and after “The Snap.” We can literally feel the ground shaking beneath these characters, immediately setting the tone for the events to follow.
In the regard, “Endgame” plays more like a series finale then it does a standalone Marvel film, popping off the screen like the Jack Kirby comics did in their heyday, offering steady fan service with moments feeling earned rather then cheated (much has been made of the three hour runtime, and I assure you that’s not a handicap - this film moves).
But with those stakes brings a sense of closure - and with it, one final stand to undo Thanos’s actions. Which is where “Endgame” picks up, following the poster children of Marvel’s billion dollar franchise (Chris Evan’s Captain America, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, and of course Robert Downy Jr’s Iron-Man - the one who started it all) - doing whatever it takes to find the one conclusion (out of 14 million) where the good guys win. It’s basically a hail-mary, with the first hour taking a slow build to fully set in motion the consequences at stake.
Without spoiling too much, we’ll just say the other surviving heroes: War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Ant Man (Paul Rudd) are dispatched in various ways to help rectify the state of the world. It’s a somber, and rousing tale that offers depth and clarity to past films, which, in turn, brings us to an epic 15 minute showdown that represents one of the best climatic finales in the entirety of the MCU (it’s also where you’ll need the tissues).
Aside from some minor plot errors too spoilery to delve into here, and a few characters failing to get the spotlight in favor of others (always inevitable in these larger ensemble pictures) - “Endgame” strategically keeps things fast and loose (with more than a few zippy one liners to subdue the dreary effects of “Infinity War”).
On the performance front, it’s gratifying to see Evans and Downey Jr setting aside their differences from “Civil War” sharing more than a few scenes together and that’s all I’ll say about that. Meanwhile, Ruffalo and Hemsworth steal their respective scenes (and there’s good reason both have been absent from the marketing campaign). Johansson and Renner have some touching moments too.
As you can see, I’m doing my best to tiptoe around the details of what “Endgame” entails- just understand this has a finality to it, and the Russo Brothers somehow manage to tie up more than a decade of storytelling in a confident (and crowd pleasing) climax - a hurdle that some blockbuster franchises only dream of accomplishing.
Just buckle up and strap in, this is the moment all Marvel fans have been waiting for.