Avengers: Endgame ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I thought the Captain America vs Iron Man thematic storyline was resolved in the agree-to-disagree climax in Civil War. Especially since it wasn't much of a thing in Infinity War, so it's a delightful surprise to see it be the final bow to tie this whole thing together. And it's done with them both doing their usual thing where Iron Man can't stop himself from inventing time travel despite his selfish urges not to, and Captain America just relentlessly chugging along without a trace of self-interest but ultimately finding peace by adopting each other's moral core. After having seen them fight this out across the years it never seems out of character, but rather a logical balance and a closure that is intensely satisfying.

Setups for future cash grabs are incredibly uninspiring, but do nothing to take away from the feeling that this really puts an end to a popcorn epic of biblical proportions. It is such a worthy finale that it enhances all previous movies (with few exceptions) and I would not hesitate to recommend the whole series to new viewers, even though I have been fairly cold along the way and a lot of the pieces have been pretty rough.

One of the most glaring weaknesses in the MCU becomes extra apparent in this movie; there was no Black Widow movie. Perhaps that is why the movie is structured in a way that most of the second act isn't about fighting the enemy, but going back to their younger selves and coming to terms with the mistakes they made when they didn't know better.

Despite this oversight, Black Widow is one of the most beloved characters and her sacrifice hits home not only with this viewer but also with a surprising amount of Avengers. Most characters have an especially strong bond with one or two other characters but she has her fangs deep in the hearts of three others, which may have been difficult if she wasn't a side character that could sneak into multiple storylines.

The whole Infinity saga has obviously lived in the shadow of 9/11, with the first Avengers tentatively poking at the open wound a bit. The sad Leftovers business here looks spawned from someone who wants to be ready to mourn and start rebuilding, but instead gets stuck in the fantasy of undoing everything. Not least with the opening where the swift burst of vengeful violence serves no purpose other than to eventually bring back the enemy more ill-tempered than before.

Wishing we could go back and do over is as powerful as it is unproductive, but it works to fuel a comic book religious epic to inspire the next generation to do better. Looking at history it's easy to see how past misdeeds like colonization and imperialism screwed up the world in a way that can't be unscrewed easily, but people need to feel like some things can improve through relentless do-gooders and inventors. Some people go to church for that, and some go to the movies. There may have been moments in this movie where I was staring, mouth agape, at the screen like Baird Whitlock or Judah Ben-Hur at the Christ.