Who lives? Who dies? What’s the status of Baby Groot? Truth is, the biggest spoiler for Avengers: End Game has already been circulating for a few weeks: This movie is more than three hours long. So you already know you’re in store for a sweeping epic of grand proportions. This review is here to provide you with the answer to your all-important question.
Yes, Avengers: End Game exceeds the hype. It’s sharper than last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, and I’ll take it one step further and say it’s the best installment yet in the 21-course Marvel Cinematic Universe saga. Somehow, directors Anthony and Joe Russo have crafted a coherent and exhilarating narrative that incorporates all your favorite superheroes (and many of their loved ones) over the past decade. The running time goes by in a blur. Really. Besides, who has time to look at a watch when so many zingers and thrills and iconic moments-to-be are packed into an emotionally resonant extravaganza. Satisfaction is guaranteed — so is a second viewing.
When we last left the Avengers, evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) had collected all six of Infinity Stones and succeeded in his plot to wipe out half of the Earth’s population. That meant the likes of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Star Lord (Chris Pratt) also turned into ash. But the OG group of Avengers were spared — including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) remain. And along with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), they try to immediate reverse the results. Their effort, though spirited, doesn’t go well. They’re going to need some help. Enter a few familiar faces that were MIA in Infinity War, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). The group finally uses their considerable strength and brain power to arrive at the solution.
Such is the crux of a straightforward story that’s refreshingly accessible and easy to understand considering the stakes. Fear not, you don’t have to be a comic book nerd or possess a Phd in Marvel Studies to enjoy the proceedings. Certainly viewers of all ages will guffaw at the hilarious jokes. One of the benefits of having Rudd in this chapter is that he provides pitch-perfect comic timing — even a throwaway line about a peanut butter sandwich gets laughs. Meanwhile, the fans that have stuck with the entire saga, even Iron-Man 2, will lap up the Easter eggs and callbacks. Even the cameos are wow-worthy.
But we already know that Marvel movies are funny. And, true to form, the third-act face-off is a CGI spectacle that exceeds its welcome by roughly seven minutes. The key difference maker in Avengers: End Game lies in the authentic outpouring of emotions that unfold on screen. Throughout these installments, we’ve seen our superheroes in peril, their lives in grave danger. But it’s been impossible to fully invest in the drama knowing that a new Avengers movie was flying in the wings. Of course Black Panther was going to be OK; no way anyone is killing off Thor; as if Spider-Man will bite it. We all knew they’d save the day. Given that End Game title, nobody here is a surefire survivor. This means the tears are real and the poignant moments stick to the guts. The result is a richly rewarding viewer experience. The fact that the Russos give us monster-sized heart in a monster-budgeted blockbuster is a bona fide accomplishment.
Stay for the credits. Not just out of curiosity about the tag scene but to pay respect to the actors that have embodied these roles for the better part of a decade. Johansson, the lone female Avenger for way too long, has never lost her moxie. Ruffalo can sell both the neurotic scientist and the rampaging Hulk. Renner acts with soulfulness in his eyes. Hemsworth has evolved into a loose, self-deprecating comedy god. Evans embodies the goodness of a legit American hero. And the irrepressible Downey proves again and again why he’s been a movie star for the past 30 years. These Avengers may never assemble again. Enjoy them while you still can in a film that’s truly one for the ages.
Avengers: End Game opens in theaters on Thursday, April 25
Also published on Medium.