avengers endgame

Alright: for the benefit of early readership, I’m going to attempt to keep this review about 98 percent SPOILER-FREE so for those of you who are invested in such things that means I’m sincerely trying to avoid getting into unnecessary detail about surprises, cameos, specific plot twists, whether anyone who died last time comes back somehow, to not give away any big moments, and nothing that hasn’t been dropped into the trailers already.

That said I can’t really do a review without at least a basic description of the plot of Avengers: Endgame. To review the movie I need to explain the basic setup and what the main characters are attempting to accomplish. If you consider even that to be a spoiler and would prefer to just know the review score upfront? Fair enough: I’m giving it an 8 out of 10. If you need some sort of comparable metric for measuring that: The original Avengers would be a 9, Infinity War would be about a 7, Age of Ultron would be 5. All caught up? Okay.

MILD MINOR POSSIBLE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT

So here we are at the ending that’s not really an ending to a story that’s not really a story. What we now call the Marvel Cinematic Universe works because it’s structured to feel like it has a grand, overarching narrative but it’s really a set of individual movies and franchises that sometimes reference and bounce off each other. Once every few years they coalesce into a bigger crossover that retroactively pretends as though various events prior were building to something specific. Avengers could have been called Avengers: We Meant To Do That.

Infinity War was different. After several installments of intermittent buildup to the confrontation with Thanos, there needed to be a whole movie just for telling us where he came from, what his goals were, why he wanted to accomplish them and how he planned to do so. They couldn’t tell us in the previous movies because they didn’t actually know yet, because if you try to pre-plan that kind of thing all the way in advance you get might end up making Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League (and nobody wants that again.)

With that film sorted and the mother of all cliffhanger climaxes still fresh in audience’s mind, Endgame begins by cleverly establishing that, no, it will not in fact be as easy as tracking down Thanos, finishing him off and hitting a cosmic reset button. It swiftly moves on with an audacious skip forward in time that’s just long enough for the surviving main characters to have undergone some interesting life, appearance and personality shifts before introducing what is ultimately the film’s main conceit. The heroes discover a limited ability to leap backwards in time to prior events in recent history (i.e. previous Marvel movies) and perform certain tasks which if successful may allow the Avengers to — if not reverse the events of Infinity War — at least rescue the half of universal life Thanos wiped out.

Avengers: Endgame is a fitting send-off and a fine preview of things to come.

As a result, the climax to the biggest serialized blockbuster undertaking ever is largely the action movie equivalent of paging through the family photo albums before going off to college. I admire how upfront they are about the whole thing: Endgame might not be the most meta of the Marvel features, but it’s definitely the most meta about the sentimentality that’s come to underline the Avengers movies in particular. Almost everyone’s story is centered on family, surrogate family, longing therefore, lack thereof, etc. And when it becomes clear that the second act really is going to be a long stretch of various Avengers pairing up and popping back into key moments from the previous films so that fans can laugh, cheer and be wistful about how far they’ve come alongside these heroes it’s hard not to get into the spirit. Assuming you recognize everything, playing the “I remember that! Oooh! Look who it is!” game is great fun..

If there is one thing that sets Endgame apart from the first three Avengers movies and really the whole rest of the MCU, it’s that it is the first one that actually feels more tailored for devoted fans than for a casual general audience. I’d argue even Infinity War can be easily watched as a big wacky superhero epic with a bizarre ending without the context of the other Marvel movies. It feels like the main reason Endgame’s runtime swelled to a full three hours is that one of those total hours consists entirely of — for lack of a better word — fanservice.

Fortunately, for the most part, it’s good fanservice. Catchphrases are said, callbacks are called back to, references are referenced, beloved supporting characters return, old subplots are revisited, loose threads tied up, things long left unsaid are said, new combinations of pairings and quip tradings are tried out, powers are tested against one another. All of its leads up to the big climactic battle. (No, I do not in fact think it is a spoiler to say that an Avengers movie has a battle near the end of it.) About a third of the big showdown is stuff you want to see them do one last time, another third is stuff you always wanted to see them do, and then a surprisingly large final third feels like a series of test runs for the prospective future of the Cinematic Universe itself. New team arrangements, pair-offs and brand new characters getting big, splashy showcase moments clearly designed to generate an entire year of spontaneous social media polling data on who and/or what should get their own movie deal next.

How does it fare as a film rather than as a cultural event, though? As is the case with the very best of the Marvel films — among which Endgame overall earns a place — this is an exceedingly fun action feature that also works as a highly agreeable character piece. Most of the main featured players here have been inhabiting these roles for close to a decade — or over a decade in the case of Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man — and it’s thrilling to see them both swing for the fences in classic mode and try on new world-weary, deeply-traumatized takes. True, it doesn’t reach the heights of the Guardians of The Galaxy franchise’s expertly-honed sad-clown sarcastic whimsy or Black Panther’s legitimately transcendent topical gravitas. There is, however, a boldness to the way the film attempts and succeeds in making a fantasy about unwinding the end of the world that’s really about the fact that everyone still has to deal with having lived through it.

