More than 10 years and almost two dozen films built to this — and at the end of it all, the Endgame, if you will, not a moment of that time feels wasted. There are a staggering number of characters in the MCU, but none of them are small anymore. If there was any doubt in that, the events of Infinity War erased them. They erased a lot of things. Or more aptly, a lot of people.
Our heroes are left reeling, even as they regain their core centrality for this last great effort. To now, these team up films have always been jovial — big character moments, occasional big egos and floods of camaraderie. Even in Civil War, the clash of Avengers is a thing of cinematic joy. Everyone has an agenda, but everyone is showing off for each other too. In Infinity War, that joy turned to ashes in our mouths as Thanos achieved his megalomaniacal dream: the snap.
If we were inclined to feel a touch of emotion for the Mad Titan when, in his post-homicidal reverie, he acknowledged that it cost him everything to realize his vision, Endgame wastes not even an instant reminding us what it cost everyone else. Suffice it to say we start on a somber note, and the Russo brothers don’t rush to do us any favors. We catch up with what’s left of Earth’s Mightiest Superheroes, and it is anything but business as usual.
Thor doesn’t have any magic tricks left and there’s nothing for Hulk to smash. Natasha has no more favors to call in and no spycraft to solve the unsolvable. Even Carol Danvers can’t photon blast what’s come to pass. Cap has depleted his reserves of rousing speeches. It seems even he can’t do *this* all day. But he must. And so he does. For five years. They all do.
For those who watched the trailers with a keen eye, the time jump should come as no surprise, but the Russos deliver that duration with a weight that’ll knock the air clean out of you. From there our heroes have to take one last shot at the impossible — whatever it takes — they wouldn’t be our Avengers if they could live with anything else. The precise detail of that Hail Mary is best left to unfold with no more or less context than this: we’re in the Endgame now.
In a universe where the stakes have always been trivial at best, the sudden onset of the unbearable cost of failure brings an entirely new flavor to the table. It’s like spending a lifetime eating sweets and suddenly finding out what happens when salt comes to the party at the same time. The MCU has afforded me (like so many others) some of the happiest moviegoing moments I’ve known in the past decade. To have it suddenly move beyond playing the heartstrings into grit and sorrow and rage was jarring, if only until it was inspiring. Who’d have imagined that a world with a trash-talking raccoon would become the harbinger of profound emotions
Then again, maybe we should have known all along. There’s always been much made of the pedigree of Marvel’s star-studded casts, I mean, a best actress winner just launched their latest franchise. But perhaps we haven’t talked enough about the storytelling and acting that have unfolded over all of those end-of-the-world escapades.
Take Steve Rodgers. The star-spangled stud who started out fighting to fight on the frontlines, who trades his life for faceless others, who came back only to see everything he’d known was a lie, who found it in himself to turn against orders in the name of what was right. Think of all of that, and everything else besides. Now, picture him standing alone, silhouetted before a hoard of enemies, unwavering, doing what he’s always done, because it’s all he can do.
Now, tell me where the awards love is for Chris Evans, who delicately built Cap from single-minded soldier to weary hero who contains multitudes. And what of Tony Stark’s journey from arrogant toe rag to the irrepressible big brother who wants to protect the whole world? Everywhere you look, a super suit is the least interesting aspect of the person underneath. That doesn’t just happen.
Popcorn movies they may be, but from Iron Man to Endgame, the MCU has come of age — and it’s a spectacular thing to behold.
Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Runtime: 3h 01m
Release Date: April 26, 2019