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Enlarge / The beginning of the End… game.Marvel Studios

Ars Technica takes spoilers seriously. This Avengers Endgame review has been written with a bare minimum of plot details, for those interested in seeing the film completely fresh-eyed starting on Friday, April 26.

The buzz word "inevitability" comes up a few times during the three-hour course of Avengers Endgame. And it's fitting: there's no ignoring the buzz and build-up for this film, which began with the mega-event of Infinity War and continued with two huge teases in the satisfying (and arguably time-killing) films Ant Man 2 and Captain Marvel.

It's gonna be big, epic, full of drama, this Endgame thing. Inevitable, right? And isn't the continuation of Disney's money-printing Marvel Cinematic Universe just as inevitable? How can this movie—whose trailers have focused on loss and grief—have any teeth if superhero business is supposed to continue as usual?

What wasn't inevitable was whether directors Joe & Anthony Russo would pull it off: three hours of big-name Marvel superheroes not only juggling a zillion plot threads but doing so in watchable fashion. That likelihood became downright questionable after the uneven, sometimes emotionally hollow, and frequently bloated results of last year's Infinity War.

But the Russo Brothers didn't just pull off an incredible action-blockbuster experience in Endgame—they made the kind of riveting, funny, full-of-life production that instantly rockets to the top of the MCU's best. They also made a film that impresses in spite of the inherent lack of drama tied up in the reality of Marvel's money-making. The show will go on, and Endgame doesn't ignore that fact, yet it still flexes some huge narrative muscles by making room for some compelling stakes in both big and small ways. It makes the seemingly impossible possible.

Buckle up for a film as wild, fun, intense, and satisfying as its mix of expectations and enormity could possibly permit.

“Being who they actually are”

  • The surviving Avengers assemble. (This gallery consists of very slight plot spoilers from a months-old trailer.) YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Steve Rogers finds himself in a support group. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Rogers can't let go of those he lost. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Sad Thor mourns his fallen comrades. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • The world is a bleaker place, post-Infinity War. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Something mysterious in the sky? YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Tony Stark and Nebula working side by side in the lab. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Black Widow takes in a bit of target practice.
  • Hawkeye is coming out of retirement, it seems. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Rocket is the only Guardian of the Galaxy left. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • War Machine and Ant Man, ready for action. YouTube/Marvel Studios
  • Putting hand to shield for the coming showdown. YouTube/Marvel Studios

Because I'm erring on the side of a spoiler-free review, I'll start with some fresh and sometimes even vague mixes of fact and opinion.

First up: Avengers Endgame is roughly three films in one. This is the primary way the film keeps moving at a brisk pace, as it makes room for a ton of MCU characters—particularly the original Avengers cast—to have their spotlight moments as they reckon with Thanos' notorious "snap."

Rather than get lost as the film jumps from character to character, Endgame's three-hour brilliance comes from the major characters having a variety of shared experiences to react to as separate, stakes-filled "acts" in this cosmic play. It's no surprise that at least one superhero comes up with "a plan" at some point, but who else is on board? What's at stake? And how has a wild, surprising series of events both eroded and reinforced the things you know and love most about your favorite heroes?

To the last question, we get really, really great answers from… most of the Avengers. It's no spoiler to say that Jeremy Renner returns to the role of Hawkeye in this film, and I would argue that it's also not a spoiler to say that he seems the most bored and uninspired for much of Endgame. The only signs of life we ever saw in Renner's Hawkeye was in Age of Ultron, and Endgame's efforts to make viewers buy into his character's unretirement at the end of that film are all for naught.

This is mostly because the rest of the core Avengers cast lays claim to the best dialogue and character development moments, all buoyed with enthusiastic support from a mix of highly dramatic and highly hilarious support characters. Yes, all of the other Avengers characters—Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man—get at least one incredible sequence to tell the story of who they've become and what they're reckoning with. Much of that involves ways that each character is forced to redefine their personal story of what being a "superhero" means in the face of stark change (not Read More – Source

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Ars Technica

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