On the acting front it’s the original Avengers crew who get the most to work with this time out. The surprise MVP ends up being Karen Gillan as Nebula, who ends up centered more than you’d expected for plot reasons and carries a lot of important, difficult scenes. I’ll be extremely curious to see how certain fans  respond to how various people’s stories conclude, as the wind-down includes a few endings more definitive than others. The implications of at least one of those endings seems to actually raise more questions than it answers. (And, yes, there will be a lot of questions about exactly how a whole slew of already-announced upcoming projects are going to work now.)

While in spots a bit shaggy and perhaps not a wholly transformative experience, I can safely say that Avengers: Endgame is at once a satisfying and comfortable yet bizarre and utterly unique entry in what’s turned out to be one of the most unique mass-entertainment properties of its age.

A fitting send-off and fine preview of things to come.

Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.

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    41 Comments

    1. I didn’t have high expectations going into Endgame. But I was pleasantly surprised it was much better than I thought it would be. It had the whole theater cheering, laughing crying, etc.

    2. It’s funny watching Bob’s opinion of new Spider Man movies continue to slip down further and further as time goes on.

      1. If by “funny” you really mean “infuriating”, then yes, it certainly is.

        Bob just doesn’t like that the new ones aren’t directed by Sam Raimi, even though “Homecoming” was better than any of the Raimi ones.

        Tom Holland is actually the right approximate age to play Peter Parker, and he can actually deliver a joke, something that Maguire never could.

        1. Well… he’s 22. And I do think he’s a pretty great Spiderman. But after Far From Home, they definitely need to do another time jump and put him in college or as a full time Avenger..

          I think a lot of it, is for us older fans, Spiderman and X-Men were the beginning of good superhero movies. I will always love the first two movies from those series more than they probably deserve. And kind of shield my eyes from the third movies. 🙂

          But I did like the first two Raimi Spidermen more than Homecoming, mostly because it felt like they were more about Spiderman finding himself on his own and Homecoming made him so clingy towards Iron Man. Peter Parker is kind of pathetic in Homecoming and it really takes the whole film for him to just barely start trying to figure out life for himself. Again, overall, I liked Homecoming, but it had a different arc than the Raimi Spiderman movies.

          I also think the first Spiderman is tied pretty closely in the hearts of geeks alive at the time to 9-11 and its association with “good guys can still win” hits hard. I was working part time at a movie theater at the time to get extra money for my wedding and I remember taking down the recalled posters with the World Trade Center on them. Even though I’m aware of why I have my biases towards the film, it’s hard to critically look at it without feeling them.

      2. He said that Spiderverse was better than the Raimi films so it’s not as if it’s pure stubbornness.

      3. It didn’t help that homecoming was so by the numbers.

    3. I might go as high as a 9. But there were a couple of odd decisions. And moments that went, “Wait, what?” That said, it was the fastest three hour movie I’ve ever seen. And it was fun listening to the entire theater laugh, cheer, and cry together.

    4. Not sure if people will be mad a certain character plays a key role, or happy that the same character gets punched out of the picture looney toons style.

    5. Oh god, I just realized that the big achievement of this movie is not that it can get away with doing one hour long fanservice sequence, but that it turned everyone in a fan.

      It used to be that a fan was different from your average viewer and servicing them would inevitably alienate the average reader. Now being a fan of the MCU became the average, the mainstream.

      The fanservice in the previous sense (a superfan) are directed to comic book fans now, I guess.

    6. This is the Don Bluth film of today’s generation.

    7. Welcome back, Bob! Glad to see you back on Escapist; it really hasn’t been the same with you gone.

    8. Personally leaning towards a 7, but

      a) This is due to a parent having their 8ish year old kid blabbing constantly during the movie.
      b) Slightly shoddy 3D (this seems to be a thing with all theatres I go to now, might just be something with my glasses and 3D glasses not working properly, but many scenes the 3D works fine)

      c) I will never see this movie again due to its sheer runtime. There are very few movies I might even consider rewatching with this long a runtime

    9. I’m amused by the idea of the Avengers sic an army of lawyers on Thanos. No matter how many he kills, there are always more and the snap is useless.

      That and the idea of somehow capturing Thanos and the next 20 or so years is him being forcibly dragged to each and every planet in the known universe to stand trial for his crimes before any sentence will be carried out. He’ll wish the Avengers had killed him rather then be subject to that.

      Yes, I know that’s not how it ends.

