'Avengers: Endgame' Spoiler Review: This Is The Fight Of Our Lives

(In ourĀ Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick...and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Avengers: Endgame.)

The existence of film franchises goes back to some of the earliest days of cinema. Hollywood's first talkie The Jazz Singer resulted in the sequel The Singing Fool. Horror hits like Frankenstein, and Dracula spawned Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Dracula, not to mention a whole series of monster movies from Universal Pictures. King Kong gave life to Son of Kong, and so on and so forth.

On the other hand, the blockbuster sequel as we know it today is still a relatively young invention of Hollywood. It's evolving and changing, albeit slowly, as audiences look for something new and refreshing that feels just as familiar and comfortable as it does entertaining and exhilarating. And that's exactly what makes Avengers: Endgame so damn special.

In our Avengers: Endgame spoiler review, we explore this heaping helping of Hollywood spectacle, how it both defies and leans into the tropes of your typical blockbuster sequel, enhances the hefty roster of films that came before it, and delivers a film that packs an equal amount of action, heart, comedy, and surprising but delightful fan service for those who have stuck with the Marvel Cinematic Universe for over 10 years.

There Was No Fight

In case losing half of The Avengers in Infinity War wasn't enough of a punch to the gut, Avengers: Endgame begins with a twist of the knife. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), the former Avenger known as Hawkeye, enjoys a peaceful afternoon on his off-the-grid farm with his wife and three kids. But a charming archery lesson with his daughter turns into sheer panic as she and the rest of his family suddenly turn to dust, a dull clap of thunder in the distance signaling that the power of the Infinity Stones in the hand of Thanos is sweeping over the world, clearing out half of the people living on Earth and in the rest of the universe.

It's just the first few minutes of a Marvel sequel with a first act that is light on action and heavy on fear and failure. What follows is a feeling of helplessness as Earth's Mightiest Heroes can't undo what has just been done.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) remains marooned in space with Nebula (Karen Gillan) aboard a ship with no more power or fuel to get back to Earth. But soon, a nick-of-time rescue by Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) will reunite him with Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to debate what to do about Thanos, who has since used the Infinity Stones again since retiring to a place he refers to as the garden.

Stark is sitting in a wheelchair, looking malnourished and exhausted. He's defeated, and he's still scared. The remnants of Captain America: Civil War rise again as Stark blames Cap's absence and departure from The Avengers as the reason for their failure. Cap said they'd fail together, but he wasn't there when Thanos beat them to hell on Titan. Stark redirects his fear as anger and he lashes out at the only person who might be taking this loss as hard as he is.

This team isn't ready to face Thanos again, especially being short-handed and watching their friends die just a few weeks earlier. Their fear is palpable, but Captain Marvel remains confident that they can kill Thanos and use the Infinity Stones to bring everyone back. Captain America and Black Widow are more than ready to help them. There's a determination in them to right this universal wrong by any means necessary. But it's too late.

When our team arrives at the little shack Thanos has been living in, he doesn't even try to fight back. Regardless of Captain Marvel's overpowering strength and Thanos having the side of his body brutally burned by the power of the Infinity Stones, there's no fight for him to put up. What's done is done. And to ensure that, he's destroyed the Infinity Stones by using the stones themselves. And before anyone can pull anything else from him, Thor finally goes for the head, decapitating the titan who defeated The Avengers one-by-one.

It's a hell of a way to begin a blockbuster sequel that sells toys and lunchboxes to kids. The rug is pulled out from under audiences who were expecting to be thrust into an epic rematch with Thanos. Our heroes suddenly have no mission, no villain, and no hope. All they can do is live with their failure, and that's exactly what they do.

Five Years Later

As if having no hope of bringing back all of the dusted Avengers (and trillions of others) wiped out by Thanos wasn't enough, this movie makes our heroes live with their failure for five grueling years, and things are bleak. For the first time ever, there's nothing to avenge. In fact, those left after Thanos snapped his fingers were integral in his success, and no one is taking it well.

Captain America leads group therapy sessions where stories about new dates filled with post-trauamatic tears are considered to be a breakthrough. Black Widow tries to preoccupy herself my overseeing any potential missions that might come from disturbances happening around the universe. Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket, Okoye (Danai Gurira), Captain Marvel and Rhodes report in from various locations via hologram, all feeling like they're also just trying to distract themselves from what they haven't been able to undo.

