Avengers: Endgame aims to be the grandest of closers not only for Marvel’s Phase Three but also for an entire generation of varied and interconnected Marvel movies. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, we’ve watched a legion of legendary comic-book heroes grace the screen over the course of 21 movies. Now we bring them all together once more—for the biggest battle, yes, but also for a definitive end of an era for the many arcs that have been brewing over the course of a decade. And it’s every bit as emotional and action packed as a Marvel fan could dream.
The run time has been beefed up to three hours, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo use those extra minutes well. After Avengers: Infinity War, which largely consisted of a series of meetups and beatups while the villainous Thanos (Josh Brolin) pulled off his evil scheme of universe reshaping, there’s now time to pump the brakes a bit on the fights and give the characters some room to breathe. And after the events of that film, the defeated heroes could use a break to take in everything that has happened.
The experience of Thanos’s fiendish finger snap has taken a toll on the characters, and it brings out a different side of many of them, including the personal flaws that have been coursing through the ongoing stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The longest-running character, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has had an interesting battle with his fears of both the past and the future when it comes to security, and those sensations are present and passionate here more than ever. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) still has issues with trust, not only with Tony but himself as well, still gripped by the chilling vision Scarlet Witch gave him in Age of Ultron, which centered on his inability to imagine a world without the war he left behind. The aftermath of Thanos’s actions has put these two forces who faced off in Captain America: Civil War into much different mindsets when it comes to how they view what they want for themselves.
This growth among the whole team takes amazing shape when given room to simmer. We see a much different and more emotional side to characters like Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in how they’ve tried to adjust to a world of less. Some reinvent themselves, some let themselves crumble, and some simply continue doing what’s right even if it seems almost pointless to carry on after such loss.
The remaining Avengers do form a plan to undo the damage of Thanos, and, without spoiling anything, it’s thankfully a creative solution that involves more than just going to a location and beating up a bad guy. It’s a clever use of the entire MCU gives more space to keep the central characters in step with crucial crossroads in their lives and choices they have to make. No more mulling it over for the next crossover film. The title here is Endgame, and the Russos mean it.
If this all sounds to you like the film’s going to take it too easy and be a somber finale devoid of bold battles, rest assured that the Russos haven’t skimped on the spectacle. Just when you think Endgame has fallen into a groove, it’ll blindside you with a surprising development and build toward a climax more epic than its predecessor. While this aspect is sure to please the action-thirsty fans who’ll most likely be patient through the stronger scenes of character drama, there’s a unique dynamic in how the events parallel with Infinity War’s theme of utilitarianism. Some of it gets lost in showdowns of magic, energy beams, and flying projectiles, but peer through the kicked-up dirt and smoke and you’ll see a satisfying end that counters Thanos’s theories brilliantly.
And, yes, the film is huge in scale, cast, and visual effects, even more so than the bursting Infinity War. But the Russos have proven once again that piling on more characters doesn’t hinder their ability to craft a sprawling adventure with humor, sadness, and exciting action that makes great use of all its heroes and their various abilities. Avengers: Endgame delivers on everything one would hope for in bringing together the events of the past 11 years into one film that uses every previous installment as a key ingredient in this ultimate ensemble. With how much is crammed into these three hours, it’s a landmark of superhero films for its epic ambition that flourishes fantastically and is every bit the satisfying conclusion one would hope for—with maybe even just a little bit more.