Sealing the Deal tends to take low priority in the movies these days, with measured resolutions and logical endpoints largely phased out in favor of open-ended tosses to various cinematic universes. Happily, though, Marvel’s gargantuan, decade-in-the-making Avengers: Endgame largely nails the dismount, blending clever callbacks and newfound cosmic hooey into a satisfyingly constructed mass of entertainment. While it improves upon the previous installment in a number of aspects—there’s much more Ant-Man, for one thing—what ultimately impresses the most is how it allows itself to wrap things up and let a number of significant curtains fall.
Picking up shortly after the cataclysmic final moments of Infinity War, the story finds Earth’s few remaining heroes (led by the uneasily allied Iron Man and Captain America) attempting to undo the schemes of Bad Guy Thanos, via a cobbled-together machine that … yep, that’s all the details you’re going to get. Faced with a ridiculous number of splintered team-ups and temporary alliances, returning directors Anthony & Joe Russo show an impressively deft touch with the material, giving the majority of the overstuffed cast a moment or two each to distinguish themselves amid the steady series of explosions. While the sheer amount of dangling plot threads from earlier entries do bog down the pacing occasionally, it’s the character interactions that keep things humming, particularly when spotlighting Chris Hemsworth’s continuing evolution from amiable side of beef to ace comedic underplayer.
Three solid hours of blockbustering can test even the appeal of a Raccoon with a ray gun, and the slew of references here to previous events, quick-blink cameos, and beam-emitting McGuffins present in the first two acts may well prove daunting to those in the audience unwilling to brush up on Marvel’s back catalog before sitting down. When Avengers: Endgame does finally set all the pieces in place, however, it blows up real, real good, with a grand finale that begins on a mammoth scale and just keeps finding ways to geometrically expand, culminating in an extended series of splash panels that should inspire both fist-pumps and well-earned lumps in the throat. If you’re going to give the people what they want, this is the way to go about it.