In this single scene, you can see how each of them is still dealing with the fallout of Thanos. Rocket wisecracks, but quickly realizes that it's not doing anyone any good. Captain Marvel sees even more of the devastation as the rest of the universe's planets deal with the same problems Earth has. Okoye seems to take solace in the fact that there are things happening that they can't control, like earthquakes happening below sea level. But one of them has been shaken for another reason. More on that later.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has to deal with the shock of The Avengers' failure in a much different fashion. The thief who became Ant-Man has been stuck in the quantum realm for five years, though for him it felt like five hours. In those five hours, the world went to hell, he lost his partner (any maybe girlfriend) Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), as well as her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and mother Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), to the snap, and he learns that his surviving daughter Cassie has aged five years, looking like a grown woman when he reunites with her.

Rudd's performance is typically very comedic, usually letting the others around him do the heavy, dramatic lifting. But the look on his face as he sees his daughter suddenly grown up in front of his very eyes is full of such genuine emotion, it's the first time that tears feel like they're welling up inside your eyes. No one is safe from having their heart squeezed by the lasting impact of Thanos and his universe-balancing plan. Lang's response to all this is an endless stream of thoughts on overdrive about how the quantum realm can be used allow them to travel back in time and fix everything.

That leads us to Tony Stark, who has recovered magnificently from his tragic sojourn to space. Not only has he recovered, but he's a family man now. Gone is a flashy place to call home. Instead, Stark is living in a cabin in the woods with an adorable daughter named Morgan and the one person he always wanted to protect the most, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). And Stark isn't willing to put his family on the line for a wild time heist, as Scott Lang almost excitedly calls it. But Stark is also scared because he doesn't want to fail again. He's not willing to take the kind of risks that he used to take as Iron Man, and that's understandable since those decisions resulted in some pretty disastrous consequences, including the situation that brought them to a plan such as this.

Meanwhile, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has become twice the demigod he was. Literally. In a state of depression and denial, Thor has been chugging beers, playing video games, and waiting for the cable guy to show up in a new Icelandic village appropriately called New Asgard. He's no longer the chiseled god of thunder who once led armies. He's overweight and willfully turning his back on recovery. Valkyie (Tessa Thompson) has even given up on trying to bring Thor back from the precipice of hopelessness.

While Thor's physical state might illicit laughs throughout, this depiction isn't meant to be solely comedic, and it certainly isn't meant to mock those who let themselves go in a bout of depression. Instead, it shows the extreme fall that Thor has taken, and Chris Hemsworth's performance shows it. The actor impressively goes from gleefully chuckling, threatening online gamers, and drinking like a frat boy to showing the broken man he has become at the mere mention of Thanos' name. It's a leap from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other that Hemsworth masterfully pulls off a few times throughout the film, going from temporary joy brought on by inebriation to sad realization of the rock bottom he has hit.

Then there's Hawkeye, and the dusting of his family has not been kind to him. The former Avenger has taken solace in becoming a deadly assassin, killing people for money. He's become a shadow of the man he used to be, using excessive violence for these jobs, becoming something of a terrorist. It's the kind of thing that brings Black Widow to tears when Rhodey provides an update on a bloody crime scene he left behind.

It's not all depressing for the survivors though. In the five years since the snap, Bruce Banner has figured out his Hulk problem. Banner and Hulk now co-exist as one. Instead of seeing the Hulk as a disease, Banner started to see him as a cure. While everyone else felt failure once, Banner and Hulk had to feel it twice. Since then, Hulk has now become a genius green giant. He's the only one who seems to have used what happened as a catalyst to improve his life, and the result is the best iteration of the big guy that we've ever seen in the MCU, both as a character and as a visual effect. By way of motion capture, Mark Ruffalo's essence has been perfectly captured in this sweater and thick-rimmed glasses-wearing Hulk. All his subtle mannerisms and facial expressions shine through this incredible digital character.

But Hulk seems merely content with his life, and he's not using his full potential to work through these difficult and confusing times. Thankfully, it's Natasha who reminds him that peacefully co-existing with Hulk was once something that seemed impossible. So maybe this theory about using time travel to get the Infinity Stones and bring everyone back has some potential.

