With a running time of over three hours, the Pinewood Studios-filmed “Avengers: Endgame” is as stuffed and as sprawling as the 11-year Marvel Cinematic Universe that inspired this series finale. And despite the gazillion fan theories floating in cyberspace that have been generated since intergalactic villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers at the maddeningly inconclusive conclusion of “Avengers: Infinity War” 12 months ago, not even the most devout MCU dork can anticipate where “Endgame’s” story ultimately goes.
That’s the real magic of what directors Anthony and Joe Russo achieve with this culmination of 11 year’s worth of storytelling. Plot threads from all 22 MCU films, from 2008’s “Iron Man” to “Captain Marvel” released in March are tied up even as a few fresh threads are enticingly dangled for the film franchise’s next phase. Also: “Avengers: Endgame” should be required viewing for every creative assigned to work on the rival DC Extended Universe movies. This is how you create a compelling 22-film story arc for fans while paying homage to its half-century source material.
Here’s a spoiler-free guide to what you’ll want to know as you head into the eagerly anticipated “Avengers: Endgame” screenings starting tonight.
Warning: If you’re an MCU fan who wishes to go into “Endgame” with absolutely no advance information about what to expect, stop reading now.
- Expect the Unexpected
Seriously, the plot I had in my head going into this week’s press screening ended up as five lines on a single page in my reporter’s notebook. And then “Endgame” rockets you into uncharted MCU territory.
2. Listen to Carol Danvers
As Captain Marvel early in “Endgame,” Brie Larson has some prophetic words for her fellow super heroes. She’s not lying.
3. You Will See Hulk, Thor and Captain America (And Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans) as You’ve Never Seen Them Before
There were literally gasps in the theater. From grizzled press people, mind you.
4. Creature Comforts Has TWO Cameos
The Athens-based craft beer maker that celebrates its fifth anniversary this month has a couple of very high-profile reasons to hoist cans of Creature Comforts for a celebratory toast. Turns out, during the film shoot in Georgia, the cast, crew and even co-director Joe Russo (who’s been known to sport a CC T-shirt) have been introduced to the small craft beer company’s products and wanted to sneak in a sly nod to the suds.
5. A Hollywood Legend Comes Out of Retirement — Briefly
Even though this Hollywood icon has now notably retired from acting, thanks to a very fun turn of events in “Endgame,” MCU fans are treated one last glimpse of this legendary star at work.
6. Chris Evans Speaks for All of America
In one of the film’s funniest – and most unexpected — sequences, Steve Rogers has an opportunity to assess what film fans have known since he first stepped off that ice floe in 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Nuff said.
7. There’s Family Bonding
For over half a century, Marvel Comics superheroes have resonated with readers, thanks in part to lots of complicated, messy and dysfunctional family dynamics. In “Endgame,” multiple characters have an opportunity to mend fences and spend some unexpected quality time with loved ones. For my money, splashy CGI battle sequences aside, this is what sets Marvel characters apart. “Endgame” honors the comic book tradition of Stan Lee’s creations beautifully.
8. Speaking of Stan Lee…
Of course, he’s here, reportedly for his final MCU cameo, filmed well in advance of Lee’s death last November at age 95. And unlike, the quieter and more somber voice work he recorded for the animated Oscar winner “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that debuted last December, Lee’s final cameo is raucous and funny.
9. Avengers Ensemble, Er, Assemble!
Literally. As expected, there’s some much-anticipated —and powerful — ensemble work in “Endgame.” One scene in particular will have you searching for signs of how CGI effects might have achieved it. My untrained eye couldn’t detect any in the long continuous panning shot. That said, it’s fun to imagine who was listed first on the 100-actor call sheet that morning at Pinewood Studios.
10. You May Find Yourself Firing Up Harry James & His Orchestra’s “It’s Been a Long, Long Time” on Spotify for the Car Ride Home
The big band tune written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn at the end of World War II provides the soundtrack for what is sure to be a fan favorite scene in “Endgame.”
11. Remember, Expect the Unexpected
Even when it comes to Marvel’s now-traditional end credits sequences. There aren’t any. So unless you want to sit and watch for that now-famous Made in Georgia peach logo, get up, stretch your legs and for the love of god, pee. It’s been three hours and fifteen minutes, after all. Think of the no-end-credits-scenes-end-credits as the Russo brothers putting a period at the end of the sentence for MCU’s impressive first 11 years of films.
“Avengers: Endgame” is now in theaters nationwide.
Richard L. Eldredge is the founder and editor in chief of Eldredge ATL. As a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta magazine, he has covered Atlanta since 1990.