Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame ★★★★★

A monumental conclusion.

Released to an astonishing 4,662 locations worldwide on April 26, 2019 – this PG-13 rated superhero film is all but assured to smash nearly every single box office record in history; not even "Avatar"'s $2.7 billion dollar total feels safe. Which explains why Disney gave returning directors Anthony and Joe Russo another $350 million dollars to tackle the Herculean task of filming this adventure back-to-back with "Infinity War". Devastated after half the universe has been obliterated, the surviving Avengers hatch a plan to undo Thanos' snap and restore the fallen. The screenplay, once again penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, delivers a blend of action, fantasy, and heart – reaching stratospheric heights that few blockbusters ever have.

Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, and Josh Brolin make up the core cast – downsized considerably after the events of the previous film. Indeed, this reduced ensemble actually addresses the biggest issues I had with "Infinity War"; not enough Captain America, and the lack of a full team reunion. Thankfully, Evans has a full hour of more screentime here, and "Endgame" pretty quickly reunites the original six Avengers, ostensibly, for the last time. If the previous picture was Thanos' story, this one belongs to Captain American and Iron Man; their character arcs are the most substantial, and rewarding. Which isn't to say Hulk, Thor, Nat, and Clint and underdeveloped – in fact, each one evolves in new and surprising ways. Johansson in particular turns in a career-best effort with a deeply moving performance.

The first sixty minutes are expectedly somber; with hardly any action sequences. This is a defeated group of heroes, struggling to reconcile their failure with their responsibilities. It is a new tone for this franchise, as the narrative weaves its way through the five stages of grief. A scene where Ant-Man frantically searches for his daughter's name amongst giant stone memorials is particularly effective at illustrating the massive emotional weight this universe is now burdened with. And while this is not normally the recipe for a fun comic book film, the quiet and reflective first act makes the wall-to-wall excitement later in the movie resonate even deeper.

Even with its lengthy three-hour run time, "Endgame" is an extraordinarily well-paced experience. The story is constantly playing against expectations in fantastic ways. And the moments that are more predictable are just as gratifying anyway. Granted, there's nothing inherently new in Avengers 4 – it doesn't reinvent the genre... but it does executes existing ideas to their absolute best possible iteration. So, if you're not usually a fan of the MCU – this one probably won't win you over. But if you've invested yourself into this expansive world like I have? This movie delivers in spades.

Too that end, the film's middle portion is a crowd-pleasing adventure best experienced unspoiled. So I'll only say I loved the snide remarks, pop-culture references, surprising cameos, sci-fi explanations, fatherly advice, and one particularly effective whisper. If this second act was clever fan-service for die hards, the final 45 minutes are the ultimate payoff to years of set-ups. There are moments towards the end, especially one the soundtrack refers to as "Portals" that had me shaking with excitement. Literally shaking. Every single character has their time to shine, however brief some of them may be. The Russos are out there making callbacks to events from 21 movies ago, and it works like gangbusters.

There are tears of joy and tears of sadness. And not just from the big events you see coming, but also from the small embraces and tender glances. These are characters we've grown to love over the past decade, and seeing their journey reach an emotional end is indescribably fulfilling. The only comparable sensation would be like watching the series finale to your favorite TV show – one that's been on the air for eleven years and features 25 different lead characters. And very final scene is an absolutely perfect capstone to the entire "Infinity Saga." This is the greatest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it isn't even close.

And although there aren't any traditional 'bonus scenes' (the film concludes only with a familiar sound effect) the credits do feature the animated signatures of the primary cast – a la, "Star Trek VI" – which serves as a wonderful swan song to this talented group of actors. As for all the technical categories; music, sound, visuals, editing, and cinematography? All on-point, as usual - particularly Alan Silvestri's score; blending deep strings for tear-inducing somber scenes with loud horns for the awesomely triumphant moments. The aforementioned "Portals" being a wonderful example of the latter. These movies wouldn't exist without the army of talented artists and crew who worked tirelessly on it for years.

I laughed, I cried, I applauded. Sure, there are better made, and better acted films, but I honestly can't think of a holistic cinematic experience that delivered more enjoyment and emotional resonance than this one. While familiarity with earlier Marvel films is necessary to truly appreciate a lot of the smaller winks and nods – it still mostly works as a standalone feature. I am legitimately unable to identify a single thing I didn't like about this movie. I usually avoid throwing around words like "flawless"... but holy shit, this comes pretty damn close. At the risk of overselling it, "Avengers: Endgame" is the most satisfying motion picture I've ever seen. AMAZING 3000.

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