But even with the long shot hope of time travel undoing this massive disaster, this is the bleakest we've ever seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Our heroes are living in a nightmare, and they're all dealing with their own failure in a variety of ways. So undoing what Thanos has done isn't just about getting everyone back, it's about getting their own sanity back too.

The Fight of Our Lives

As soon as the surviving team members are rounded up, there's a little pep in the step of our heroes. They have something to fight for again. They're making playful jabs at each other while delivering exposition about time travel. It's all due to the hope they have. Some of the tangents border on being a little too goofy, such as the first test failures that result in time being pushed through Scott Lang instead of pushing Scott Lang through time. Then there's his struggle to understand the rules of time travel that are basically the opposite of what he learned from movies like Back to the Future, Terminator, Star Trek and more.

But seeing The Avengers together again trying to figure out how to pull of this time heist really shifts this movie into gear. It's not that the first act was boring, but this is an Avengers movie we're talking about here, and it's time for this team to get back into action.

The time travel chatter is all a little confusing, but it's explained as simply as possible, especially when Tony Stark finally shows back up to make things go much smoother. Avengers: Endgame writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely move briskly through the proceedings in a way that doesn't disregard establishing these new time travel rules, but doesn't dwell on the prospective questions that will inevitably come with repeat viewings and extensive thought on the matter. They're the kind of paradoxical questions everyone has when dealing with something as delicate and complicated as time travel, so it comes with the territory.

The mission becomes a more clear when the team figures out where they need to go in order to retrieve the stones without going back in time to a bunch of different places. The result is a second act that simultaneously feels like a greatest hits style stroll down memory lane and a special edition of certain chapters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that fills in gaps, closes arcs for some of our characters from the present day, and gives them new challenges that we never thought we'd see. It's a mix of payoffs, fan service, plot progression, and a good old fashioned heist.

New York, 2012

The jump back to the battle of New York in 2012 feels like the most self-indulgent part of the time heist. If you need anymore evidence of that, the sequence begins with the trademark shot of all six of the original Avengers assembling on the city streets for the first-time with that shot that pans around them all standing in a circle, ready to take on the alien threat surrounding them.

But the rest of the sequence isn't just replaying the finer moments of The Avengers. Instead, Captain America, Tony Stark, and Hulk have to sneak around themselves (along with a shrunken Ant-Man) as they try to receive the yellow Mind Stone from within the scepter being wielded by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the blue Space Stone from the Tesseract, and the green Time Stone from the Eye of Agamotto at the Sanctum Santorum in New York, long before Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) became the Sorcerer Supreme.

This sequence is the most like your typical heist where the plan gets executed, everyone has their part to play, things go wrong, our heroes adapt and try to fix their mistakes in order to pull off the job. There's a lot of comedy to be found from this sequence as we relive the end of the Battle of New York following the apprehension of Loki. We get to see the team as they wind down and wrap things up by handing the Tesseract and scepter off to SHIELD, which they didn't know was Hydra yet, and all these elements allow for some hilariously entertaining moments.

There's a fight between Captain America from the present and Captain America in 2012 when the latter (complete with America's ass) mistakes the former for an escaped Loki in disguise. There's an upset Hulk who hates being forced to take the stairs to the main floor of Stark Tower instead of the elevator. There's a faked heart attack from Tony Stark that results in the shocking moment of Loki making a getaway with the Tesseract. It's executed in such an entertaining and fast-paced way.

Meanwhile, we get some time to breathe with Bruce Banner trying to convince The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) to give him the Time Stone. Here we get some more exposition about time travel to help clear things up for people who maybe don't understand how this plan will work within the confines of the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline without changing the past and/or creating a new timeline.

However, this part of the heist doesn't really offer any heavy lessons to be learned or arcs to be enhanced. This is all in service of getting three of the six Infinity Stones and creating a new problem when Tony Stark and Ant-Man end up losing the Tesseract when Loki uses it to disappear from Thor's custody. Speaking of Thor...

Asgard, 2013

Thor gets one of the most meaningful arcs in Avengers: Endgame, and it also ends up being one of the most significant arcs in the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For so long, Thor has been trying to be the king that he believed he was meant to be. But thanks to being sent back to the day his mother Frigga (Rene Russo) was killed by dark elves in Thor: The Dark World in 2013, he realizes that he need only be true to himself. It's a bit of a hokey lesson to learn, but it's an important one for a man who has been reduced to shambles after failing to kill Thanos before he could snap away half the universe.

