It’s rare that a series’ finale is its best episode. At their thinnest, finales are a clip episode that reminisces on prior episodes. At their best, they feel like an earnest conclusion to years of dedicated viewership, a rewarding send-off for fans and characters alike.
Running three hours, Avengers: Endgame—effectively the finale of Marvel’s first cinematic epoch, even if they swear it isn’t quite—uses its wealth of time to hit both sides. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
But that’s not the only way it apes Thanos. Marvel’s latest, too, is a hulking, assertive beast that’s nostalgic, self-indulgent, and dead set on completing the contrived, wildly illogical—yes—endgame it feels necessary. In Marvel’s case, though, damned if it doesn’t feel earned.
Last year’s Infinity War bet everything on comic book horseshit. For as much as Marvel has been gambling on creating a self-dubbed “universe,” never had it so firmly went all-in as there. There have been many—too many, anyone reasonable may say—superhero movies, but never such a truly Comic Book Movie that was willing to toss all these disparate characters and abilities together, even when it doesn’t really make a hell of a lot of sense.
Endgame doubles down on that. Shoving even more comic book nonsense into the mix, its mechanics are almost willfully glossed-over nonsense, building to moments of thrillingly absurd battles, tender moments for long-running heroes, a generous sprinkling of fan service, and those kind of conversational asides that should only work as filling a mid-action panel’s empty space in a ridiculous amount of word balloons. And god bless it for that.
Ultimately, the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, if not the culmination of its third phase’s arc, at least the culmination of its arc. It’s a multi-billion dollar cry that superhero comics aren’t just about some known quantity in a suit quashing some evil threat—at least not anymore. They’re a system of various artists interpreting and re-interpreting some colorful costumes into a history; an alternately goofy and straight-faced mythology growing through its hits and misses alike. Iron Man was a Marvel comic brought to screen. Eleven years later, as imperfect as it should be, Avengers: Endgame is Marvel Comics brought to screen.
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Runtime: 181 minutes
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin