First, an apology. This review won’t be entirely spoiler-free. I am going to reference a couple of events that occur early in the film and can (and have been) widely deduced from the trailers. But if you really, really want to know NOTHING, stop listening or reading right now.
You have been warned.
Purely as a film, Endgame is not great. Look, the main plot involves time travel and there’s only been one movie franchise that had a good time travel plot and that’s Back to the Future. (There’s also an excellent episode of Deep Space Nine, Trials and Tribbleations, that’s probably the best time travel show ever made.) Endgame does not break the streak of bad time travel stories. After filling us with all kinds of babelfish talk about the “science” of time travel, it then breaks all its own rules and the overall story is incoherent.
The one nice thing about the time travel is it allows direct call-backs to previous films. Our heroes are inserted directly into scenes from other MCU movies, and we get a little more context around iconic set pieces. There’s also a brilliant comics-based Easter egg involving Captain America and an elevator. So, even though it doesn’t make sense, it’s still a lot of fun.
There are also some pretty big character changes early in the film that are hand-waved away with a little bit of exposition, leaving you scratching your head and asking, “Why?” There are some comic bits that go on too long or fall flat—mostly involving Thor or Ant-Man. Captain Marvel is presented as so powerful, you wonder why Nick Fury didn’t page her about a dozen movies ago.
But...you’re not supposed to be paying attention to any of those things. The movie is merely a foundation for emotional beat after emotional beat. The only think that kept me from standing up and cheering loudly during the final fight is the fact I was in a crowded theater. Seriously, this movie was made to be shown in a stadium with the entire crowd roaring.
And crying. There was audible sobbing throughout the theater I was in. My daughter went through tissues like they were candy. I was choking back tears plenty of times myself.
Call it an epilogue. Or a coda. Or a finale. Whatever it is, it wraps up what is really phase one of the MCU. I know Marvel calls this the end of Phase 3. (Well, technically, July’s Spider Man: Far From Home is the end of Phase 3.) But, this has been one continuous story since Iron Man in 2008. We’ve been building toward this film—this MOMENT—for eleven years. And at the heart of the entire saga have been two iconic figures: Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.
Endgame is, first and foremost, the story of Iron Man and Captain America. If you are a fan of either (or both), you will leave...well, not satisfied, per se, but complete. This is the end of their stories, at least, for now—this is the comics, after all. It is a huge, fantastic, celebratory flourish to eleven years and 22 films. The only question now, is what’s next?
The movie really does end with the credits. There are no credit scenes. The credits themselves, though, are a love-letter to the fans from Marvel and the actors who have been with us on this journey. So at least stick around for that—you’ll know it when you see it. Then, spend the remaining credits scroll decompressing and get one last, little audio-only tag at the end.
What did you think of Endgame? Go ahead and post spoilers in the comments if you wish. I’ll post warnings all over the place keeping people away from the comments unless they don’t care. For now, all I can say is, make mine Marvel.