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'Avengers: Endgame' delivers a perfect conclusion

This is a landmark moment in cultural history, the culmination of a 22-picture series that’s proven to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen at the movies.

This is a landmark moment in cultural history, the culmination of a 22-picture series that’s proven to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen at the movies. Disney

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that Avengers: Endgame is one of the most highly anticipated films of all time, but that statement doesn’t even do it justice. This is a landmark moment in cultural history, the culmination of a 22-picture series that’s proven to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen at the movies. Taken as a whole, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a spectacular artistic achievement—and Endgame is the perfect conclusion.

At the tail end of the journey, with the influx of superhero flicks since 2008’s Iron Man, it might be difficult to appreciate just how far we’ve come. Way back when, Marvel moviegoing meant suffering throughFantastic Four (2005), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), and Spider-Man 3: Emo Boogaloo (2007). It was a dark time for humanity... and then out of nowhere, Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr., of all people, kickstarted one of the world’s most beloved action franchises. If you can’t remember what the vibe was like going into Iron Man, look up some old reviews. Downey’s performance and the movie’s success were anything but expected. Those beginnings make this end all the more impressive.

It’s atypical, in this day and age, for a blockbuster to maintain such a degree of secrecy going into opening weekend, so I won’t even flirt with insider info here. Let’s just say that on the most basic, spoiler-free level, Endgame shows the heroes who survived Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) murderous Infinity War snap banding together in search of a means to save the fallen. The movie clocks in at three hours, though it’s so engrossing you’ll somehow wish it were longer.

Oblique summary out of the way, let’s attempt to describe what makes Avengers: Endgame so great without revealing anything big. The callbacks are clever without being heavy-handed. The runtime and deliberate pacing allow for a surprising amount of story. And expectations are subverted in the best possible ways.

Given the decimation capping off Infinity War, you’re probably betting on a pretty solemn outing. However, true to the other movies, Endgame strikes a nice balance between humor and intensity. It’s by far the darkest of the bunch, but where the final Harry Potter felt like total doom and gloom, the last Avengers has tons of laughs. Downey is clutch as always, but somehow Chris Hemsworth’s Thor has become the funniest Avenger.

Beyond yuks, Endgame’s got more heart than any other film in the series. In some ways that’s an inevitability when you’re dealing with a grand finale, but it’s more than that here. Multiple character arcs reach completion, and each one feels right on the money. It’s the service paid to these beloved heroes that will undoubtedly cement Endgame’s legacy. Like most epics, it builds to a climactic battle (and a truly phenomenal one at that). Nevertheless, what stands out as you’re leaving the theater isn’t a sense of dazzled, eye-popped awe. It’s an appreciation for the characters and their stories, a pensiveness caused by a decade-long experience coming to an end. This movie is emotionally exhausting. It’s extremely satisfying. And while it’s certainly bittersweet, Avengers: Endgame serves as a powerful capstone for this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Avengers: Endgame
directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
area theaters; now showing