This review is perhaps quite literally an impossible thing to do. What could I possibly add to the discussion of the culminating volume of a 22-film series released over a decade? Sure, I could join the online rabble-rousers and nitpick continuity issues or the theoretical implications of time travel, but what good would that do?
Instead of trying to impart any film critique wisdom, I'm simply going to step back and ponder the impact of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and what it means for the future of film. Sure, I'll certainly convey my thoughts on Avengers: Endgame generally and on the 4K UHD version that I was lucky enough to review specifically, but this isn't simply about one film, and that's sort of the point, isn't it?
For, Avengers: Endgame, the action picks up after Avengers: Infinity War as the remaining team attempts to pick up the pieces following Thanos' universe-altering snap. As time goes by, a new, bold plan emerges that just might help the Avengers get the ultimate payback on Thanos.
That's clearly a real oversimplification of the plot, but is it really fair to expect a spoiler-free review at this point? That said, if you haven't seen Avengers: Endgame and are still spoiler-free and want to stay that way, you might want to leave and return after you see it. I mean, the bonus clips below give away spoilers from the film, so you've been warned. That said, I'm not going to simply blurt out spoilers for the sake of doing so.
Taken as a whole, the 22-film MCU is really a microcosm of the film industry as a whole. It has everything from action and comedy to drama and horror. This collection of films has completely changed the movie industry and its effects will still be felt long after we have left this ethereal plane.
The ambition and sheer genius that is Kevin Feige envisioned not only a series of films to build strong character arcs, but also to plant the ideas that would ultimately emerge in a cinematic climax the likes of which has never been seen. Think about it, the infinity stones were sprinkled throughout the MCU without realizing their true purpose until several years later. All of the films are strong enough to stand on their own and yet they are truly a textbook example of the whole being stronger than the sum of its parts.
For me personally, I became a father for the first time during this stretch of films and it completely changed the way that the films resonate with me. Watching Iron Man then and now is like watching two different movies. The father-son arc that finally gets the ultimate payoff in Avengers: Endgame held no significance to me at the time but is now one of the central themes of the entire MCU.
As my children have grown and we have gone back to discover the films released before they were born and then watching the new ones in theaters together, the MCU has truly become a bridge that has only strengthened our familial bonds. I was never fortunate enough to share a love of comics with my Dad, but I now get it as I am able to forge this common bond over these movies with my son and daughter.
The fact that Marvel has been able to attract and keep such high-quality Hollywood A-listers only speaks volumes for what the future holds. Sure, it may have been a bit of a risk to hire Robert Downey, Jr. to play Iron Man in 2008, but to retain his services over the course of ten films is simply amazing and a true testament to what Marvel is ultimately trying to accomplish. They are telling generational tales akin to those that our ancient ancestors used to regale each other with around the fire. The commitment of so many talented actors and actresses only heightens the impact of this message and ensures that it will continue into the next generation and beyond.
And yet, given the talent that continues to come back over and over again, Avengers: Endgame provides a natural endpoint for certain characters and while their demise will continue to be felt throughout the MCU, there is still hope. These original Avengers have accumulated a team that is stronger now than ever and the next generation is ready to pick up the hammer, or ax, or bow. This next generation of heroes will only be that much stronger because of the sacrifice that these legends made on their behalf.
The next big bad might not be Thanos, but it's not like the Universe isn't lacking is so-called big bad villains. No matter where the next big threat comes from, the new look Avengers will be ready for it. In the meantime, Phase 4 of the MCU looks to both introduce new heroes as well as to continue the adventures of those that we have already come to love.
The 4K UHD transfer is extremely well done, despite not opting for HDR10+ or Dolby Vision. Disney hasn't really been a big proponent of these cutting edge technologies with Black Panther being the only 4K UHD release in which they embraced Dolby Vision. It's a small nitpick that truly can only be noticed on certain TVs and setups, but if you want to see the difference, cherrypick a few action scenes from Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame and watch them back-to-back. You will see the slightly softer image in Endgame.
What is interesting is that Disney is allowing select digital retailers to include Dolby Vision on their digital copies. The reason for this or why they would restrict it to certain retailers over others is anyone's guess, but it's a small gripe in an otherwise beautiful presentation.
The audio track is a full Dolby Atmos track and it comes with all the bells and whistles that you have come to expect from the leading audio technology. The final battle could quite possibly be the standard to which all other Dolby Atmos tracks should be measured against. It truly places the viewer into the climactic battle and with the chaotic nature of that scene, this is truly the only way that I want to experience Avengers: Endgame.
The real treasure trove for any MCU aficionado lies in the bonus features and the Russos did not disappoint with Avengers: Endgame. The breadth and depth of the various supplemental offerings is actually quite staggering. There is everything from deleted scenes to featurettes to commentaries that will surely appease even the most discerning palate.
In fact, there were several little featurettes that quite literally left me in tears. Chief among them was the video entitled "Remembering Stan Lee." It goes without saying that without Stan Lee there would be no MCU and it will be interesting to see how his legacy is treated as the MCU grows and expands. It's only fitting that his final MCU cameo comes in this movie and his impact on these films will forever be felt.
Avengers: Endgame is a special film that truly is the culmination of a score of films across a decade. Sometimes you get to the end and simply fumble the football on the one-yard line, but there's no turnover here. Marvel has created a fitting end to a wonderful story that will only grow over time.
Avengers: Endgame is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.