The first reviews of Avengers: Endgame are finally here, and they're (mostly) great. Currently "Certified Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 97 percent, Endgame seems to be a fitting climax to a decade of superhero theatrics.
Of course, though, we've already got a contrarian who's lambasting the movie for not being an ambitious piece of cinema. I've done my best to eradicate spoilers from the select quotes pulled for this review round-up, because dear reader, I still haven't seen it either. So, learn from my mistakes and read these snippets and avoid The New York Times' spoiler-filled review.
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Ars Technica: An excellent mashup
At Ars Technica, Sam Machkovech describes Avengers: Endgame as "three of Marvel’s best films, rolled into one," with one of the most positive reviews out there.
"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."
"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."
"That levity is met by one Thanos-related sequence ... that crystallizes his exact brand of evil and oppression in ways that his Infinity War role sorely lacked."
"Endgame'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."
The Washington Post: Great, but still predictably limited
In his review at The Washington Post, Michael O'Sullivan calls Endgame "a fitting send-off for Marvel’s superheroes," which is neither ultimate praise nor damnation.
"[Avengers: Endgame] feels at once sad and deeply satisfying, complicated and surprisingly comic. If many of us have grown up with the MCU, the films themselves have also grown more complex, like a fine wine."
"As high as the stakes are in Endgame, it is also a very funny movie. The humor of the story — some of which takes place in the future, five years after the end of Infinity War — has to do with surprising ways in which the lives of certain characters have changed,"
"This is, let us not forget, a comic-book movie, with starkly drawn lines of good and evil, and unapologetically reductive storytelling."
"In a sense, “Endgame” is an example of the MCU cannibalizing itself, but it has always done so. And it does so here in a fresh way that is closer to homage than lazy appropriation. These affectionate flashbacks also serve as a tip of the hat to all the loyal fans who have held this sprawling mythology so dear."
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NPR: It's very much a Marvel movie
At NPR, Glen Weldon's review spoke to managing expectations.
"Going into Avengers: Endgame, one would be well-advised to manage both one's expectations, and – given its three-hour-plus, intermission-less runtime – one's fluid intake."
"The Russos' decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they've expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large. Got a favorite character from any Marvel movie over the past decade, no matter how obscure? Prepare to get serviced, fan."
"Yes, on one level, it's just more smash-em-up superhero CGI spectacle, but it's spectacle so thoroughly grounded in a devoutly earned, hard-won and entirely un-dismissible affection."
The New York Times: It's not true cinema
Over at The New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote a predictably joyless, curmudgeonly review filled with notes that could be construed as spoilers. I recommend you skip his review.
"At three hours and one minute, it’s shorter than Titanic, The Godfather Part II or Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard. And while the time doesn’t exactly fly, it doesn’t drag either. The two hours and forty minutes of Infinity War (also directed by Joe and Anthony Russo) felt infinitely longer. Settling scores, wrapping up loose ends and taking a victory lap — the main objects of the game this ostensibly last time around — generate some comic sparks as well as a few honest tears."
"Was it worth it? In the aggregate, I have my doubts, but the chuckles and awws you’ll hear around you in the theater at certain moments attest to the happy sense of participation that lies at the heart of the modern fan experience. At its best — and Endgame is in some ways as good as it gets."
"None of the 22 films in this cycle are likely to be remembered as great works of cinema, because none have really tried. It’s fun to see the actors in these roles we know are capable of better, and also satisfying to appreciate the efforts of those who might not be."
"Still, Endgame is a monument to adequacy, a fitting capstone to an enterprise that figured out how to be good enough for enough people enough of the time."
The Verge: Endgame breaks the rules
In a review at The Verge, Tasha Robinson examines how Endgame shatters some pre-existing tropes.
"It plays as an endless series of payoffs, in some cases for long arcs ... and in other cases, for the tiniest of passing jokes from other MCU movies. The entire film is constructed of callbacks, references, reminders, and reminiscences. It’s full of catharsis for its characters and its audience, sometimes through immense battles, sometimes through elaborate low-key conversations between characters, and sometimes through tiny, abrupt moments."
"Hero movies have a longstanding bad habit of faking a character’s tragic death for a few seconds of pathos, then immediately taking it back ... Avengers: Endgame puts the brakes on that by finally taking its own sweet time in exploring how heroes might deal with grief, loss, survivors’ guilt, and the pervasive feeling of failure."
"At times, Endgame feels like Inception, with the mind-bending sense of a dozen equally important things happening all at once, but without the sense of unity or a cohesive, well-modulated buildup."
"And it’ll lose some viewers entirely, either through its tangled storylines, or its dedication to dark, sad emotions instead of the triumph that usually comes with superhero stories."