Despite all the criticism Marvel gets for playing it safe and not taking many real risks with their storytelling and character development, there are a couple of things they get right: taking their films seriously and being dramatic without coming across as bleak. The ending of the previous Avengers feature, “Infinity War,” was arguably the biggest downer of any MCU flick. And yet, the follow-up, “Endgame,” doesn’t come off as depressing or too serious. After all, it is a superhero movie for young people. In constrast, one common complaint about the modern DC movies or new “Star Wars” is that the use of drama mixed with comic relief don’t mesh and is jarringly executed.
“Endgame” is the fourth Avengers film and the final addition to the phase three stage of Marvel. Nearly every major character, leading and supporting, makes an appearance by the end. So many characters, in fact, that I’m not even going to bother to name all of them. But let’s just say this has to be a record for Oscar-nominated stars in a single movie. The remaining heroes are broken emotionally from Thanos (Josh Brolin) successfully snapping half of the world’s population from existence. The remaining species are numb and helpless. Until Scott Lang/Antman (Paul Rudd), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Steve Rogers/Cpt. America (Chris Evans) come up with the unlikely solution to reverse the villain’s consequences.
Half of “Endgame” is spent on the four heroes trying to convince the rest of the Avengers to join in on the crazy plan, while the other half is essentially a long action sequence. There are two major deaths that are emotionally taxing, though I was expecting a lot more from it, what with all the hype from the previous movie. But while the tone and pacing are stellar, a handful of story and character decisions are a little divisive. In many ways, “Infinity War” was “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) to Endgame’s “Return of the Jedi” (1983). In “Endgame,” some resolutions, like for Scott, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), are very satisfying. But then some, like “nice” Hulk’s comic relief or most of Thanos’ scenes in the third act, are a little clunky. Unsurprisingly, the best comedy is from the talking raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper).
While I don’t think it’s necessary to revisit every single Marvel film before watching “Endgame,” do keep in mind there is A LOT going on in this thing. Perhaps refreshing yourself on your faves of the franchise, or at least the past three Avengers efforts, might make it easier to follow.