This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Will Walker’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I want to start this review off by saying that I am the farthest thing from an MCU fanboy. Try as I might, I've never loved these movies to the level that I always felt that I should as a diehard Marvel comics fan. That's not to say that there haven't been some genuinely great films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there have been just as many misses as hits for me and I have yet to see one fully live up to the boundless potential of the rich source material. I didn't even like Infinity War, or the original Avengers for that matter. I say all of this so that when I make the claim that Avengers: Endgame may be the best superhero film of all time, you know I'm coming from a place of sincerity and not bias. I've waited 11 years to feel this way about an MCU film and now that I do, it feels incredible.
Endgame's use of humor is easily the best of any film in the MCU. That's not to say it's just the funniest (Though it most likely is the funniest MCU film as well), but the humor actually services the story and the characters here in a way that's been largely unrealized outside of Gunn's Guardians films. Moments like Thor becoming a lazy, unsubstantial Xbox Live troll or Hulk becoming a mild-mannered, affably dorky goofball don't exist merely for memes and throwaway gags, they're genuine pushes to flesh out and develop these characters, showing how these diverse personalities each react to the tragedy of failure and deep personal loss in their own ways. We laugh at their hijinks the same way we can look back at our own tragic experiences with darker, reflective comedy. The humor is deceptively smarter than it was in previous MCU films and it services the story rather than having the story serve the humor, throwing childish things aside while still honoring the spirit that these films are known for. One of the biggest reasons why Infinity War didn't work for me was because the inconsistent humor clashed so heavily with the emotional stakes of the film. Here, however, the humor compliments the stakes instead.
Speaking of, the emotional power of Endgame is leagues above its contemporaries in the MCU. Characters genuinely have so much to lose here, so much to put at stake just to see their friends and loved ones alive and well again. Difficult choices have to be made here with tremendous consequences. The film feels grounded and human in a way that so many superhero films, particularly MCU films, seem to forget. It's these heroes willingness to sacrifice so much, and the film's strict adherence to establishing the enormous depth of their gambles, that makes them so heroic, and in turn makes this possibly the best superhero film to date. Heroes are not tested by their victories, but by their failures and their ability to rise above and grow from them. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow and Hawkeye are forced to give nothing less than everything for the very hope of a better tomorrow and they don't all make it back unscathed. Some don't make it back at all, and their sacrifices are very much ultimate. Avengers: Endgame is about as inspiring and uplifting a superhero film as the genre's finest and fully captures what makes its comic book paragons so beloved by readers across the glove.
Endgame's characterization of Thanos is vastly improved this time around as well. Thanos' refusal to accept the possibility of failure, even in an alternate timeline, and his abandonment of an ethical highground upon the mere possibility of defeat not only creates a fascinating parallel with The Avengers, it completely shatters the argument of Thanos as a sympathetic figure with noble ends. He's a child wielding power he lacks both the respect and the fortitude for, a sore loser who can't see past his own narrow, close minded vision. The Russo brothers clearly predicted the misguided internet following that Thanos and his absurd ideology would gather and Thanos' characterization in Endgame represents a thorough dismantling of his unearned positive reputation.
The direction here is absolutely top notch. The choreography, editing and camera work behind the action scenes is absolutely outstanding; from the tracking shot of Ronin taking out Yakuza in Japan to the epic, apocalyptically scaled final battle with Thanos himself. Avengers: Endgame doesn't just feel epic and exhilarating, it absolutely earns those emotions. It feels like a massive scale event and a filmmaking experience in a way that I never thought possible for this franchise, while still never losing sight of the more human and grounded journeys of our heroes. Even minor side characters from previous films such as Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nebula have genuinely strong arcs here; Black Widow redeeming her brutal past once and for all through the love of her friends, Hawkeye learning to respect Black Widow enough to come to terms with her tragic decisions and Nebula finding her place in the universe beyond being the pet of Thanos. That Endgame is able to take these seemingly insignificant characters and give them genuinely nuanced and three-dimensional arcs while also further developing the main Avengers cast that have been around for nearly a decade now is a true testament to just how much of a marvel (no pun intended) it is from a storytelling perspective.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but believe the hype with Avengers: Endgame. It is everything I could have ever wanted it to be and so much more. It fixes problems not just with Infinity War, not just with previous MCU films like the Avengers films and Doctor Strange, but even with the comics it's based on. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cheer and, best of all, the film will have earned it.