Last year, Avengers: Infinity War came packed with a certain amount of inevitability. The entire film built up to an obvious conclusion, one that was sure to be reversed, and gave the impression that Marvel now had the ability to second guess any choice they made from now on. A year later in Avengers: Endgame, Thanos (Josh Brolin) states more than once, “I am inevitable,” addressing his destiny of murdering half the universe. Like Infinity War, it should be obvious that Endgame is heading towards an inevitable conclusion for anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet Endgame is anything but inevitable, full of surprises, quieter, dark moments and fan service that makes the last 21 films of the MCU worth the time and effort. In a time when superhero films are an inevitability, Avengers: Endgame shows that there can be satisfying closure even in the never-ending Marvel factory.
After Thanos’ destruction at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the Avengers that survived feel like they have failed not only their friends that disappeared, but the entire mourning galaxy. The entire team grieves in their own way, with Captain America (Chris Evans) trying to move forward, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) seeking vengeance, and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) blaming Cap’s absence since the events of their Civil War.
Wisely, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely let the characters deal with the fallout of Infinity War before moving forward with the meat of Endgame’s plot. This is most effective in relation to two of the characters missing from Infinity War: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd). Renner and Rudd’s losses are more personal than most, and presenting their grief brings a relatable pain to the actions of Infinity War. Markus and McFeely bring more emotional stakes to Endgame than any other Marvel film by allowing these characters to deal with the repercussions of what has come before.
But Avengers: Endgame isn’t just The Leftovers for Marvel; it’s mostly a celebration of every film since Iron Man. Endgame finds a way to make every MCU film seem essential, and maybe even overestimates how much people care for Thor: The Dark World. Instead of just catering to the diehard Marvel audience, Endgame feels like the final picture crafted from 21 pieces. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo cram so many characters, storylines, and references from the past eleven years into Endgame, creating a packed film that’s never overstuffed. Unfortunately, this does at times leave certain characters as mere cameos, but that’s a minor gripe in a film trying to do as much as Endgame does.
While Infinity War found a way to kill half of everything without substantial stakes, Endgame finds a way to make the fight more personal and emotionally resonate. These are characters the audience has followed for over a decade and while Endgame certainly won’t be the end of the MCU (the next film – Spiderman: Far From Home comes out in just three months), this feels like a goodbye to many of the characters that audiences have loved for years. Markus, McFeely, and the Russos stay true to the characters and gives a sendoff that plays right into what we know about these heroes.
Avengers: Endgame isn’t just a bleak reminder of Thanos’ plans; it’s also a remembrance and observance of all the characters and films that came before. Endgame isn’t just a goodbye to some beloved characters; it’s the beginning of a new era for the most successful franchise of all time. Remarkably, the Russos pay off the entire MCU with a staggering amount of material that is rewarding and playful, and still pays off the emotional investment of these characters in an affecting way. Endgame concludes this era of Marvel films with one of the MCU’s best, and showing a very bright future for what is to come from this inevitability of Marvel films.