Reviewing Avengers: Endgame is hard, because it’s not really a film, it’s more of a ridiculous fairground ride without the boring uphill bits.
You could argue that the slow upwards climb for Endgame has been the 21 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that preceded it, and which you need to have watched so that Endgame can fulfil its destiny of being just one thrilling, three-hour-long rollercoaster drop for the fans.
The last time we saw the Avengers, things weren’t going so well for them after they failed to stop a big purple fella called Thanos from turning half of the galaxy into actual dust. Endgame picks up soon afterwards with the few remaining Avengers hatching a plan to undo all of Thanos’ hard work, setting in motion the titular endgame of the entire Avengers initiative.
I don’t think you’d get much out of watching Endgame if this was your entry point to the MCU, but then no reasonable person should expect the 22nd film in a series to have to stand alone from what’s come before it. The film rewards investment in the universe with perfectly paced scenes full of fan service, and there’s always something massive and captivating going on featuring at least one character you love and others that you at the very least recognise.
The two biggest players in the MCU haven’t shared a scene together in three years but their reintroduction is muted, and feels far more authentic than you’d expect. It’s scenes like this that fill the film with heart throughout.
One benefit of this being the pinnacle of a long-running franchise is that, having spent so much time with these characters, Marvel no longer has to spend too much energy explaining backstories, motivations and actions. There’s the degree of assumed knowledge of the characters that you’d find in a long running TV show, which puts the directorial focus firmly back on the story.
For a film that features a talking raccoon and a chap called Ant Man, Endgame is sometimes impressively reserved when revealing huge developments in the main characters, and this is no more apparent than with the much anticipated reunion of Captain America and Iron Man. The two biggest players in the MCU haven’t shared a scene together in three years but their reintroduction is muted, and feels far more authentic than you’d expect. It’s scenes like this that fill the film with heart throughout.
Marvel has bet everything on setting up Endgame as the finale of their decade-long cinematic masterplan, and it hits with payoff after payoff. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see such an ambitious and successful arc of blockbuster movies at this scale again, but an equally interesting prospect is the promise of what comes next. The film’s crowning achievement is in having characters as momentous and scene-stealing as Captain America and Iron Man shepherding their fellow Avengers through the storyline without ever taking the limelight.
As characters the Avengers strive to be something more than individual personalities, and with this ambitious, explosive ensemble of a closing act, you really feel like Marvel has accomplished the same here. Endgame is a triumph.