Spider-Man: Far From Home marks the official end to Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but let's face it — Avengers: Endgame is the true denouement. Whether you hate these movies and have anticipated seeing them disappear into thin air, or you grew up with comic books and love them like family, this is the movie you've been waiting for. I don't love these movies, not all of them, but I love the characters. Captain America and Spider-Man are icons. Seeing them come alive on the big screen is magic in itself. And watching them say goodbye is tragic.
Over the decade-long course of the MCU, certain films stand out — Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers, Thor: Ragnarok — while others fade into distant memory. Marvel Studios bombarded us with 22 superhero movies over the last 10 years. Avengers: Endgame may not be the best of them, but it carries the most emotional weight by far. There's nothing like a finale.
There's very little in the way of non-spoilers I can talk about, but I can reveal the film begins like a normal movie. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), missing from last year's Infinity War, is teaching his daughter how to bullseye a target with an arrow. The quiet beginning gives way to the perils of space as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) float aimlessly in the eternal darkness. Back on Earth and elsewhere, the remaining superheroes, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), are trying to cope with the loss of 50 percent of all living things. They aren't coping well.
Avengers: Endgame, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, benefits from a few inherent advantages. We know these characters. Watching them together for the final time carries an emotional heft not found in most superhero movies. Then there's everyone else. Endgame is the most star-studded film ever made. Ever. Huge names enter the film in almost every scene. But the movie never fails to lose forward momentum. As an example of blockbuster filmmaking, Endgame ranks right up there with Titanic, Avatar, and its Marvel predecessors, especially Infinity War. It could be the highest-grossing film of all time by the end of its run. What separates it is its cast.
The Marvel movies are polarizing because they're so enormously popular, but that cuts both ways. They'll always mean more to the fans who love the comic books because the love is so baked in. But the films appeal to everyone outside the Marvel realm because the spectacle of all these famous people in the same room is so alluring. Audiences won't fully appreciate how the Russos, working off a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, are able to let every character have a moment in Endgame. The major characters get major moments, standing-O-worthy moments, and you leave the movie with a solid sense of closure. There's nothing out of place about Avengers: Endgame. It's 181 minutes long and not a second is wasted.
Endgame also stands out for its cutting edge use of CGI, especially in the de-aging scenes. Superhero movies were never really smart investments before CGI because the tech wasn't ready for the imagination of the stories. But that was then. Avengers: Endgame looks flawless. Purely CGI characters blend into reality, and reality blends into CGI worlds seamlessly. There are battles in movies, and then there are the Endgame battles. Did you expect anything less from the final Avengers film? It's the best CGI movie ever made — until the next one.
Story-wise, Endgame takes little risks, but it does deserve credit for subverting expectations a bit. There are only a couple ways this thing can end and the writers manage to win surprise moments while hurling towards the inevitable. Fans may guess the general plot plan but they don't know the details, and there are many. Old friends surprise with new looks, new styles, and new abilities. There are touching character reunions, funny introductions, and exciting new partnerships fans will feast on. Marvel Studios has certainly made their own universe here. As much as the characters are taken from the comics, the story is not. It's made for the screen, not the page, and that's a good thing.
Avengers: Endgame, and other comic book movies, may not rise to the standards of exceptionally written movies, but that's OK. Comic books suffer from the same problem. They're mainly fun to look at, and that sense of wonder is why the Marvel movies work. They're chockablock full of Hollywood stars playing iconic characters. They're set in outer space and inside technologically advanced environments. And they're only bound by imagination. Anything is possible .
While Avengers: Endgame certainly fits into the above description, the main reason it works so well — especially in the end — is how it evokes pathos. And it's chiefly because our journey is over. Saying goodbye is never easy, and that's especially true when you've spent 10 years with the characters, and they've spent 10 years together. There's a real sense of chemistry amongst this huge cast and that doesn't just happen. Chemistry can't be faked. Avengers: Endgame is the swan song for this current version of The Avengers. There will most certainly be others, and they'll have a lot to live up to.