When the Marvel Cinematic Universe started to come together in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it was not only fashionable but easy to pick these superhero films apart — not merely for the sameness of their self-serious origin stories nor the clumsiness of their formal attributes, nor even for their growing monolithic influence on the industry as a whole. Primarily, the issue with these things was a lack of personality. And that’s a criticism that’s still valid now, but like a lot of stuff that one spends an inordinate amount of time with, the quirks of the MCU have started to become not only apparent, but even perhaps their main appeal. Last year’s Avengers: Infinity War brought 20-ish movies to a head with a cliffhanger that saw over half of this mega-franchise’s main characters reduced to dust, and you could choose to shrug that off with a ‘who cares, we know they’re not really dead,’ or see leaning into that very concept as an act of genuine peculiarity, even one that, for all its alleged gravity, located some subversive delight in the idea of a story that we all know will probably never end.
It’s the MCU in microcosm: silly, by turns lugubrious, riddled with fan service, and finally winning you over with humor, idiosyncrasy, and a terrific cast.
Avengers: Endgame is basically a three-hour, self-consciously ‘epic’ wrap-party/spectacle. The remaining heroes journey through space and time to undo the work of purple space maniac Thanos (Josh Brolin), bending comic-book surreality as readily as they make poignant sacrifices or crack silly jokes. As such it really is a fitting conclusion of sorts, very often exciting and funny even if the series as a whole has never managed much in the way of nuanced writing or, in particular, any sort of formal craft beyond the televisual. But honestly, Endgame will do; it applies more than enough weirdness and dazzle to offset the idea that we’re meant to take its seriousness, uh, seriously. Which is to say that it’s fun — often, really fun. It’s the MCU in microcosm: silly, by turns lugubrious, riddled with fan service, and finally winning you over with humor, idiosyncrasy, and a terrific cast. This writer has come to muster a (slightly begrudging, but still) level of respect for what Marvel has somehow pulled off here.