*This review may contain minor spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame”*
After 11 years of blockbuster Marvel Studios superhero movies, the studio giant is finally bringing its $20 billion story arc to a close with the release of the 22nd film in the franchise, “Avengers: Endgame.” The film is a direct sequel to 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” which saw the death of half of the studio’s well-known heroes at the hands of Thanos, a villain that had been teased in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2011. “Endgame” continues the dramatic and overwhelming energy that its prequel demonstrated, offering a perfectly-executed conclusion to the immense story arc.
“Endgame” is naturally split into three acts; each holds a unique tone completely independent from the others. The film feels like three separate Avengers films in one, with each playing an equally important role in the overall plot.
The film’s first act is paced not as a superhero action spectacular. Instead, for nearly an entire hour, the film follows the paths of superheroes struggling to survive in a universe without half of the population. The human world post-snap is justifiably bleak and dark; the few glimpses audiences see of the aftershock of Thanos’ plan heightens the emotional tension that the first act builds. This emotional, raw world is far more believable than that of Marvel’s rival DC Cinematic Universe, which has spent several years in-universe developing a darker, more human take on a world with superheroes. The first act’s tone is so somber and slow that it barely feels like a Marvel movie at all. Besides a handful of scenes that seem to drag on too long, interrupt the emotional aura of the act, or are so shocking that they disrupt the atmosphere, the first hour is a stunning character study of heroes who have until now seemed larger-than-life.
When the action picks up during the second act, the team’s grand plan against Thanos takes place. Unfortunately, that grand plan is indecipherably messy and is almost entirely glossed over in two or three lines of dialogue. This is the absolute lowest point of the film; it continues to haunt the rest of the second and third acts, worsening the wound each time the grand plan is mentioned. Luckily for audiences, the second act is so filled with fan service, Easter eggs, and nods to previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that the film’s glaring plot hole is lost in the enjoyability of the rising action.
When the chaos of the second act comes to a close in the third and final act, every plot detail and sidetrack feels worth it. The entire final hour of the film is nearly non-stop action and is immensely satisfying and enjoyable to watch; it is truly the best action sequence in Marvel history. When the fighting dies down and the dust settles, the emotional conclusion leaves the entire theater in tears.
Whereas “Avengers: Infinity War” focuses broadly on Thanos and his own grand scheme, “Endgame” is consistently a character piece for the heroes left behind by his fateful snap. Each hero, especially Hawkeye and Tony Stark, have dedicated screen time that impeccably enriches each character. Thor’s character arc is less than stellar, and detracts from the overall intense nature of the film’s emotional development. Thor is also involved in a hideous and cringeworthy Fortnite product placement, which derails even more angsty buildup. By the time that the theatricality of the final act arrives, though, each hero is ready to face Thanos and himself. Thanos receives the least development; in fact, the Mad Titan receives next to no screen time.
Marvel has cornered the market on special effects in the last five years, but “Endgame” nonetheless blows the marker for high-quality special effects and computer generated imagery (CGI) out of the water. The graphics, animations, and textures are some of the best ever to grace the silver screen. So too, the film’s shots, editing, and soundtrack are equally as stellar and uncompromising. Without each element, the grand vision for the conclusion of the Thanos story arc could not have been realized as well as “Endgame” built it.
22 movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fourth “Avengers” installment brilliantly encapsulates the previous movies in the series, paying homage to its roots and evolving the franchise in new directions. Almost every script and directional choice in the three hour runtime is expertly-executed and implemented. Each character direction, each unexpected twist and each Easter egg builds into a mind-blowing final battle that justifies 11 years of filmmaking and storytelling. For Marvel fans, “Endgame” is everything it could have been and more. For movie fans, “Endgame” is a masterpiece of blockbuster filmmaking and an absolute must-see.