Warning: This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and the wider MCU.
At this point, it almost seems redundant to say that expectations for a Marvel movie were high and, despite that, the resulting film still smashed them out of the park. But just to get that piece of admin out of the way: they were and it did.
With a solid decade of hype to justify, the burden on Avengers: Endgame was bigger than possibly any piece of blockbuster cinema ever released. The fact that the film itself is now ever-so-close to becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time is proof that it did what it needed to.
Picking up in the aftermath of Thanos’ universe-cleaving finger Snap, which wiped out 50 percent of all living creatures in the galaxy, the film wastes no time in showing us the ramifications. A fraction into its three-hour running time, Thanos is dead and the world is moving on.
Considering how desperate many superhero movies are to remain grounded and realistic, the MCU’s built-in goodwill and versatility are so great that a film can open with Captain America and pals jumping into a spaceship and heading off to an alien planet with minimal setup before spending the rest of the movie time-travelling. You can’t buy audience trust like that.
In many ways, Endgame’s reliance on what happened before makes it tough to evaluate as a piece of cinema in its own right. It’s certainly a more sombre outing than Infinity War, but it retains the upbeat attitude of its predecessors.
Just watching it requires you to have a vague understanding of what happened before, but to get the most out of it you need to have watched the other movies two or three times at least. And recently so! A production like this, crafted with care as a reward for people who’ve been paying attention, only further demonstrates that the biggest fans of the MCU are the people making it – including returning directors the Russo brothers.
Much like Infinity War, though, this is a movie that acknowledges its own status in pop culture. You don’t need to be introduced to Iron Man. You don’t need to be introduced to Captain America. Hell, you don’t need to be introduced to Captain Marvel or Black Panther or Ant-Man, because if you’ve so much as looked at the side of a bus you’ll know that these characters are out there. In a world where Wikipedia exists, why should a film pretend audiences are going in blind?
And this is what makes Endgame able to spend so much time on its payoff. Although enjoyable for its character comedy and visual spectacle, the film’s greatest strength is that it’s the ultimate expression of the MCU’s connectivity.
It throws together almost every named character in the franchise, fills the scripts with back-references and payoffs to its 21 prequels, and delivers a climactic, character-resolving finale in which the Avengers fulfil their purpose, both collectively and individually. If the Marvel films ended here, we’d be sad – but we wouldn’t feel cheated.
Standout scene: No matter what your favourite individual moment of the film is, there’s no question that the standout scene is the final battle with Thanos, which delivers the exact stuff we all hoped it would: a truly epic throwdown between every the forces of evil and virtually every superhero in the MCU – or at least all the ones who made it to the finale alive (rest in peace Vision, Quicksilver, Black Widow and all those Asgardians who didn’t make it.)
Best quip: “Avengers…assemble.” Not a quip as such, but Cap’s call to arms as all the Snapped and un-Snapped heroes line-up to charge against Thanos’ army is absolutely iconic. Goosebumps.
First appearances: This was definitely not the film for introducing new people, and although Anthony Russo’s one-scene cameo as the MCU’s first ever confirmed-on-screen gay person is notable, it’s unlikely he’s going to get his own spin-off. Indeed, if anyone from this movie is likely to show up again, it’s Emma Fuhrmann as the older Cassie Lang – although a third Ant-Man movie hasn’t been announced. Yet.
So long, farewell: Get the handkerchiefs pressed because this film is all about the hard goodbyes. First, let’s pour one out for Thanos (Josh Brolin) – the guy who beat the Avengers and only got tricked out of it by some extremely unfair time-travel. In a just world, there are no do-overs. And let’s pour some harder spirits out for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose death didn’t even merit a funeral (but who is getting a solo movie soon, so fingers crossed the balance is redressed there). Steve Rogers is still technically alive but we probably won’t see Chris Evans being Captain America again, so that’s another one we have to deal with.
And hey, Tony Stark died. It wouldn’t be completely out of the question for us to see him again in the future but it’s safe to say Iron Man 4 is off the table. Can the MCU survive without its MVP? We’re guessing: probably. And no Robert Downey Jr doesn’t necessarily mean no more Iron Man. Rhodey solo movie, anyone?
It’s all connected: And boy, doesn’t this movie remind you of that. But here are a few of the tinier details you might not realise are direct reference back to previous MCU movies.
• Instructed to get the Quantum Realm portal started, Wasp replies “We’re on it, Cap” and receives a look from Scott, referencing the time in Ant-Man And The Wasp that she mocked him for using that nickname.
• When Tony’s daughter asks for cheeseburgers, it directly echoes the first thing Tony asks for when he gets back from Afghanistan in Iron Man. An American cheeseburger.
• In Captain America: Civil War, Tony uses technology to revisit his past and reveals that he wishes he could have told his dad: “You did the best you could.” In Endgame, when Tony recovers the Tesseract back in 1970, Howard Stark tells him “[Your dad] sounds like a pretty smart guy” to which Tony replies, “He did his best.”
• The city of Tønsberg (incidentally, believed to be the oldest town in Norway) – which becomes home to New Asgard in Endgame – has featured in the MCU before. In Thor, the town hosts a battle between the Odin-led Asgardians and the Midgard-invading Frost Giants; in Captain America: The First Avenger, it’s where the Red Skull first gets his mitts on the Tesseract.
Credit check: For the first time ever, Marvel Studios kept its collective trousers on throughout the whole credits sequence and just let the end of this movie breathe. No teasers for the future, no winks at the audience: just the time we need to process the conclusion of a 22-movie arc, knowing that there would be another but also aware that there probably won’t ever be another like this.
The only thing to happen in the credits comes right at the end, when, as the credits give way to a Marvel logo, the music disappears and we hear the sound effects of Tony Stark hammering away at his armor from Iron Man: a nod to the first movie in the MCU and a reminder of the humbler origins of this franchise. Despite this, we’re well aware that the Avengers will return in…well, something or other eventually.
(N.B. We’re not counting the six-minutes of deleted scenes and Spider-Man: Far From Home previews included in the limited cinematic re-release.)
Are you a fan of Avengers: Endgame? Are there any other aspects of it that you love, any that you didn’t, or anything that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!