“It’s the end, the end of the path I started us on.” With the release of “Avengers: Endgame,” and after 11 years and 22 films, we are indeed at the end of the path Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man started us all on, and while that’s a somewhat bittersweet fact, “Endgame” is a fitting way to conclude that journey.
This is a unique moment in cinema. There will certainly be more Marvel Cinematic Universe films—Spiderman and Black Panther sequels are already on deck, as well as a third installment in the Guardians of the Galaxy series—but even before its release, it was widely accepted that “Endgame” represented the definitive end to this era of the MCU and the beginning of a transition to something new.
So, naturally, for this longtime fan of these films and these characters, the days leading up to the release of “Endgame” were a mix of emotions. Those included anticipation and excitement, certainly, but also a nervousness that perhaps the Russo brothers would uncharacteristically slip up and deliver a sub-par film.
More keenly, though, was a sense of sadness that this phase of the MCU is coming to a definitive close. Along with that was the understanding that, as with most things in life, there comes a time to move on. While doing so is never simple, this film makes taking that next step easier.
This film had a lot to accomplish. It had to drop us into a world shattered by a single snap of the Mad Titan’s fingers, reintroduce characters not present in “Infinity War,” and bring an epic series to a fitting and satisfying conclusion. By any objective measure, it does so.
It shows us a team ripped apart by the loss of their friends, and desperately searching, first for a solution to “the snap,” then for a way to move forward with their lives. It gives us engaging storylines for Ant-Man and Hawkeye, who play pivotal roles in the story. And if I told you that “Endgame” would contain time travel, a heist storyline, and a third-act set piece unlike any other put to the big screen, I would be understating it.
In fact, the sheer number of awe-inducing moments in this film separates it from even many of its peers in the MCU. The repeated, raucous cheers from the capacity crowd in my theater were just one proof. Also, of course, as with most MCU films, “Endgame” offers moments of genuine humor and profound emotion, consistently in a way faithful to the film’s broader tone.
What also makes “Endgame” so compelling is not simply that it accomplishes so much, but that it does so without undermining the foundation built by the films that came before it. The simple way out for any director would be to just “undo” the events of “Infinity War,” but in doing so, either undermine the impact of that film, or possibly undo events central to the previous 21 movies. Thankfully, Anthony and Joe Russo avoid both mistakes, and take the creative approach to tackling the problem of time travel in just about as compelling a way as possible.
The true heart of this film, however, as with so many others in the MCU, is the performance of the Avengers. Tony is guilty over his failure to stop Thanos, and embittered by what he perceives as Captain America’s abandonment of the fight. Captain America is struggling not only with losing the love of his life, but now also most of his remaining friends. Black Widow doesn’t know how to cope with life other than to throw herself into protecting the world from future threats.
These are just some of the dynamics we are introduced to in the film’s opening minutes, and the pace only picks up from there. Ultimately, this is a film not just about massive battles between good and evil, about flashy tech and iron suits, it is a look into the human soul, the challenges we face, and what we are willing to do to overcome them. It holds up a mirror to us and asks us to be honest about whether we are trying to get there in our own strength, or whether we will reach out and take the helping hand a friend is offering. Finally, it challenges us to be the friend who is willing to extend that hand.
This film succeeds because it is faithful to complete the journeys we have taken with these characters, especially those we’ve been with the longest, as they ask and answer those questions for themselves. All in all, “Endgame,” like its predecessors in the MCU, is a moving film about friendship, sacrifice, and perseverance. In no uncertain terms, it is a breath-taking spectacle that is a true pleasure to watch.
It may be the final chapter of that good book you don’t want to put down, but as The Vision points out in an earlier film, a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. Something similar is at work here. The Avengers, as we have come to know them, may no longer be on mission together, but they will last forever on film, and that is indeed a beautiful thing.