When The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King debuted in theaters, I was pumped. Sure, my friends complained about the long ending — that film had about 5 different endings — but I loved the movie more with each subsequent viewing. Last night, watching Avengers: Endgame, I knew how my friends felt watching the LOTR finale.
I won’t spoil anything in this review, but I will say that Endgame is long, and it feels long. Two hours of plot development and character growth build to the climactic battle at the end — a well-deserved pay-off that comes far too late into the film.
The Avengers films are often chock-full of action, from start to finish. The first long scene in Avengers (2012) features the destruction of a S.H.I.E.L.D. base, and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) opens amidst battle, with each Avenger showing his or her strengths in combat. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) begins with a battle between Thanos (Josh Brolin), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
Endgame does not begin this way. The opening scene is powerful and will stick with audiences, but it’s not a battle. In fact, Avengers-style action takes quite a while to come on screen, and I have a hunch the film is actually better for that.
I’ve only seen Endgame once, and I expect the movie will get better with subsequent viewings, just like The Return of the King did.
Like millions of Star Wars fans, I had the opposite experience with Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017). At first, I thought the film was excellent, opening new avenues for the Force and bringing a fresh take on Star Wars. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized the movie just didn’t work. The excitement of opening night faded, and Star Wars fans have rightly demanded this movie be scrapped because it does so much damage to the universe — light speed does not work that way!
Endgame has some interesting science fiction mechanics that just might work. Most importantly, major characters get the screen time and growth they need to really flourish in this movie. By the time of the climactic battle, the sacrifices to beat Thanos are earned.
Due to the nature of the threat — Thanos wipes out half of humanity with the Infinity Gauntlet, which has the Time Stone — audiences will likely have guessed that the plot has something to do with time travel. Before seeing the movie, Avengers fans may even feel cheated, knowing that characters like Spiderman (Tom Holland) have to come back (because Spiderman: Far From Home is coming out later this year).
There was always a risk that an Avengers victory over Thanos would seem cheap, hollow, and shallow. After all, why does it matter that Thanos wiped out half the universe — and half of the jam-packed cast of characters — if this cosmic action can be undone?
Endgame manages to give audiences a satisfying conclusion that does not cheapen the ultimate victory. That is, perhaps, its greatest accomplishment.
A word about end-credits scenes — since they are a staple of these films: There is no end-credits scene in Avengers: Endgame. You do not need to stay until the end of the credits. That said, there is a wonderful tribute to the Avengers characters at the beginning of the credits, so make sure you stay for that. There is a mysterious bit of audio at the end of the credits, but it is hardly remarkable, and fans have no idea what it means.
Also, even die-hard Marvel fans will have trouble identifying one character toward the end of the film. The fresh-faced young man is Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins), the boy who helps Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) in Iron Man 3 (2013). Here’s the scene where Tony Stark meets Keener.
If you’ve seen the Avengers movies and are anxious to see how the cliffhanger ending in Infinity War is resolved, do go see Endgame this weekend. It is a good movie, and fans will enjoy it. Just don’t expect the eye-popping action from start to finish, and be prepared to wait quite some time for the battles to develop.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.