By weekend’s end Avengers Endgame will have racked up good reviews, a slew of broken records, and entered the pantheon of superhero greats. It’s a success by any and every measure, and I’m not here to argue. It’s not perfect, no movie is perfect, and the franchise ain’t over yet, much to the chagrin of snobs everywhere and a media rumor mill that’s entirely too reboot-happy. The Avengers will live on in one way or another, either via new-ish team-ups or some novel iteration altogether. The Revengers? Dark Avengers? Asgardians of the Galaxy? I’m spitballing for giggles here, but it’s safe to say after the epochal accomplishment of Feige’s Infinity Saga, the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t going anywhere.
From magic to time travel, moving passages to manic, witty comedy, the Russo brothers have yet again weaved together disparate parts into one deliriously entertaining whole. They’ve corralled an unseemly number of characters and actors and character actors for the sole purpose of next-level fan service (not a pejorative), and most of it works. Much of that can be credited to Robert Downey Jr in perhaps his best performance as Tony Stark since the original Iron Man eleven years ago. He, Evans, and a burlier Hemsworth enjoy the lion’s share of Endgame’s nimble writing, a fitting send-off to these founding members it is. With Downey better than ever, and the rest of ’em on their A-game (special shout-out to Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, and Scarlett Johansson), Joe and Anthony deliver on the promise of Civil War and more, offering a mature, more seasoned level of cinematic storytelling than, say, the hollow action of Infinity War or the wily fisticuffs of Thor Ragnarok. Endgame is a masterclass in pacing and ensemble acting, if not visual effects. Thanos (Josh Brolin) remains a good example of Hollywood wizardry, ditto the Hulk and Ant-man tomfoolery. Regardless, the brothers Russo cannot string together a believable CGI landscape or background to save their lives. Whether it’s laziness or a lack of perfectionism, they gloss over such glaring VFX faux pas like they’re directing a low-budget indie with little money to spare, not the biggest film ever made by the biggest studio going.
These are minor quibbles, however, when facing such a case of monumental ambition, one that can move you to tears or near-tears like the filmmakers know the back of your hand. What a deft move to spend so much time with Clint Barton and Scott Lang, two men who have lost wives and children, much like the rest of the world. What a surprise to bring back so many old faces we thought we’d never see again, the old flames and ancient ones and long-lost supporting roles. The big going-away party includes not only fireworks and waterworks, but a poignant meditation on loss, grief, failure, and some of the best character work ever by Marvel Studios. Endgame may not be the best comic-book movie ever made, but it’s damn near close, and a perfect ending to an imperfect saga. The saga’s over but the world will live on.