The release of Avengers:Infinity War last year felt like the grand payoff of our decade-long investment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Twenty years ago, most of the public hadn’t even heard of many of these heroes, but their erasure from existence by the snap of Thanos’ finger and our resulting shock showed how entrenched they’d become in our psyche.
The second part of this saga, Avengers:Endgame, is not only the narrative completion of Infinity War’s breathless conclusion, but also the necessary tonal counterpart. Part one was Thanos’ journey, the execution of his lifelong plan to bring devastation to the universe in pursuit of his brand of justice. From his point of view, he was the hero of this story, while the Avengers were mere supporting characters and temporary obstacles. Endgame puts our favorite superheroes back in the spotlight for a more familiar MCU ensemble adventure, bringing hope and humor back to a world that had lost its reason to live.
To avoid spoilers, we won’t describe the plot in too much depth, but suffice to say there was always going to be a way out in a story that involves time manipulation at either the cosmic or microscopic level. Infinity War did an exceptional job depicting the emotional reaction to the possibility that a solution is even possible. After five years of accepting their loss, optimism is a risky prospect. What if they only make things worse? What if they believe in the possibility that they might succeed, only to fall even farther?
While there is little point comparing Infinity War to Endgame in terms of quality—picking a favorite is like asking which piece of bread is your favorite when both are essential to the sandwich—there is a unique joy to Endgame that was missing in its predecessor. In Infinity War, as Thanos collects more stones, we discover how fragile the universe is and how helpless mortals are against cosmic forces. It made for a compelling and tragic space opera, but stood apart from the rest of the MCU. In Endgame, the power of working with one another to overcome past mistakes for the sake of future generations is uplifting. Regret and failure make us want to retreat into isolation, but sharing it with each other, searching for the things that unite us, is a powerful way to confront these challenges.
One last significant distinction worth mentioning is that Infinity War felt like a tightening noose on the entire cinematic universe, one that condensed all of these disparate narratives and forever changed them. Its ending left us wondering how anything could follow it (putting aside the fact that “comic book deaths” are notoriously impermanent). Endgame opens up the story to limitless possibilities, bringing together characters in very unexpected ways and pulling others apart. This is a resolution to this chapter, but this is not the end of the story, not by a long shot. God help you if you’re a newcomer to the series, but if you care about these characters, even a little, Endgame will be the gratifying experience you’ve been hoping for.
Avengers: Endgame, PG13, 181 minutes. See it at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX, and Violet Crown Cinema.
See it again
PG, 135 minutes. See it May 5 at Regal Stonefield Cinema.
Local theater listings:
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema 377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213
Violet Crown Cinema 200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000