This sequence is effectively balanced out by some comedic relief offered by Rocket Raccoon and Thor's more humorous emotional breakdowns when he realizes he can't hide his fear and feelings. It's probably also the least like a heist since Thor isn't required to work in tandem with Rocket in order for him to retrieve the red Reality Stone that is then-currently residing in the body of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).

But there's still fan service to be found here as before Thor returns to present day with their mission complete, he reaches for Mjolnir, which has not yet been destroyed at this point in time. Immediately applause worthy on its own, this action will bring us one of the most satisfying moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But we'll get to that later.

Morag, 2014

Meanwhile, over on Morag we have two teams splitting up. Black Widow and Hawkeye drop off Nebula and War Machine to pick up the Power Stone before Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals it, just as he did in the opening sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy. The scene allows for the use of "Come and Get Your Love" all over again, and it gives us a different perspective on that song and dance sequence as Nebula and Rhodes watch Star-Lord dance like no one's watching.

Their attempt to get the Power Stone seems like it might be the easiest to pull off, but then we are reminded that this is 2014, and this timeline's Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Nebula are also after the stone. We're also reminded that besides Thanos' calm but determined attitude about his plan to balance the universe and fulfill his destiny comes from a place of madness and brutality. When Thanos appears for the first time in this 2014 sequence, his armor, face, and double-bladed weapon are covered in alien blood. It's a nice reminder that this guy is more than a villain. He's a monster. He thinks what he's doing is the only way to save the universe. He's like the dark side of The Avengers, and that's what makes him so dangerous.

This is what gets Thanos back on the path of The Avengers, with which he's only tangentially crossed paths with after Loki lost the battle of New York to them (losing him two Infinity Stones in the process). The manner in which Thanos learns this is kind of ingenious as Nebula's cybernetic mind starts saving a parallel memory from her future self, thus alerting Thanos and his henchman Ebony Maw to the time heist happening in their cosmic backyard. It's one of several plot devices that pulls from the past of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it makes everything feel like it fits together in such a meticulously crafted package. It makes one wonder just how long this complex story has been planned, and if Kevin Feige knew they'd be coming back here when Guardians of the Galaxy was being filmed in the preceding years.

On a more sentimental note, it also allows two characters to have a small bonding moment as Nebula and Rhodey have both had their bodies modified by technology and have been forced to survive like this. Nebula feels insecure about her cybernetic enhancements, saying, "I wasn't always like this." And Rhodey says, "Neither was I. But we do the best with what we got." It's a brief but nice moment between two characters who you'd never think would have something that ties them together.

Vormir, 2014

On the other hand, Hawkeye and Black Widow have been linked for years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They've been partners since their days working for SHIELD, so of course they're the ones sent to retrieve the Soul Stone, which can only be obtained one way. And that gives us the first absolutely heart-wrenching moment of this time heist, and really the whole movie.

These two have such a strong bond. Clint and Natasha accept each other for who they are, despite all the things they've done throughout their dangerous and ethically questionable careers. And neither is ready to let the other one give up their life in order to get the Soul Stone.

What's impressive about Avengers: Endgame is that it sets up the tension and desperation of this scene for those who may not be familiar with their long history. If you only saw Avengers: Endgame, you'd still understand the closeness these two have between them. Whether it's the tears Natasha sheds when she hears the dark path that Clint has gone on, or the shameful look Clint has on his face when Natasha comes to find him in the middle of one of his killing sprees, there's plenty to latch onto in this movie alone. That includes a quick reference to that mission in Budapest that was first mentioned in The Avengers back in 2012.

All of this makes the final resolution of this scene that much harder to swallow. After a tense face-off where Clint and Natasha try to stop each from sacrificing themselves, Natasha is the one who falls to her death and gives Clint possession of the Soul Stone. Now Clint has lost those who were the closest to him, and that makes it hard to celebrate when he gets back to Avengers headquarters in the present day.

New Jersey, 1970

But before we get back to present day, we have to back even further to the past in order so Captain America and Tony Stark can retrieve the Tesseract and also get more Pym Particles in order to allow them to travel back to the future. And it's back in Captain America's old millitary base in New Jersey in 1970 that we get two more worthwhile character payoffs fueled by the previous installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They also happen to be payoffs that make the conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War feel that much more satisfying.

