Note: This review is spoiler-free but includes obvious references to events in the movie. Proceed with caution.
I know exactly why you’re here, so I’ll skip the pleasantries and get right to it. After being one of the select souls lucky enough to watch Avengers: Endgame prior to its theatrical release, here are five takeaways that I left the theater with.
1. Every lofty expectation that Avengers: Infinity War established in the pantheon of superhero cinema, Avengers: Endgame eclipses.
There isn’t a glimpse of prior benchmarks to be found. The Russo Brothers’ latest foray into the Marvel Cinematic Universe swallows them whole. Over the course of three tumultuous hours that gracefully abscond before overstaying their welcome, we embark on a sprawling epic replete with heart, humor and inconceivable loss. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most importantly, you’ll move on. Our 22 film, 11-year relationship with Marvel Studios has finally reached its conclusion. And with Avengers: Endgame, there is no more perfect goodbye.
The literal aspects draw from the devastation Thanos wrought in Infinity War, in which he indiscriminately rid the universe of exactly half of its population. And for curious minds who can’t help but glance at this cosmic holocaust, Endgame doesn’t shy away from the hopelessness of its new normal. Shit is bleak. As fuck. Which is why after having so much unbridled joy, hope and dignity stolen away from Earth’s occupants—and the rest of the universe—it’s only fitting that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes stage a caper of their own. In Endgame, theft serves as both friend and foe, a reluctant executioner yet opportune savior.
Change is inescapable, and no matter how much we cling to our youth, inevitably we outgrow our bassinet. The Avengers are no different. The heroes who have lived to tell the tales of Infinity War have been punished by the unspeakable demands of survival. Gods are indistinguishable from mortals, courage has been overthrown by irresolution, and redemption is a jaded muse. Tony Stark in particular—portrayed masterfully by the incomparable Robert Downey Jr.—undergoes a tremendous metamorphosis that rewrites his heroic legacy. After force-feeding audiences one-liners for the past decade, his signature quips and brash demeanor melt away to reveal a compassionate, middle-aged husband coming to grips with his mortality. Fate is not always kind, as each member of the Avengers can attest to.
If Infinity War is the plantar fasciitis or debilitating leg cramps that threaten to undermine Marvel Studios’ brutal 11-year marathon, Endgame is the enervated sprint across the finishing line. This is a film with a palpable sense of acceptance, realization and relief. We’re no longer hiding in our bedroom, waiting for our mom to find out about our report card—the imminent sense of dread that has lingered throughout the franchise has waned, and regardless of the outcome, what could be has finally become. And as catastrophic as Thanos’ conquest proved itself to be, that chapter is closed. Which gives us the freedom to explore the aftermath without the pressure of maintaining Infinity War’s frenetic pace. As such, the argument could be made that Endgame isn’t even a superhero movie. It’s a movie about the consequences of heroism.
I texted that to my brother in blog, Panama Jackson of Very Smart Brothas, as the end credits rolled and he replied,“Yes it did.” A terrible ending can completely derail an otherwise memorable experience, and in this instance, thankfully the dessert is just as tasty as the main course. I bore witness to grown men and women sobbing violently as the synergy between screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo, came to life on screen. And Endgame’s endgame is so beautifully executed that the newly established status quo belongs beneath a Christmas tree. But this time around, the Russo Brothers’ generosity has its limits—as there’s no tantalizing post-credits scene to provide a taste of what’s to come. And if it did, it would likely feel gratuitous. The Avengers was our courtship, Avengers: Age of Ultron was the honeymoon, Infinity War was the struggle to maintain stability, and Endgame is the realization that each of us will be happier with other people. It’s a bittersweet farewell, but the closure that so many of us require to move on—including some of our beloved superheroes.