The buzz word “inevitability” comes up a few times during the three-hour course of . And it’s fitting: there’s no ignoring the buzz and build-up for this film, which began with the mega-event of and continued with two huge teases in the satisfying (and arguably time-killing) films and .
It’s gonna be big, epic, full of drama, this 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 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 .
But the Russo Brothers didn’t just pull off an incredible action-blockbuster experience in —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 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”
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: 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 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, ‘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 . The only signs of life we ever saw in Renner’s Hawkeye was in , and ‘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 just snap-related). And those characters get to spend time with each other, reveal a few surprises, and reinforce their collective missions.
“The world is in our hands”
I’d like to offer one slight tease about the film’s content, but this is to convince anybody on the fence about that they should really reconsider their ambivalence. The Russo Brothers have absolutely pulled the reins back on overblown action sequences.
Do you get tired of seemingly invincible superheroes punching the crap out of each other to pad out time, merely repeating the kinds of Dragon Ball Z-esque super-punches and sky-high explosions you’ve seen a million times, before the inevitable surprise twist ends the fisticuffs? (This was one of my biggest beefs with Infinity War, whose toothless final battle left me both overwhelmed and bored.) If you’re in that camp, then you’ll absolutely love how frames its conflicts and special effects.
Which is to say: oh, there’s plenty of conflict, action, and digital wizardry to be found here. But is at its most clever when it utilizes framing and surprises, not clichéd action sequences, to redirect viewers’ attention right back where it belongs: the Avengers’ relationships, grief, and burning questions.
I was surprised by this because, ahem, I saw the thing I wasn’t supposed to see. Meaning, the two-minute “leak” of actual footage from the film, smuggled out of a clearly non-American cinema a few days ago. I’m actually glad I “spoiled” myself (though, now that I’ve seen the film, I would strongly suggest not following my lead). That’s because the film’s remaining 2:58 goes in a few directions I didn’t necessarily see coming, in terms of how it carries so many big-name characters through the kind of convoluted plot that would take many, many words to summarize.
This includes no less than four sequences that had my face hurting from a “dang, they pulled it off” grin of surprise and wonderment, which made up for a few of my own personal guesses about how ‘s plot was going to go. (Related: if you’ve come up with relatively educated guesses about this film, I promise you at least one of them comes true. On a macro level, doesn’t jerk viewers around with a rollercoaster’s worth of insane twists, and kudos to the Russo Brothers for keeping their plot ambitions in check to some extent.)
“Return sequence activated”
And it wouldn’t be a top-notch Marvel film without a substantial dollop of comedy and heart. The Russo Brothers infuse their high-stakes drama not just with the ego-clashing jabs of the first Avengers film but also the kinder, deeper stuff formed by this many films’ worth of bonding. Relationships range from buddy-cop banter to a hero-journey moment that seems plucked out of a Muppet production. A few delightful, er, “swaps” really sell the heroes’ bonds with each other.
That levity is met by one Thanos-related sequence—I won’t say when or how it comes to pass—that crystallizes his exact brand of evil and oppression in ways that his role sorely lacked. ‘s moment implies that the Russo Brothers needed this many combined hours of Avengers-ing to get to that emotional wallop. I don’t entirely buy it, but I am happy to report that we got at least one solid, convincing Thanos moment as part of the overarching plot that’s been brewing for so many films. And in terms of other drama-filled moments… nope. I’m not typing about those today.
Instead, I’ll insist that your time at will absolutely include a few gripes with how certain characters are under-utilized or wasted—because, yeah, a few eggs get cracked and wasted in the making of this otherwise rich, balanced soufflé. Your three hours will still whisk by in mostly satisfying fashion thanks to an “action tentpole” film willing to buck the all-CGI, all-the-time expectations that have contributed to superhero-film fatigue.
‘s actors redeem this film—and perhaps the genre—by reminding us why they were cast in the first place: because once the CGI turns off, and once the superhero suits melt away, they’re still human, powerful, and unforgettable. Bravo.