    10. Captain America 1 the best Cap movie? The worst movie in the MCU? It’s THE one movie I haven’t/cant rewatch. Prefer to watch the 90s version. Or Howard the Duck

    11. “It really is the first one that feels more tailored specifically for the devoted fan than for a casual general audience”

      I’d say they crossed that line round about Civil War. That was the point at which it was just expected that you cared what happened to these characters because you were already emotionally invested in them and their relationships from previous movies, so the current one didn’t need to spend time building that up. Which meant that Civil War was a great movie for fans and just a mess of superheroes punching each other for vaguely engaged casual viewers. That’s very much the model for the Infinity War/Endgame pair as well.

    12. I have to say End Game is amazing and I loved every moment of it. If I had to pick my favorite MCU movies, I think it would be in no particular order:
      Thor: Ragnarok
      Guardians 1
      Winter Soldier
      Homecoming

      Actually, I think Homecoming is the second best spiderman movie, with the first being spiderverse

    13. Original Avengers a 9? Infinity War a 7?
      Also, will never understand Bob’s hatred of Spider Man Homecoming. The dislike of anything not Toby MaGuire is bizarre.

    14. I loved Iron-Man 2.

    15. Endgame is Marvel’s Return of the King.

    16. Just got back from seeing it so if you haven’t yet save your money and wait for it on rental or Disney+.

      I would say only Thor: The Dark World is less entertaining.

    17. Bob has called the end of the first Avengers “A fireworks display celebrating its own existence.” This one has a Disney backed Fourth of July multiplied by New Years with a dash of

    18. “What did you think they were going to do? Take Thanos to litigation?”

      Nah, this is an Avengers movie, not a She-Hulk movie. Because that happens in She-Hulk. Really. It’s kind of awesome.

      1. I hope we get a She-Hulk series or movie

      2. Probably never going to happen considering Universal keeps squatting on the rights and Disney wants to act like children and not split any of those billions and billions of dollars with anyone.

    19. I see a lot of Spiderman comments so I will drop mine too: Spiderman movies were so bad they made me stop caring about Spiderman.

    20. OMG, when you said that of course it would not end in them in a litigation with Thanos, I was like.. that is totally a movie I would see. Best Third act twist you could do.

      1. That actually happened in a She-Hulk comic.

        1. I am not surprised really. Comic books are a lot more inventive at times then movies. Mostly because it does not take hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a series of comic books, like it does with one movie.

    21. IMO, Iron Man 3 is not that good. Its events are seemingly ignored by the other movies, and Thor 2 is better than that.
      And I thought its political message was too on-the-nose, which Winter Soldier pulled off better.

      1. Half of Iron Man 3 is great. The other half drags it down pretty low. Thor 2 was bad not because of what was put in but because of what was left out, Iron Man 3 was the opposite.

    22. Guess we know which site gets Bob’s more important reviews. 🙂

    23. “And The Incredible Hulk is underrated”

      THANK YOU!

      1. I mean, The Incredible Hulk is kind of underrated, but it’s also still not that great. Like, I don’t get why people consider it, a perfectly serviceable Hulk movie, to be a bad film or the worst of the MCU. But it’s still no better than OK.

        (Bob’s totally right about Iron Man 3 being the best Iron Man, though, and it’s good to see people agreeing with that)

    24. The heroes discover a limited ability to leap backwards in time to prior events in recent history (i.e. previous Marvel movies) and perform certain tasks which if successful may allow the Avengers to — if not reverse the events of Infinity War — at least rescue the half of universal life Thanos wiped out.

      So what you are saying is that Endgame is the movie equivalent of a clip show episode.

      1. Except this clip show uses almost entirely new footage depicting scenes surrounding the original films scenes and include cameos by actors who you had no inkling were returning to a MCU film (unless you read spoilers beforehand).

    25. Homecoming is bad? huh.

      1. I liked it! It was about time Spider-Man joined in the MCU shenanigans, and Homecoming delivered on that, showing him grow into a responsible hero.

      2. “Homecoming is bad” is one of Bob’s deeply held beliefs that nobody else agrees with. It happens.

      3. Bob just can’t get into Homecoming, and I am honestly sad for him. Everyone else loved it, me included, and he just isn’t sharing in the magic with us. He doesn’t think it’s without merit, he just doesn’t like it.
        This isn’t even a “oh he’s just nostalgia-blinded for Sam Raimi”. I loved the Sam Raimi movies too, and I ALSO love Homecoming

      4. He never called it bad, he just felt it was kind of average outside the acting and as he felt it lacked an emotional core that would’ve normally been filled by Uncle Ben’s death. (To be fair, he said he was glad that the movie didn’t retread that, he just wished that there was something else in its place.)

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