"Avengers: Endgame" is a crowning achievement for the superhero genre
The Russo Brothers have approached the finale in a way that honors the characters, the past adventures, and most importantly, the fans who have supported the cinematic universe all this time.
For nearly twelve years, and spanning more than twenty films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has entertained audiences of all ages, races, and backgrounds. It has combined decades of comic book lore with ever-changing pop culture, and created an empire of what can only be described as the filmmaking equivalent to comfort food. Whether you love them or hate them, these films produce maximum escapism. They engage, captivate and charm their way into theaters every year, raking in billions of dollars. Why? Because they're popcorn-eating fun. But for some, these films represent something so much more.
With such a long run, it's only natural that some would feel the fatigue. However, many fans have grown up with this franchise, and the thought of it ending is like fearing the loss of a family member. So, how does one end a universe with hundreds of characters, locations and timelines? Carefully, and with a whole lot of luck. That's how.
Not only do the Russo Brothers – the directorial forces behind "Avengers: Endgame" – end the franchise with one of the most memorable goodbyes in cinematic history - yes, not just with regards to superhero films, but CINEMA as a whole - but they pay homage to what came before: the heroes, yes, and the people behind the masks too. It’s a grand collaboration of actors, filmmakers, and heroes and villains that will leave you nostalgic of the last ten years of your life.
Now, is that all a bit sentimental? A little sugary? Yeah, Buster, you bet it is. When you grow up with a franchise, especially one that has ignited years of imagination, created long-lasting friendships, and kept you excited and hopeful for sequels when real life wasn’t as great, you tend to reminisce. I remember when the original "Iron Man" came out way back in 2008, and how, during that time, I was just a nervous little seventh grader with few friends. Suddenly, I had a new icon to look up to, and he loved to eat cheeseburgers. Then we got the big green guy, then a dude who shoots lightning from a hammer, and then a patriot with a hot bod. One by one the team began to build, and I had something to look forward to each and every summer.
But it didn’t stop there. Moviegoers have sat through twenty-one films, and now, the twenty-second and final adventure is here to close the show. Were my expectations high? You could say that. Was I skeptical? You bet your butt. Did I leave the theater satisfied? More than you know.
The movie picks up directly after the events of "Infinity War." We are propelled into a world where 50% of all living things have vanished, and morale of the remaining half is at an all-time low. Even Earth’s mightiest heroes have difficulty getting through the day, and some even attend support groups to deal with their guilt and depression. Knowing that they failed in stopping Thanos, the weight of their actions has never been so heavy. The Russo Brothers explore this new and haunting world with delicate focus, dedicating nearly forty-five minutes to the post-snap universe. It’s a surprising approach, and one that pays off in a major way.
This perspective also fixes "Infinity War's" lackluster stakes, which were mainly due to Marvel's obsessive marketing campaigns. "Endgame" proves that no one is safe - not from Thanos, not from their past enemies, not from themselves. It will keep you guessing as to who will face their end next, and the results, even when they're seen coming from a thirty miles away, are beautifully laid out.
Other than those details, however, my lips are sealed.
Throughout cinema’s long history, this type of storytelling has been attempted but has never before succeeded in such a powerful way. "Star-Wars" and "Harry Potter" are two examples that revolutionized how sequels are made, but it’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe that changed the game entirely. It’s an anomaly, the best kind, and will likely never occur again. This leaves a concluding film all that much more nerve-racking to make, let alone watch in the theater. One wrong move, and over a decade’s-worth of films will have been for nothing. Not to mention that each and every fan would then come together, grab their flaming Mjolnirs, and charge Marvel’s headquarters.
However, the Russo Brothers have approached the finale in a way that honors the characters, the past adventures, and most importantly, the fans who have supported the cinematic universe all this time. Without giving anything away – trust me, the less you know about "Avengers: Endgame," the better – all of Marvel’s history is given a fair chance to shine in the epic three-hour showdown. But it isn’t an action fest, nor does it throw lasers and explosions in your face like previous installments. Instead, "Endgame" gives just as much careful attention to character arcs and emotion as it does its flashy fight scenes. This is not a movie meant to blow you away by visuals – although, it does. Instead, it takes what you expect from superhero movies and quietly corrects your understanding. By the end, you’ll be knocked over from how genuinely heartfelt and powerful the narrative becomes as the film pushes on.
In addition, the pacing is brilliant. With a running time of over three hours, it wouldn't have surprised me if things became tangled or self-indulgent. However, the Russo Brothers avoid this by giving every character their own big moments without muddling the overarching plot. For a cast of nearly 100 people, it is surprisingly organized and easy to follow.
With that said, those who are unfamiliar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even by just a movie or two, will have difficulty following what is happening. This narrative is far from accessible to the common viewer, and that's a good thing. It doesn't need to be. When you have the weight of more than twenty films on your shoulders, you tell the story you need to and are able to; if some are confused, they’ll fill in the plot holes on their own time. This is about concluding what has already been said. This is about providing fans with a payoff more than a decade in the making.
The same can be said for audience members who have remained skeptical and fatigued by the franchise for years now. "Endgame," while surprising, emotionally jarring and a technical marvel (eyyy, puns), it won’t necessarily get you up and into the bandwagon. It will, however, encourage you to consider the evolution of superhero films, and how much of your distaste for the genre is based on storytelling and character growth. If those two elements have always been lacking for you, "Endgame" may just change your mind.
Now, you may be thinking: “Charlie, bro, why are you being so vague? Tell us what is so great about it!” I hear you, I hear you. Here’s the thing: this type of experience will come around once in our lifetime. Other franchises will attempt this, some may succeed, but there will only ever be one cinematic event as large and anticipated as "Avengers: Endgame." Because of that, I don’t want to spoil one second of footage, not even one frame. Enjoy this moment. Trust me, it will be worth it.
- Final Thoughts -
"Avengers: Endgame" is one of the most satisfying and emotionally rich conclusions to ever grace the cinematic superhero genre. The Russo Brothers pay homage to not only the films that started the saga, but also to the comics and fans. Skeptics will remain unfazed by the film’s many light shows and peppered humor, but for those who have followed the story and its characters from the beginning, for the true believers, you will find it to be nothing short of excelsior.
("Endgame" image courtesy of BGR.com)