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Feature Article

Review: Marvel's Avengers Endgame Is A Messy But Enjoyable Conclusion To The Saga

A love letter to the MCU--all of it.

Marvel's biggest movie ever, Avengers: Endgame, is now in theaters. To say the newest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is doing well would be selling it very short. It's crushed box office records and already become the eighth biggest movie of all time, and it's only been out for a single week. But is it any good? Read on for our review. For an in-depth discussion of the film, watch GameSpot's spoiler-filled Avengers: Endgame video review.

Whether you've already seen the movie or still planning to do so, we've got lots more for you to check out. We've rounded up Endgame's many Easter eggs and references, and we have a look ahead at the upcoming Phase 4 of the MCU, which we're getting a better sense of now that we've seen the movie. And if you're worried about making it through the whole three hours without a trip to the bathroom, we have some advice on when to pee during Endgame--this is very important, as there's a lot you can potentially miss if you go at the wrong time. We've also got the rundown on what to expect (or not) from the credits.

How do you wrap up a movie as big as Infinity War--hell, a franchise as expansive as the Marvel Cinematic Universe? How do you tie up the loose ends, close the time loops, and fulfill the character arcs of almost two dozen movies and over a decade of storytelling? According to co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo, they knew what they were getting themselves into with this whole thing--they wanted this ultimate conflict to be so complex and desperate that they'd be challenged to envision a way forward. And they definitely created that challenge.

The question now is whether that challenge paid off. And the answer, like the challenge itself, is complicated.

Avengers: Endgame absolutely works as a blockbuster movie experience. If you're at all invested in the plight the remaining Avengers face after the events leading up to and including Infinity War, you will feel satisfied with this movie. The much-discussed three-hour runtime is no joke, but almost every minute of it is used well, barring some extended gag scenes that probably could have been left for the Blu-ray. Endgame manages to tie the entire MCU up with a beautiful, emotional, gut-wrenching, hopeful conclusion, which is an undeniable achievement.

But it also frequently loses the thread, especially as the remaining Avengers break into distinct teams and embark on their own separate missions in an extremely complex series of plots and sub-plots to defeat Thanos once and for all. Part of the problem is that simply defeating him isn't enough--understandably, they want to undo what he did, as well. And their methods for doing so create infinite potential for plot holes, hand-waving, and rules that seem to get established in one scene and broken in the next. In other words, the Russos and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote themselves into a corner, and writing themselves out of it became maybe more complex than any movie--even one that's three hours long--could have possibly supported.

The clips that have been released leading up to Endgame's release take place almost entirely within the first few scenes of the movie. Eventually, the Avengers split and head off in very different directions, and the teams that form aren't the most obvious pairings. A huge chunk of the movie--most of the middle, in fact--feels itself like a bizarro take on the original Avengers formula, one where cosmic Marvel intercepted with Earth Marvel much earlier, where Don Cheadle and a daughter of Thanos team up and blast off into space together.

It's so fun. There are a ton of twists and turns, and at every stage Endgame will turn your expectations upside-down. Characters you thought would live will die, and characters you never expected to see again will reappear where and when you least anticipate it. This really is the movie where everything from the MCU comes together all at once--Infinity War felt stuffed to the brim at times, but it has absolutely nothing on the bursting mess that is Endgame. Even diehard MCU fans will struggle to recognize every random side character who makes a cameo, every one-liner that's actually a callback to a callback from a movie from years ago, and every other reference that seems familiar but you just can't quite place it because, come on, there are more than 20 of these movies and it's been a decade.

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Infinity War was the cliffhanger of the MCU, and Endgame is its cathartic climax. There's a battle that rivals Infinity War's final clash, but with even more characters. It feels less personal as a result--there are fewer epic hero moments like Thor's grand, crackling entrance into the Wakanda battle in Infinity War, and there are characters who have led their own movies who get one or two lines in this entire thing--or none at all. It was impressive how Infinity War felt like every character got some time in the spotlight, but Endgame doesn't try to replicate that. This movie is about the core Avengers, and the background characters and supporting cast around them are just that.

Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark kicked the MCU off with the original Iron Man, and in many ways he's the main character of this movie as well. The actor has come to completely embody Iron Man, and Endgame totally does him justice. Chris Evans' Captain America is arguably just as important, and he has quite an arc in this film. I won't spoil anything about Bruce Banner except to say his situation has changed a lot since the last time we saw him, and Mark Ruffalo's performance in this movie isn't marred by any distracting floating head CG like in Infinity War's final fight. Scarlett Johansson has always brought a lot of warmth to the role of Natasha, a character who should by rights be a stone cold killer, and Black Widow is arguably the team's beating heart. And as anyone who saw the trailers anticipated, Clint undergoes a significant transformation, although honestly the movie could have spent even more time on that.

Even with all the ground Endgame has to cover, it also has time for plenty of smaller, emotional moments--arguably too many, as it's easy to view the movie with a clinical eye and imagine all the scenes here and there that could have been surgically cut to make it leaner. The events of Infinity War truly screwed the world up, and scenes like seeing Captain America leading a survivors' support group emphasize the trauma. Some of these characters have changed a lot by the time we catch up with them--you'll be surprised by Thor's arc here.

But most of all Endgame is a love letter to the entire MCU--the whole thing. It's messy and confusing, and there's going to be a lot of discussion about whether the ending even makes sense--it basically breaks the rules set up throughout the entire movie leading up to it. But holy hell is it an emotional, fulfilling ride. I have no doubt we're going to spend the coming weeks picking and pulling it apart until we've over-analyzed every single aspect imaginable. But right now, in the aftermath, Avengers Endgame feels like a win.

The GoodThe Bad
The chemistry among all these charactersBreaks its own rules several times
Creative team-ups feel freshPlot winds up feeling messy
Multiple genuinely surprising twistsDubious logic at multiple points, including the ending
Clever gags and great overall sense of humor
Doesn't shy away from story's darker aspects
Feels like both a love letter to and an ending for the MCU
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mrougeau

Michael Rougeau

Mike Rougeau is GameSpot's Senior Entertainment Editor. He loves Game of Thrones and dogs.
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