Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Premise: Following the events of Avengers: Infinity War, the surviving superheroes reassemble in an effort to undo the destruction wrought by Thanos.
What Works: Endgame is the closing chapter in this era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a series that has spanned twenty-two films. It is an appropriate and satisfying finale to the Infinity Stones storyline and the filmmakers have crafted an unusually affecting popcorn movie. Endgame takes its time. Where Infinity War was a series of progressively bigger fights and showdowns, Endgame is much slower, especially in its first half; most of the action is packed into its blowout of an ending. Much of this film focuses on the Avengers’ failure in Infinity War and how the survivors cope with the aftermath. Their guilt weighs heavily upon the movie and the grief is palatable. In that respect, the filmmakers of Endgame thread a tricky needle. As viewers, we invest in empathetic characters with tangible goals but broad scenarios—like the end of the world—are too vague for audiences to grasp. That’s why the intimate finale of The Dark Knight is so much more impactful than the global destruction of Man of Steel. That’s why Endgame is unique; the stakes could hardly be bigger but the stories of these characters and their relationships make the stakes of the final battle much more personal and concrete than the average superhero spectacle. The filmmakers of Endgame are also conscientious of this movie’s place in the Avengers series and the story gets self-reflexive, offering fan service but in ways that are satisfying and frequently relevant to the story. The premise does not go the obvious route. In fact, the opening of the film fulfills exactly what viewers expect the Avengers to do and then undermines those expectations and sends the characters on an unexpected adventure. Everything is made more difficult for the heroes of Endgame. Undoing Thanos’ actions requires ingenuity and sacrifice and as a result, the outcome of the movie does not feel like a cheat in a way that it might have if the story took a simpler and more direct route.
What Doesn’t: Endgame isn’t nearly as action oriented as Infinity War. That’s mostly to this film’s credit but it’s a slow story with a bigger emphasis on drama than its fast paced predecessor and the movie may test the patience of younger viewers or those who are not as invested in these characters. There are some awkward tonal shifts in the movie. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is very funny but given the gravitas of what’s happened the filmmakers resort to humor a little too often and too easily. Endgame is a time travel story and as in all time travel films the logic is tenuous. There are a few inconsistencies from the earlier MCU films, especially regarding the Infinity Stones. Guardians of the Galaxy established that an Infinity Stone was too powerful to be held by a mortal person but in Endgame the characters carry them around in their bare hands. A major point of Infinity War involved the gauntlet; wielding the power of the stones required a special, otherworldly metal forged from a dying star. In Endgame the Avengers make a glove in their lab. There may be explanations to these inconsistencies in the source material but the answers are not evident in this series of films.
Bottom Line: Avengers: Endgame offers a satisfying conclusion to this era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite a few inconsistencies, the movie does nearly everything right and includes the qualities fans have enjoyed about this series while also providing an emotionally resonant climax.
Episode: #748 (May 5, 2019)