**** ½ out of five stars
The grand finale to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first decade is finally here. How does the ending of an era for Earth’s Greatest Heroes stack up against all their previous big-screen adventures?
At the end of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, the intergalactic villain Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) used the Infinity Stones to leave the entire universe in ruin. The Avengers tried to find a way to undo the damage, but to no avail. Five years later, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is suddenly freed from the Quantum Realm (as seen in last year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp). Lang heads to the Avengers’ HQ and tells of how the past five years felt like only five hours inside the Quantum Realm. Theorizing that it is possible to time travel through the Realm, the Avengers hatch a plan to retrieve the six Infinity Stones from different points in the past and use them to restore what Thanos destroyed. Will their plan succeed?
Endgame is a whole three hours long, but it puts its running time to good use. The beginning of the film builds up to the Avengers’ time-traveling adventures, but even this set up is still engaging. We see how – both just before and after the five-year time skip – the Avengers adjusted to life in a drastically altered world, and how Scott Lang was brought up to speed on what happened in his absence.
Once the Avengers travel to the past, the film takes a page from Back to the Future Part 2 as the heroes revisit scenes from past adventures. Scenarios from 2012’s The Avengers, 2013’s Thor: The Dark World and 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy are featured, allowing for faces from MCU films past to make unexpected appearances.
As this film marks the end of the story told over the first 22 MCU films (retroactively dubbed “The Infinity Saga”), not everybody makes it out alive, and some are irrevocably changed by their experiences. As this is likely the last go-around for many of these actors in these roles, the performances are for the most part superb. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America are perhaps the best, as is to be expected.
It’s hard for me to compare this film to Infinity War, since the two films combined tell a complete story. As this is Joe and Anthony Russo’s final Marvel film, their track record as directors for the Cinematic House of Ideas goes down as the finest so far (with the Captain America films The Winter Soldier and Civil War and the duology of Infinity War and Endgame under their belt).
I wouldn’t recommend Endgame to newcomers of the MCU. If you’ve somehow missed out on the previous 21 films in this series, then please get yourself caught up to speed first. For Cinematic True Believers, however, this is a stylish and substantial ending to every film that’s come before and leaves the door open for a promising future. Excelsior!