First up, while getting his hands on the Tesseract, Tony Stark runs into the man who has been researching it for years: his father, Howard Stark. The result is an amusingly awkward meet-cute where Tony Stark can resolve some of the animosity that he had with his father before his untimely death at the hands of The Winter Soldier. He gets to find out that Howard Stark not only wanted his forthcoming son to turn out better than himself, but that he was regretfully self-aware of his shortcomings. The relationship that Stark had (or rather didn't have) with his father doesn't give Tony any bad blood any longer. Instead, he knows that his father did the best with what he could, but he was just as flawed as Tony used to be. In a way, Tony's success is a result of his father's failure. And again we get to see that our greatest successes and ambitions come from our most harrowing failures.

Elsewhere on the military base, Captain America has his own encounter with a familiar face from the past. While hiding from being found out as a trespasser, he ducks into a random office. Then he suddenly sees a blast from the past, a photo of himself as a scrawny kid from Brooklyn before he was injected with the super serum that turned him into Captain America. That picture just so happens to be sitting on the desk of Peggy Carter, whom Cap spots in the next office over. He takes a moment to longingly look after her, clearly lamenting the fact that he missed out on that dance he promised her so many years ago.

But there's only so much time for sentiment before they need to get back to the present. With their mission complete, it's time to set things right.

The Fight for Everything

After retrieving all six of the Infinity Stones, it's time to finally use them. This is where Hulk gets the chance to prove himself all over again. For years, Bruce Banner struggled with this big guy that resided inside of him. But here he is balancing both of them as an intelligent Hulk. Now he's also the only one who likely has the strength to survive using the Infinity Stones with the specially constructed gauntlet that Tony Stark has created. Banner is reluctant, but he also accepts that because of the mostly gamma radiation that's coming off the stones, it's like he was made for exactly this moment. Like Thor, Banner always needed to be who he really was instead of being what he thought he should be. And right now, he's the one snapping his fingers to bring back everyone that Thanos sent to oblivion.

Though the sun might be shining outside and Clint's wife has called his cell phone, seemingly back from being dusted for five years, there's no time to celebrate. That's because back on Morag in the past, Thanos was able to track down Nebula from the future, replaced her with Nebula from 2014, and tasked her with bringing the titan and his ship with all his armies through the quantum realm and into present day. That ship is now hovering above Avengers headquarters and fires a hellfire of missiles down on the facility, catching all the Avengers off guard and burying most of them under rubble.

Thanos emerges from his ship and merely waits for Nebula to bring him the Infinity Stones and for the Avengers to crawl up from the rubble so he can wipe them out himself. For Thanos, this isn't just about bringing balance to the universe anymore. And this is where you see even more of the villain's true colors, because he doesn't have to kill them in order to complete his task. Now he's killing these people simply because he doesn't want any dissension whatsoever, and he's going to enjoy it. He's a tyrant, a dictator, and he must be stopped.

Directors Anthony & Joe Russo pull out all the stops when it comes to this final action sequence. Thor, who is still very much worthy, uses all the power of the god of thunder, wielding both Mjolnir and Stormbreaker. Iron Man uses every trick up his armors sleeve, even using Thor's electricity to super charge an energy blast. And Captain America isn't backing down as he throws his shield at Thanos and tries to land punches and kicks as best he can. But it's not quite enough.

Even though Cap, Iron Man and Thor get some good hits in there, eventually, Thanos has knocked all of them to the ground. The titan has turned the tables on Thor and is about to shove Stormbreaker through his chest when Mjolnir suddenly takes flight nearby, smashes into Thanos from behind and flies back into the hands of...Captain America.

This is a full-on holy shit kind of moment that fans never thought they'd see. In three different screenings, the audiences lost their mind, clapping and cheering at this incredible moment. And it gets even better when Cap starts swirling the hammer to give Thanos a swift uppercut with it. When Thanos blocks the throw of his shield, Cap throws Mjolnir at the shield to send a shockwave that knocks him down before returning to his hand, where he can then use the hammer to hit the shield back at Thanos before bringing striking down lightning on the the titan. It's enough to bring tears of complete joy to your eyes, and that's exactly what happened when I saw this breathtaking scene.

