And now their watch has ended. And our watch. Everybody’s watch is over! Sort of, anyway. What began 11 years ago as a crazy dream Jon Favreau (and a number of other people) had comes to something of a conclusion with Avengers: Endgame , the rumbling, maximalist culmination of what totals to a series that could run for three uninterrupted days, if played back to back. (The film opens April 26.) It’s been a heck of a trip, both exciting and exhausting, which is just how Joe and Anthony Russo’s three-hour film plays out. Endgame is an epic march toward denouement that satisfies and surprises—and, I’m a little loath to admit, stirs.
Roberto Pocaterra Pocaterra
Though could you really blame anyone for falling prey to the undertow of the Avengers universe? We’ve all aged over a decade since Tony Stark ( Robert Downey Jr. ) first put on his Ironman suit; as he and his compatriots have evolved, blasted this way and that on various plucky adventures, so too have we changed. I found myself thinking about time as Endgame swelled to its climax, how anything that marks that passage so thoroughly, even by mere endurance, is bound to resonate. It also helps that the Marvel movies, Endgame very much included, are largely gleaming and witty successes, triumphs of mega-corporate enterprise that still have some human texture. The films have carefully traveled from Stark snark all the way to this serious and emotional (though still fun where it counts) final chapter, earning a dramatic weight bit by clever bit
Whew. I’m vamping here because I’m not really sure how to talk about Endgame specifically without revealing any number of spoilers I’m assuming most people don’t want revealed. But here’s a broad overview: We begin post-snap, after half of all living things in the universe have been snuffed out by the extremist extraterrestrial Thanos ( Josh Brolin ). Those left in the ashy aftermath—including original Avengers Tony, Captain America ( Chris Evans, sans beard, quel dommage), Black Widow ( Scarlett Johansson ), Thor ( Chris Hemsworth ), the Hulk ( Mark Ruffalo ), and Hawkeye ( Jeremy Renner )—are bereft and mostly drained of hope that those lost will ever return to them. But these are six characters always in search of a mission, and so they find one—a crazy last-ditch scramble through time that might just reverse Thanos’s terrible cleansing. What follows is a dense but nimble revisiting of Marvel movies past, a semi-indulgent tribute to what’s come before as some of our brave heroes take their last stand
Yes, some major characters die in Endgame , as we always knew they would. But the Russos, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, aren’t ruthless. There’s so much death already hanging in the air post- Infinity War that Endgame needn’t add too much to that heavy mood. Instead of a kill-a-thon, Endgame is a solemn and unexpectedly un-violent caper, a quest to undo the worst thing imaginable. Sure, there are action scenes peppered throughout—but Endgame is largely about stealth and internal reckoning. It presents the warming, moving idea that the strength and ingenuity of community can amply combat despair, even when all seems a frozen and lonely ruin
Oops; I’m getting maudlin again. But three hours in the dark will do that to a person, especially when there’s so much to hook into during that sprawl. Endgame offers a rich assemblage of movement and detail, full of winning digressions and loyalty-rewarding callbacks. There’s a host of great performances too, from Evans’s sad and weary nonagenarianism to Johansson’s watery mettle to Brolin’s lumbering and alluring villainy. Watching Endgame , with its ribbons of poignancy and genuine artfulness, one gets the feeling that any series can get good when it’s had 22 chances to practice. That long runway doesn’t make you appreciate the finery any less, though; in a maybe perverse way, the Avengers, their allies, and their enemies have earned our respect
Ultimately, Endgame understands a simple human response: how nice it is, how reassuring, to see and feel something complete. To have all the pieces finally arrayed together, set before us like totems of some vague accomplishment we managed just by sitting there for all those hours. The trick is how well the Russos juggle the convergence, giving pretty much everyone their due while also taking surprising and heartening pauses to focus on more sidelined characters who, it turns out, have something interesting to say or do. A disarming affection runs through Endgame like a slowly crescendoing chord, a sweet and harmonious blend of notes that turns into a rousing chorus of voices by picture’s end. Yeah, yeah, it’s all just comic book flash and hokum. But for more than a few moments of this last Avengers film, all that pomp finds its circumstance. There in the vacuum of the theater, it feels pretty mighty
And, look: I say “last Avengers film” knowing full well that Marvel and Disney aren’t going to close down the latex factory and move on to other things. We’ve just met Captain Marvel; there’s more Wakanda to be explored; many other heroes in Endgame remain positioned for future intriguing exploits. But it does seem like this is the last time they’ll all be together, at least in this exact configuration. In that light, Endgame delivers a fond and fabulous farewell. I’ll confess that a genuine tear came to my eye as Marvel’s massive ship, glinting in all its effortful splendor, tipped its wing in grand salute—before flying off to places unknown, for now