It's difficult to discuss Avengers: Endgame without spoiling any of the twists and turns. So instead of spending too much time on the plot, it's better to look at the broader question of whether the hotly anticipated sequel lives up to its hype as the finale for an entire era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The short answer: Yes. The longer answer: a resounding yes.
The narrative explores how the heroes deal with their grief following the devastating events of Infinity War, with the first act focusing on processing such large-scale loss. Unlike previous MCU films that have backtracked on character growth (say, 2015's Age of Ultron), here the main players evolves, with some even reaching the conclusions of their arc. That instills Endgame with a poignancy that no other superhero film has mustered. The script never loses sight of that emotional core, even when it introduces some of the biggest and boldest developments in the 11-year-old franchise.
Pairing off the team in the second act plays to the film's strengths, allowing the characters to bounce off one another to great effect. It's not the unexpected joy of seeing opposites like Iron Man and Star-Lord together, like in Infinity War. Instead, it creates affecting portraits of some of the best relationships in the MCU. The cast honestly brings its A game, with the six original Avengers delivering their best performances to date.
Chris Hemsworth takes Thor in a surprising direction, but in doing so embraces the goofiest elements of the thunder god while bringing him back to his unruly but noble roots. Chris Evans and Mark Ruffalo uncover new shades of their characters, through moments of levity and regret. Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Robert Downey Jr. play their parts with a weariness that keeps the emotional stakes at the forefront, and gives each of their decisions added weight.
However, the best performance in the film belongs to Karen Gilan, who imbues Nebula with, simultaneously, her worst qualities and her greatest improvements. It's impressive that Gillan is able to deliver such a layered portrayal with such a (relatively) minor role, but it stands out among even such a stellar cast. This is very much a movie in which those character interactions are key. So much of the story is on a smaller and more emotional scale than what came before in Infinity War.
While the film confronts some heavy material, it also has a blast during the adventures of the second act. The heroes are thrown to every corner of the MCU, including some previously unseen pieces that provide a new ways to look at the heroes. Sometimes these asides are hilarious, other times they're action-packed or, unexpectedly, character-focused. But each carries importance and meaning, especially when events take a solemn turn for some heroes. Endgame has fun with the limitless potential of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, poking fun at itself as much as it revels in highlights from previous films.
It's nice to see how unafraid the film is being a finale; Endgame makes the franchise's history, and legacy, part of its story. The MCU will continue after this, but its current era feels finished in a fitting way.
It's difficult to talk about this film without spoiling too much. However, it's easy to say that directors Joe and Anthony Russo pull off one of the most satisfying blockbusters in recent memory. With clear story arcs, strong visuals and tremendous performances, Endgame not only sticks the landing but it does so with flying colors. It's heart-wrenching and awe-inspiring, and a celebration of the MCU that also serves as the franchise's high point.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Josh Brolin as Thanos. The film opens Friday worldwide.