But victory is short-lived, and before you know it, Thanos has the high ground again. His double-bladed weapon cuts into the vibranium shield, and strike-by-strike he starts chipping away at the shield, leaving Cap with a jagged third of his signature weapon. With no one else to stand against Thanos, he calls in his reinforcements to finish the job. Captain America is the only hero standing on his feet as Thanos calls in the Outriders, including some new gorilla-like versions, the Chitauri, their massive Leviathan flying snakes, some tanks, and endless amounts of weaponry and warriors. A comic splash page of a shot shows Captain America looking miniscule in the valley created by the explosion that leveled the Avengers facility. It's an epic shot that spells doom for our hero until...

Avengers Assemble

A somewhat broken up message comes through Cap's earpiece. It sounds like Sam Wilson. Then suddenly, with a wonderful callback to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he says, "On your left." It's these kind of moments that are the perfect touches for fans to pick up on.

Suddenly one of Doctor Strange's portals opens up, and out walks Black Panther, Okoye and Shuri from the glowing sunlight of Wakanda, followed by Falcon flying through the air. Their armies are standing behind them ready for battle. And they're not the only ones. A bunch of other portals open up to bring back everyone who went up in dust from the snap. Strange himself emerges from Titan with Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Star-Lord and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Scarlet Witch soars in, The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) suddenly grows into frame with a bunch of Ravagers standing behind her, including Howard the Duck. Pepper Potts flies in with her own suit of Iron Man style armor. Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Groot (Vin Diesel) eventually pop up ready to kick some ass. Valkyrie rides in on a pegasus as Giant-Man finally breaks out of the rubble with Hulk, Rocket Raccoon and War Machine in his hands. Literally anyone and everyone you could have wanted emerges for this fight, with the sobering exception of The Vision and Black Widow.

Just this assembly of heroes would be enough to illicit cheers from the audience (and they absolutely did), but this sequence is made even more epic by the fact that every possible army joins in with our heroes. Asgardians, Wakandans, warriors of the mystical arts, and more emerge with all their ships and weapons. Now this is the kind of shot taken straight out of a massive event comic as two massive armies ready for battle. It's given the perfect cherry on top as the camera pans across the frontlines of all our recognizable heroes and Captain America shouts, "Avengers!" Mjolnir flies into his hand again just before he finishes, "Assemble."

What follows is one of the most thrilling and epic action sequences that has ever graced the big screen. All of The Avengers charge into battle, and while it feels like we've seen this before in Infinity War, the scale is bigger than ever. But beyond that, this battle also feels like it has more focus, thanks to the presence of the Tony Stark-constructed Infinity Gauntlet that needs to be kept as far away from Thanos as possible. Our heroes jostle the red and gold metal glove around the battlefield while trying to avoid Thanos and his army. Every hero gets their own big moment, including a surprise return by Captain Marvel who completely destroys Thanos' ship.

The focus of this battle shifts when everyone realizes they need to get the stones off the battlefield entirely by way of Scott Lang's quantum realm tunnel inside that old brown van that he drove to the Avengers facility. Unfortunately there's a whole slew of soldiers, tanks, and more lying between the Infinity Gauntlet and the van. But thankfully, Captain Marvel gets ahold of the glove, and she's joined by all the female members of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy for a shot that makes you want to shoot out of your chair and pump your fist in the air. It feels a little contrived upon retrospect since most of these women don't actually know each other, but it's still yet another epic moment from this already dumbfounding finale.

What's great is that it's this female assembly of Avengers that leads to some of the last big blows to Thanos. But the titan continues to hold his own as he tries to wrestle the Gauntlet away from our heroes. Captain Marvel gets the last chance to grab the gauntlet, absorbing a headbutt from the villain without flinching before he grabs the Power Stone with his bare hand and punches her across the battlefield with it. This back and forth makes for an insanely suspenseful face-off that only gets more exciting as it continues.


But of course, it must come to an end, and this isn't a happy one. Tony Stark takes one last lunge at Thanos, realizing this is the only way he can fulfill Doctor Strange's vision of a single victory out of over 14 million. Thanos punches Iron Man away and taunts his foes by reminding them, "I am inevitable." But that's not before Tony's armor is able to pull the stones away from the Infinity Gauntlet onto his own hand, prompting Tony to breathlessly say, "And I...am...Iron Man," before snapping his fingers, gradually turning all of Thanos' army to dust.

