When the audience erupts into cheers and applause three or four times in a sold-out cinema, you know that the filmmakers have knocked one high and clear, right out of the popular cultural ballpark.
For some time now, I’ve thought that the Disney-Marvel films, starting with 2007’s Iron Man, are not really separate movies at all in the old sense but something new to Hollywood — 20-odd pictures that conspire to tell one overarching story, just like the best comic books used to do in their big crossover events.
And Avengers: Endgame proves it.
It’s an operatic flourish that finishes this 12-year saga, and handsomely pays off the debts and bets planted in at least dozen of the films that preceded it, with a good deal of change to spare.
Every astounding cosmic conflict is balanced by notes of recognizable, ordinary humanity — sad, funny, touching, or all three — that keeps the audience caring about these outlandish proceedings.
These are people who shoulder the responsibilities of gods as lightly as anyone can — superhumans in whom those last two syllables are always underlined.
Like only a handful of other superhero movies I’ve seen, it’s a completely satisfying film. It’s the Marvel saga, perfect and complete. Somewhere out there, Stan Lee should be smiling, even while shaking his head in disbelief, True Believers. How could stories inspired by a once-despised medium become the biggest entertainment franchise on Earth?
The movie even left me with a philosophical lesson to ponder, summed up in this line of dialogue: “Everybody fails at being the person he’s supposed to be, Thor.”