The Russo brothers' poignant, powerful finale more than lives up to the hype: It's a thrilling conclusion and a deeply emotional exploration of loss and love, duty and honor, friendship and family. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the story focuses on the remaining Avengers and their post-trauma lives. Each seems overwhelmed by their failure, so when they start to regroup, it's clear that they're far from the same confident, optimistic superheroes who thought they could defeat Thanos in Infinity War. The dads in the group are particularly effective at showing how personal the grief is, providing a contrast to the general sense of failure and loss that the single superheroes feel. As the often underappreciated Hawkeye, Renner stands out in a crowded field of immense talent for making his character feel central. His intensity and his platonic, brotherly love for Natasha/Black Widow is perfectly conveyed. Johansson does a lot of the emotionally resonant work in the movie, keeping tabs on everyone, encouraging her friends, and acting like everyone's favorite sister (except in the Hulk's case). The big three -- Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor -- are also fabulous. Their differences have never been more obvious, but each proves that despite past conflicts and heartbreaks, they're worthy and ready to fight side by side.
There's so much packed into the three hours of Avengers: Endgame that it might seem overwhelming at times; this is clearly a film that will inspire repeat viewing. There are unexpected twists and moments of hilarity, as well as more serious scenes and themes. Those well-versed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will delight in the many Easter eggs and clear fan service (yes, there's still a Stan Lee cameo), while more casual fans will still find plenty of reasons to applaud. What's also true is that the three-hour movie brings all the feels. Just when one gut-punching beat finishes, there's barely enough of a break for a zinger from Tony or Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) before another "oh no" moment squeezes your heart. But don't despair: This is a bittersweet example that the best heroes won't allow hubris or insecurity to defeat them. Endgame ranks up there with The Return of the King and Deathly Hallows: Part 2 -- all are epic, emotional, and exceptional franchise finales.