And this is where we get the most emotionally harrowing moment of the film. Tony Stark is in shock. He can't speak. Much like Thanos at the beginning of the movie, Stark's right arm is severely burnt along with the right side of his face. His health is in critical condition. Rhodey is the first to arrive at his side, already aware that this will be the last time he sees his friend. Peter Parker comes in next, making tears start streaming down our face, just as they did when he blew away in Tony's arms in Infinity War, giving his mentor a heartfelt goodbye. But it's Pepper Potts who arrives last, and she gives Tony the farewell he needs to finally feel at peace. She says, "We're gonna be all right. You can rest now." And with that, the light fades from Tony's arc reactor on his suit.

There hasn't been a fictional character's death who hit me as hard as Tony Stark's. Sure, I shed some tears when Wolverine met his end in Logan. But following Tony Stark's death, the tears just kept streaming for the next 10 minutes, spanning through the funeral scene where every single superhero from the MCU is dressed in appropriate black funeral garb, even the Guardians of the Galaxy. They all watch as Pepper Potts puts a bouquet in the water, topped by Tony Stark's original arc reactor with the dedication that says "Proof that Tony Stark has a heart." Ty Simpkins even returns for a somber cameo as the camera pans through all those who knew Tony Stark best.

We get one final farewell from Tony Stark in the form of a holographic message that he left for anyone who survived their time heist, just in case things went south. The last words we hear from Tony Stark are "I love you 3,000," which he directs to his daughter Morgan, calling back to the same adorable sentiment she expressed to him before bedtime. The tears were on the verge of stopping before then, and then the flow was replenished by this beautiful little line.

Throughout this voiceover, we see shots of Clint Barton reuniting with his family on their farm, T'Challa hugging his mother and sister as they look over a celebration in Wakanda, Peter Parker returning to high school with his friends. And then we finally settle on Thor, contemplating his own future now that he's feeling like himself for the first time in a long time. That's why he's decided to hand off the right to rule Asgard to none other than Valkyrie. He doesn't hand over Mjolnir, which feels a little cheap, but it's still a meaningful hand-off for the future of Asgard. Meanwhile, Thor is hitching a ride with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and he's back to clashing with Star-Lord about who's in control of the ship, giving us a taste of how amazing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 can be if Chris Hemsworth is brought in for the team's next adventure.

But if the death of Tony Stark wasn't enough of an emotional ending to Avengers: Endgame to satisfy your beating heart, the movie wasn't over yet. In one final cornerstone scene, Captain America is sent back in time to return all of the Infinity Stones (and Mjolnir) to their proper point of extraction to avoid creating chaos across time. Hulk has crafted a makeshift quantum tunnel station nearby the Avengers facility rubble that is being cleaned up. However, just when he's supposed to be brought back, there's nothing. Cap doesn't return. But suddenly Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes see someone sitting at a bench nearby. As they get closer, we see that it's Steve Rogers as an old, old man. He has a warm smile and a calm demeanor, and this isn't some mistake.

Rogers finally took the time to get some of that life that Tony was always telling him to get. He hands off Captain America's shield to Sam Wilson in a defining moment for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they pass the torch of Captain America to a character of color. It's wholly earned, and it sets the stage for a promising future. But it's the past where the most heartwarming piece of Avengers: Endgame comes to light. Old Steve Rogers is wearing a wedding ring, and while he's not keen to discuss the details of his life that we realize he spent with Peggy Carter, we get to see them dancing inside their house in the 1940s and embracing in a tender kiss as the movie fades to black.

While there's obviously spectacle by way of typical comic book action in this movie, what I love is that it's all in service of something greater. That's partially what Avengers: Infinity War was missing which made it feel only like half of a movie instead of a complete story. The epic fight scenes and the time travel heists are all just a means to an end to give our heroes closure in some form or another. It allows our characters to shine through as the heroes they were truly meant to be, but they had to experience catastrophic failure in order to get there.

Because of all this, not only is Avengers: Endgame a movie that puts a period at the end of a 22-film cinematic movement that helped change the face of film franchises forever, but it's a genuine thrill ride that is full of adventure, excitement, humor, and heart. It's a masterfully, meticulously and miraculously executed movie that will be the kind of cinematic event we talk about for decades.