This is it. This is the end of a decade long series which has captivated audiences the world over. This is Avengers: Endgame, the final installment in The Infinity Saga and the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Sure, Disney will continuing making Marvel movies long after you and me are dead, but none of them will be the same after Endgame.

That sense of finality permeates everything surrounding Avengers: Endgame, even more than it did Avengers: Infinity War. In my review of that film, I wrote that Infinity War came close to giving the MCU a satisfying conclusion. In hindsight, it’s obvious why that film only came close – it wasn’t actually the end. Infinity War still feels like only half a movie, but Endgame holds up surprisingly well on its own. Not to suggest viewers should make Endgame their first foray into the MCU, that’d be ludicrous. But Endgame is very much a film that only works because of the 20+ films that came before it. Endgame is a stronger entry in the MCU than Infinity War, bringing the saga to an conclusion that is as satisfying as it is surprising.

Avengers: Endgame is a movie that the less you know, the better, so this summary will be brief. Picking up events shortly after Infinity War, the Avengers are in disarray along with the rest of the world. Having half off all existence turn to dust in a snap of Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) fingers has left its mark, and the first act of Endgame dwells on the aftermath. There’s then a glimmer of hope, a last ditch effort to reverse the snap, a plan of action. The core Avengers – Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – along with a smattering of other characters – James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), Nebula (Karen Gillen), Rocket Raccoon (Sean Gunn/Bradley Cooper) – embark on a mission that will either save the universe, or end it. Just how that mission pans out is where I’ll leave you, but Endgame makes very good use of its three hours, building momentum as the time just flies by.

Both Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War raised the bar for superhero spectacle on the big screen, and yet somehow, Avengers: Endgame blows them both out of the water. No live action movie has put more superheroes on screen at one time than Endgame, with multiple scenes that could very well be a big comic book splash page come to life. The action scenes have never been grander than they are in Endgame, and while there are individual MCU movies with better action or fight choreography, nothing can compare to this film’s scope. It’s astonishing, really, when you sit back and just marvel (there’s really no better word for it) at what this film series has achieved in a decade’s time. And I won’t lie, seeing something as massive as an entire comic book universe represented on screen made me teary-eyed (and not for the first or last time during Endgame).

Ultimately, a large part of Avengers: Endgame is about grief and it’s refreshing to see how these larger than life characters handle their losses from Infinity War. That three hour runtime allows the Avengers to grieve, giving them time to figure out how best they can carry on at being heroes in a world that they failed. What’s especially interesting is how all the characters react to that grief differently, be it wallowing in guilt, escaping through vices, or blocking out the bad stuff entirely. But Endgame isn’t just some depressing slog, it’s actually really funny, too. Exactly what it is the Avengers find so funny in the wake of certain doom is another spoiler, but Endgame is Marvel at its most delightfully quippy.

Avengers: Endgame is also the most Marvel of all the Marvel movies, for both good and bad. Endgame is immensely enjoyable, but that doesn’t absolve it from taking some leaps in logic that will leave you scratching your head later on. Not to mention, with a movie that’s already doing so much, certain characters and plot beats are inevitably undeserved. Then we have the signature muted coloring and drab locations of the MCU, and really, it’s pretty silly to expect anything less from Endgame. Still, none of this is really apparent while lost in the joy of this movie, but once the afterglow fades, it’s hard to ignore a few issues.

Wherever the consensus on Avengers: Endgame eventually lands, there’s no debating the absolutely stellar performances of the cast – especially from the six original Avengers. Each Avenger is given a surprisingly complex arc to work through in Endgame, and each actor delivers their best performance as their character to date. Notable standouts are, of course, Downey Jr.’s Tony and Evans’ Cap – the two pillars on whose backs the MCU was built. Their versions of these characters are iconic, and it’s nearly impossible to imagine anyone else stepping in to either role. Hemsworth gives another excellent (and hilarious) turn as Thor, channeling so much of that energy from Thor: Raganarok. Ruffalo’s Hulk evolves in surprising ways, giving him a new angle from which to approach the character. But perhaps the most pleasant surprise comes from the performances of Johansson and Renner. As the two least-developed Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye, their parts have been pretty thankless in the past, but here they are finally given material worthy of their talent.

Avengers: Endgame is an epic in every sense of the word. The journey we’ve gone on with these characters is nothing short of extraordinary. For it all to culminate in such a satisfying, meaningful way is just remarkable. This isn’t really the end for the MCU, but if it were, Endgame would be a near-perfect installment on which to end.

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