Your first thought reading this is probably how Avengers: Endgame compares to Infinity War, right? That’s why anyone would be reading reviews for the biggest movie of the decade and avoiding spoilers. While Infinity War was merely the set up, Endgame is the conclusion to more than a decade of storytelling. However, fear always loomed over it; the prospect of them simply returning to the status quo ever present. We’ve all seen the trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home and the writer and director for Doctor Strange are already working on a sequel. But, against all the odds, they manage to move forward from their comic book roots; they shift the status quo in big meaningful ways.
Do characters you’ve grown to know for years die? Yes. Have others retired to a happier life? Yup. Is the world different from how Infinity War left it? Absolutely. Do they change as people in the aftermath of Thanos’ victory? Some more than others. If you fear characters like Captain Marvel will take away the spotlight from the old guard, you can rest easy. Endgame focuses primarily on the original Avengers and Nebula as they attempt to undo the catastrophe wrought by Thanos.
Kevin Feige has said that Endgame is meant to be the conclusion to this story arc and one last hurrah for many of these characters. Endgame accomplishes this fairly well with all the characters reaching a natural climax to their character arcs. The action is comprehensive with shots looking like they belong on a two-page comic spread, especially towards the climactic battle with Thanos. The drama is done very well with Robert Downey Jr. in particular giving his best performance in the franchise since Captain America: Civil War, along with the rest of The Avengers pulling their weight. It’s also undeniably that Endgame pay offs set ups from the last eleven years of movies like a slot machine.
So, if you’re still not convinced about the quality of this movie or elevating some of your fears by reading me dancing around spoilers for your benefit, then allow me to be a bit more explicit in the following paragraphs and how Endgame is a movie about how the characters deal with failure, past and present, and overcome it.
After they lost to Thanos in Infinity War, the remaining Avengers are struck with immense guilt at their failure. In the first 20-minutes of the movie our characters (and the audience) are given a sliver of hope in retrieving the Infinity Stones from Thanos, but are only plunged deeper into despair when they find that he has already destroyed them. What follows is an hour of the characters we have watched and loved for over a decade at their absolute lowest.
Following a time skip of five years, we’re shown Rogers and Natasha hobbled to The Avengers compound attempting to make themselves feel useful in this new world they couldn’t prevent. Tony has finally settled down with Pepper, rejecting the notion of returning the life of heroism in lieu of other responsibilities. Chris Hemsworth gives an incredibly humorous, yet sympathetic performance as a Thor broken by his failing to kill Thanos when it mattered. Clint Barton changes for the worse as he lashes out at the world after his whole family had fallen victim to Thanos’ grand solution. Banner is the odd one out, as he seems to have excelled in the aftermath of Infinity War and finding peace with himself and The Hulk.
Each of these characters have accepted this new reality–this new status quo. Until Scott Lang returns from the Quantum Realm and proposes a solution that will save everyone that was turned to ash. The solution to this ends up being incredibly clever and atypical of most Hollywood blockbuster movies, but is in fact fair more akin to the comic books, which open a world of possibilities. What follows is an hour of fan service, but also a visual representation of these characters reconciling with their past failures and regrets. They can’t undo every mistake in their past, but they can accept them, learn from them, and help undo the ones that don’t just affect them, but everyone.
Yes, they bring everyone back; this is hardly a surprise to anyone. What is a surprise is that, unlike the comics this movie is based upon, the reality of them having died is not wiped from their memory. Everyone on Earth still remembers what had happened, unlike the comics in which everyone’s forgets the event even happened. It still has real tangible effects and consequences moving forward that aren’t cheapened by typical comic book conventions. That includes the sacrifices made by longtime characters that give the franchise a renewed sense of loss that hasn’t been felt since Yondu gave his life for Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
It has a sense of permanence that the comic books can never truly have or attempt without it being reversed within a couple years. It finally feels like the movies are moving beyond the constraints of comic books and that we’ll have a sense of time expanding instead of compressing.
There are some quibbles throughout the movie, such as one scene involving all the female superheroes that feels like Marvel Studios unjustly patting themselves on the back for a good job done. Despite the fact that they only just had their first female led movie just this year after 20 movies. But they’re all minor in the face of what is a colossal undertaking of a finale to a story eleven years in the making. The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is looking ever brighter and I cannot wait to see what it has in store.