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Avengers: Endgame [Spoiler-Free Review]

I’m not going to tell you a thing about the plot of Avengers: Endgame that isn’t in the trailers. And anyone who spoils the secrets of this film — the true culmination of every single one of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — deserves a punch in the throat from Thanos himself.

Yes, it clocks in at over three hours (3 hrs 02 minutes to be precise). Yes it’s overstuffed. Yes it’s worth it. Yes it’s everything fans are hoping it will be. Yes it has lots of surprises.

But that isn’t what’s truly amazing about Avengers: Endgame. What’s amazing is how personal it is. All of this really started with the Holy Trinity of Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. And each of them has a truly amazing journey.

Tony Stark started this all with a movie in the summer of 2008. And he has had more ups and downs than anyone. We see him at his worst. We see him at his best. We’ve seen his daddy issues. We’ve seen him try to be a mentor and a father figure himself. And we’ve seen him fail. Over and over and over and over. But perhaps Tony Stark’s superpower in all of this is not his intellect, or his wealth and privilege, but his resilience. Despite all his failings, he comes back.

Which brings us to Steve Rogers, whose journey in this film is also intensely personal. While Tony overcomes failure, Steve Rogers seems to seek martyrdom. He’s always fighting the good fight because he can take it, perhaps better than anyone can. But inside he’s still that skinny kid from Brooklyn and he’s been carrying a lot of guilt and desires around the road not taken from 1945.

And then there’s Thor, who simply doesn’t know how to fail. He literally doesn’t, and his guilt over Thanos and the death of nearly all of his people take a heavy toll. He also has regrets about the past, and perhaps there’s a way to fix what is broken. And talk about daddy issues– Thor’s guilt over what happened to his family looms large over everything.

These three broken people are the keys to unwinding what Thanos has done. And their journeys are as much personal as they are cosmic and fantastic.

It’s in the quieter moments that this film especially shines. While a bombastic third act that is unlike anything you’ve quite seen in the MCU, there are tiny, stolen moments that mean so much for each of the main characters.

So much of Avengers: Endgame is about generational trust and angst. So many of our characters are motivated by loss– especially loss of family — it would be hard not to. But the families of the MCU, from Thanos and his children to the found families of the Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers to the actual families of Tony Stark, Thor Odinson, Steve Rogers, Clint Barton, Scott Lang. . . the ties that bind us together are what matter, what ground us, what give us our values. They’re the people we fight with (what was Cap: Civil War but a family squabble gone wrong?), but they’re also the people we will fight beside.

Beyond the beautiful meaning of the film, what is most amazing is how it ties up the entire history of the MCU is a beautiful bow. Everything you wanted to see? I hate to be so grandiose but most of it is in there. No matter what your favorite film or franchise is, you will get a moment that directly ties back or references something from that movie, and perhaps several.

There are a couple of “problems” with Endgame, but they are few. This is a weird gripe, but as amazing as the final act is, it makes the preceding two hours a little less good by comparison. But, we needed that setup.

The film is a little padded, but this is not the movie to hold back on. And I daresay on repeat viewings it will be incredibly hard to identify anything that could or should have been cut.

It also starts incredibly abruptly, sort of out of nowhere with no fanfare, no Marvel page-flip animation. But it works because we are meant to be taken aback by it. It’s meant to be disruptive and raw. We are talking about the aftermath of Thanos’s snap, right?

There are a couple of characters who get short shrift, but not many. And there is a surprising lack of Captain Marvel in the movie. However, this makes a lot of sense. With her Omega-Level powerset, her presence makes so many of the other characters superfluous, and you would simply get a Danvers Ex Machina to get out of so many situations.

Plus, as she explains, there are thousands of other planets out there dealing with the aftermath of Thanos’s snap, and the others don’t have The Avengers to help. But, don’t cry, Carol Corps. She gets her time(s) to shine. But I could’ve done with a little more Carol Danvers.

This film also features a scene nestled in the middle of the climax that teases for a tiny moment what a thing to behold an A-Force movie could be. It was one of several moments where I cheered through tears of joy.

There were no less than five times when tears welled up in my eyes. Sometimes in joy, sometimes in sadness. It’s not perfect, but it is perfect in that it ties up everything from the last 11 years and delivers on fans’ wildest dreams. For their next act, the Russo Brothers should audition to take over for Santa Claus in terms of their ability to consistently deliver the magic. Avengers: Endgame is an emotional thrillride. Don’t let anyone spoil it for it. And don’t spoil it for others.

4.75 out of 5 stars