Picking up right after the infamous "snap" of Thanos that wiped out half of the Earth's population, EndGame seeks to function as a sequel and as a season finale. The comparison to TV is apt here given that the film is the culmination of 21 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As TV has mimicked cinema for some time now, Avengers: Endgame is proof that movies have started to mimic TV.
The plot will be kept secret here. Anyone who has invested the time to get here knows what Endgame is going to be about. It is a huge credit to Anthony and Joe Russo for subverting expectations. You will go into the film thinking you know where it is going to go and within 20 minutes, all of your confidence in the direction of the plot will be shattered. The payoff so many fans seek is there but the road to it is more labyrinthian than you may expect.
The first hour is near perfect. The film is able to remind us of the shocking ending of Infinity War, set up where all the still alive players are, and kick off a wild plot to save everyone. The film then shifts into a dense, often convoluted trip down memory lane. Endgame strives to celebrate all 21 previous films and while all the nostalgia produces some fun moments, it drags the middle hour to a crawl. Luckily the final hour provides enough emotional wallops and satisfying endings to make up for a dull middle section. At three hours, the film is exhausting but never unsatisfying.
One of the things that make Endgame less of an endurance test is the amount of humor it injects. The film could easily have taken on a dour tone but it moves away from that early on and gives fans the hilarious banter that has helped sustain the MCU for years. It relies upon the enormous cast of characters that have been developed over so many years. When the plot gets a bit messy, I never cared because I am invested in so many of these performances.
The key performance here is Robert Downy Jr as Tony Stark. If you can remember many years ago when Iron Man first came out, it was defined by Downy's performance. He was able to bring so much personality to the role that it set a standard for the entire MCU. Each actor who has taken on the role of one of these superheroes has had to find the same level of characterization. Think about how far Chris Hemsworth has come with Thor, for example. Thor started out as a bore and has now shifted to become the funniest Avenger. That is a testament to the actors involved and the Russos understand this throughout Endgame. They give each character a moment to shine, resulting in a celebration of all of these actors.
Endgame is occasionally clunky and perhaps a bit corny at times but it still stands as a huge achievement. The film balances so many things successfully, from the tone that shifts from heavy reflection to humor to rousing character arcs to the immense juggling of characters and epic action. Fans will feel like this movie is made for them, casual viewers may not care for all of the easter eggs, payoffs, running jokes and side plots that get wrapped up. I ate up most of it and when the film was done, I felt overwhelmed. Endgame often plays like a highlight reel of the entire MCU. This is a movie for the fans and I believe fans will be pleased.