*mild spoilers ahead*
If last year’s Avengers: Infinity War was The Empire Strikes Back of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (because, man, did it feel just as dark and brutal as Empire), then Avengers: Endgame is The Return of the Jedi, with better acting but none of those ridiculous tree-bears. In other words, Endgame is just all kinds of wall-to-wall, non-stop kick-assery.
Infinity War ended with one of the most harrowing, unforgettable scenes in cinema: the obliteration of half of all living things. Endgame picks up immediately from where the previous movie left off, showing us the haunting aftermath.
The surviving Avengers on Earth–Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, War Machine, and Rocket–are soon joined by Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Nebula, but despite their best efforts, they swiftly learn that Thanos’ victory is complete.
Or can it? Five years afterward, the unassuming Ant-Man returns to Earth from being trapped in the Quantum Realm, with a theory on how “The Decimation,” as the mass death-event is called, can be undone.
I can’t tell you much more without revealing spoilers, but suffice it to say that the Avengers engage on a desperate mission across time and space as Thanos again threatens the universe. Led by the reconciled Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (whose falling out had splintered the team), the heroes (and we, the audience), revisit key scenes from previous MCU films, albeit from different perspectives–and sometimes with vastly different outcomes.
While Iron Man and Captain America have the most screen time, the heretofore secondary characters of Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Ant-Man, and Nebula take on larger, more significant roles (Don Cheadle’s War Machine still, alas, doesn’t have much to do).
And Thor…what can I say? From starting off Infinity War beaten but defiant, to returning, full of fury, in the nick of time at the end of that film, Thor seethes throughout the first few minutes of Endgame before lashing out–and finding that all his anger and power have achieved nothing.
He then spends the next five years in drink and sloth, distracting himself from his failure to prevent the deaths of billions. That sounds heavy, but it’s handled with comedy: to paraphrase Animal House, “fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to save the cosmos, son.” The depiction of Thor rubs me wrong (it’s not at all like how Walt Simonson did him in the comics), but it’s my only complaint about the film.
Now that’s the God of Thunder!
The movie clocks in at three hours, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it, moving briskly even though it has a lot of story to tell, with lots of characters. It’s a lot of fun, with a lot of funny bits, and the final battle reminded me very much of a similar scene from last year’s Ready Player One:
Infinity War focused very much on the character of Thanos, and it was exhausting; Endgame focuses very much on the characters of the individual Avengers (with lots of call-outs to previous films), and it’s exhilarating.
Infinity War posited that love is a weakness that cannot stand against monstrous evil. Endgame pushes back: love–specifically, sacrificial love–is a strength that even monstrous evil cannot overcome.
Endgame has plenty of sacrifices, plenty of endings (happy and sad), and an air of finality, as if an era–not just in the MCU, but maybe in cinema–has concluded. Spider-Man: Far From Home is the next Marvel movie, coming in July, and we’ll see whether it’s a coda to Endgame or the start of something new.
Kenton Kilgore writes kickass SF/F for young adults and adults who are still young. In addition to This Wasted Land, he is the author of Lost Dogs, the story of the end of the world as seen, heard–and smelled–by a dog.
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