Spoiler-free review: “Avengers: Endgame” is a homage to the heart of Marvel’s universe


It’s the end of an era.

For over a decade, Marvel Studios has been cranking out the superhero movies that have defined a generation. Although the universe will keep spinning, nothing will be the same after “Avengers: Endgame.” Heart-wrenching and powerful, Marvel crafted a nostalgic tribute which tied up storylines with a promising future.

The film begins five years after “Infinity War,” where instability reigns. The remaining Avengers function as a peacekeeping force across the universe, struggling to maintain a fragile sense of order in the wake of destruction. The return of Scott Lang as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), rescued by a fluke from his quantum realm conundrum in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” however, catalyzes the return of hope, and the Avengers assemble for one last fighting chance to save the planet.

A heavily anticipated finale, “Endgame” is the fourth Avengers movie but the 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film hit theaters on April 26 and  smashed pre-sale ticket records, setting records for first-hour and first-day tickets sold on both Atom Tickets and Fandango (and crashing several ticket sites in the process). During opening weekend, “Endgame” is also projected to dominate, making around $300 million in the United States alone.

For the most part, Marvel plays it safe in this film, sticking to their audience-pleasing roots. Ant-Man, Thor and Rocket dominated the humor department, but in general, an abundance of jokes from all sides lightened bleaker themes and slower scenes throughout the film. Marvel couldn’t afford anything less for their long-awaited finale.

The real moments that pulled the film together, however, were the allusions to previous movies. My mom, who had only seen the “Captain America” and “Avengers” movies, still thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, but the references were sprinkled like paprika to add some spice to an otherwise standard plot.

The film is a delight, a reminder of all the gems and good moments in Marvel’s cinematic history. Yet as a three-hour film dealing with dozens of characters, an entire storyline to fix and an audience expecting the unpredictable, “Endgame” had its lapses. Five years after “Infinity War,” the film spends time world-building this scarred but familiar planet as though the audience doesn’t live on Earth. Fallen heroes, wrecked by the effects of the snap, come off as whiny, self-centered and moody. At first, it’s understandable. After an hour and a half, it’s frustrating.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo also made some odd plot decisions. There’s a tightrope that movies as ambitious and anticipated as these have to walk between unpredictability and realism. For a handful of moments, the plot twists felt too unnecessary and too unfeasible. Other times, big reveals felt forced, playing to every fan’s fantasy in order to win approval.

In Marvel’s defense, those scenes are few. The majority of the film highlights the best of the years: lighting as gorgeous as the Valkyrie flashback scene from “Thor: Ragnarok,” raw emotion as tangible as Peter Parker lifting the rubble in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and even the palpable yearning captured in Steve Rogers’ final words to Peggy before he crashed the plane into the ice in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”

For anyone skeptical of such an ambitious undertaking, don’t be. “Endgame” hit the sweet spot, a testimonial to one of the largest and longest-lasting franchises in film history. Even when scenes are sluggish or characters are cringe-worthy, the honest reliability outweighs any failures.

Sitting through a three-hour movie can be a challenge. Perhaps the most difficult feat is to avoid large sodas. It would be a shame to miss a key scene for a bathroom break. With mild profanity and two rather gruesome moments, the youngest members of society should also consider spending the evening with a friend instead. Limit as many distractions as possible, and prepare yourself for a film worthy of the anticipation.