WARNING: This review includes spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame”
11 years and 21 installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought us to the endgame. “Avengers: Endgame” marks the finish line of what has been one of the most ambitious experiments in cinematic history. This critic can safely say that “Avengers: Endgame” is a generation-defining cinematic event and the numbers would agree with me. “Avengers: Endgame” shattered box office records by opening to $1.22 billion globally.
So, how did it measure up? Was “Endgame” the epic capstone that we hoped it would be?
The film directly follows the devastating events of “Avengers: Infinity War” and leaves the remaining Avengers and their allies with the seemingly insurmountable task of defeating Thanos and restoring order to the universe.
“Endgame” is helmed by the Anthony and Joe Russo, who you may remember from these other MCU titles: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
The film stars… pretty much everyone ever associated with previous MCU titles, but especially: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Paul Rudd (Ant-Man).
Now, on with the review…
Since my viewing of “Avengers: Endgame,” I’ve been thinking long and hard about the meaning of the franchise. What is the thesis statement of “Endgame” and, by further extension, the MCU up to this point?
Despite the titular team of heroes, the Avengers, it’s clear that “Endgame” is not about seeking revenge for a world destroyed. It’s about humanity.
Profound human loss, and the persistence of humanity to rebuild, and, above all, hope.
That’s been the theme of all of these films. Bringing the human element to what is superhuman. On this merit alone, “Endgame” strikes the perfect closing chord of a damn near perfect symphony.
A natural part of closing this phase of the MCU means completing the arcs of some pretty major characters. This is especially true for Steve Rogers/Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man. “Avengers: Endgame” hits a perfect note in storytelling by exploring both the greatest weaknesses of these characters and giving them the ending that they both deserve.
It’s both tragic and heroic, and it’s so satisfying.
However, neither of these is as interesting as the character development of Thor (Chris Hemsworth). In “Endgame,” especially, we see Thor go from lovable beefcake of the team to a much more nuanced and relatable character. A huge departure for a character that is literally a god.
Thor’s story in “Endgame” covers themes of mental health, a crisis of the self, and the crippling aftermath of failure and learning to cope. This is the perfect illustration of that human element that I mentioned previously.
“Avengers: Endgame” delivers just as much on the expected and fun comic book elements as it does the more nuanced storytelling.
The final battle is an absolute triumph and is exactly the payoff that comic book fans have been waiting for. But, I don’t want to talk about incredible effects paired with perfectly structured shots. That goes without saying.
I want to talk about the women of the MCU.
I want to talk about the women who sacrifice all for victory. The women that fight alongside, guide, and nurture their male counterparts. The women who stand beside each other and are leaders.
Goddamn, if “Endgame” does nothing else it salutes the heroines of the MCU better than any film that has come before.
Of course, no film is perfect and as perfect an ending as “Endgame” was, it did have some flaws. Balance is missing here. There’s a lot happening in “Endgame.” So much, in fact, that not everything is perfectly resolved.
Questions go unanswered. Some characters don’t get quite enough time onscreen. There’s a lack of focus and the plot leaps lightyears ahead (and backward) in a jaunty fashion.
It’s frustrating. You’d think that three hours would be plenty of time.
That being said… “Avengers: Endgame” does exactly what it is supposed to do and so much more.
Honestly, there are a million different elements to praise and to analyze but the truth of “Endgame” is that it is a love letter. It honors the tradition of the MCU and the fans that have been here for the past decade. Most importantly, it’s a love letter to these characters and the places they’ve taken us.
Some may accuse “Endgame” of blatant fan service and they’re not wrong, but it’s justified as far as I’m concerned.
My verdict? Be part of cinematic history. Go see it. As soon as (super)humanly possible!
“Avengers: Endgame” is in theaters now!
Featured photo credit: Marvel Studios
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.