According to the general hype, Avengers: Endgame is the fourth greatest movie of all time. While it may not be that, it certainly gives your brain three hours off – which is the greatest gift of all.
I was having a drink with a friend, a big fan of lists when it comes to films, and the owner of several hundred, if not thousands of Criterion films on Blu-Ray. He found it fascinating that within two days of the release of Avengers: Endgame, it had already gotten enough high marks from IMDB users to have it ranked as the fourth-best film ever—slightly behind The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption; slightly ahead of 12 Angry Men, of all things.
What I can tell you, having seen the film shortly after having had this conversation, is that the fourth Avengers film, and 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is not the fourth-best film ever made. It’s pretty rad, about as entertaining as blockbusters can get, and judging by the gasps and acknowledging shrieks from some of the audience in attendance, hitting all the right notes with the Marvel devotees. And while it’s not the fourth-best film ever made, it’s about 1,000 times more entertaining than 12 Angry Men. You don’t necessarily need to have seen all the films in the MCU to get it, although if you have seen a number of very specific ones, much of the film will make a lot more sense to you and resonate more comprehensively. It’s no great achievement, cinematically. More a vast, expansive, cross-film Easter egg hunt which also serves as the best of its kind in a time when there’s just so many of these films around.
Having never been the most enthusiastic fan of the MCU (I decided after Avengers: Age of Ultron that films which climax with entire cities being used as blunt objects to be thrown about was, perhaps, just not meant for me), I had seen much of the “Phase three” films at home. Some are good, others, okay, all are a bit silly. But they’ve just kept going. And although some of them are just plainly dumb, or out-and-out bad, the fans keep coming. They even made one (Black Panther) which was well received to the point where it was nominated for seven Oscars and won three. Odd time to be alive.
I won’t spoil anything; lots goes on. Every corner of the MCU is covered, and you’d do very well to have seen most, if not all, of the MCU films leading up to this (Doctor Strange, both Ant-Man films, the Thor trilogy, as well as the Captain America trilogy and the first Guardians of the Galaxy; having said that, Iron Man 2 still sucks and you should avoid it). You don’t necessarily have to have seen them all, but there are some cameos and references that will leave you scratching your head if you haven’t.
What the critics have been saying is right: it has all the action, the humour, and the human drama (unexpected, that) which fans would want and non-fans can get on board with. The absence of Howard the Duck not withstanding (a key Marvel character robbed of his dues in this MCU), every angle has been covered, and it’s a mightily satisfying experience to have. It’s pretty rad. Pretty much the most fun possible in a cinema. Almost as much fun as watching the dollars roll in.