The cultural impact that the MCU has had can’t really be overstated. The idea of an interconnected web of films was simply unprecedented back in 2008, and yet Marvel has successfully ushered in a new epoch in cinema, paving the way for the likes of Legendary’s MonsterVerse and the Conjuring franchise; even the DCEU owes its existence to its competitor. The conclusion to the ‘Infinity Saga,’ despite a decade-long build-up, delivers on the hype and then some – Avengers: Endgame is an overwhelmingly satisfying superhero epic, concluding the first chapter of the MCU saga in the dramatic, emotional fashion we’ve come to love.
Endgame picks up where its predecessor left off, with the team – or what’s left of it – low on morale, defeated, resentful, and guilt-stricken. After their interstellar rescue at the hand of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson, who by the way, doesn’t get nearly enough screen time), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) reunite with their allies and – rather quickly in terms of run time – find and kill the mad titan Thanos. Without the infinity stones and at a loss for what to do, they come to accept their new life and do their best to protect a beleaguered planet. That is, until Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) returns from his accidental journey to the quantum realm (Ant-Man and the Wasp). With Lang’s help, the group decide to harness the power of Pym particles in order to return to pivotal moments of MCU films past to recover older instances of the stones: the New York battle in Avengers Assemble, Thor: The Dark World-era Asgard, and Vormir at the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy.
In addition to those mentioned above, contrary to the typical idea of an ‘endgame,’ the film’s stuffed cast includes series mainstays Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as well as a few returning favourites which will not be spoiled, in addition to, of course, Josh Brolin’s fantastically intimidating demigod Thanos, likely to go down as one of cinema’s greatest villains. Customary at this point, exceptional performances abound from the film’s talented cast, particularly its leads; Hemsworth helps to round out some of the film’s rougher, darker edges with some light relief, while Downey Jr. and Evans shine, helping to hit the more poignant beats Endgame aims for.
The veins of parental love and passing the torch run deep here, but the films biggest emotional success is in cathartically closing the character arcs of the MCU’s biggest leads. Laudably, these arcs aren’t exclusive to Endgame, they’ve been set up and explored across eleven years and 22 films, making them that much more impactful. Tony Stark, a haughty, self-obsessed billionaire playboy when we met him, ultimately makes the greatest sacrifice; Steve Rogers, a man out of time and place, is finally reunited with the woman he loves; and Thor accepts that his worthiness comes not from the weapon he wields, but who he is inside.
Like Infinity War, on paper Endgame shouldn’t work. It’s copious in cast members and storylines, but the conclusion of a decade’s hard work winds up a historic entry in not just the MCU but in the history of cinema. I can say little else than the twenty-second Marvel movie is nothing short of an unequivocal triumph.