How to describe "Avengers: Endgame," the movie that some film buffs believe has already eclipsed the Star Wars franchise in cultural relevance?
It's a task that's nigh impossible without spoilers. Marvel has kept its mystery box plot tightly sealed and for good reason. This is a finale to a film series that took 11 years to finish. There are little nods to the very first Iron Man that would delight the hardest of Marvel nerds.
Here's a promise though: You will cry buckets. If you've ever cared for any of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) characters in the past decade, this movie will destroy you. Bring lots of tissue, or a wool sweater to wipe the snot off surreptitiously. Marvel earns our tears here, no doubt. It is glorious, epic, towering and very emotional, the best movie in the entire 22-movie MCU canon. Be forewarned.
In "Avengers: Infinity War," Thanos succeeded in gathering the 6 Infinity Stones and executing the snap - killing off half of life in the universe. The results are horrible as half of Earth's population is decimated. Among the casualties are half of the Avengers, almost the entire Guardians of the Galaxy and several of Wakanda's fiercest including T'Challa, the Black Panther. It is up to the remaining heroes -- Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Thor, War Machine, Rocket Raccoon, and Nebula -- to undo the damage left by Thanos and do some old-fashioned avenging.
Thankfully, they have some new allies joining the battle including a cosmic-powered Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. After a somewhat ho-hum intro in her solo movie, Captain Marvel finally shows the fullest extent of her power here -- a big gun aimed at the MCU's biggest bad.
On the other hand, Hawkeye has one of the roughest rides of the original Avengers here. After skipping the Infinity War, Barton is drawn back to battle as the enigmatic Ronin. Hawkeye's decision to retire from the Avengers always made sense: he's a family man after all. Here, he finds new reason to deliver bloody payback. That rumored Hawkeye TV series cannot come sooner.
Ironically, Ant-Man, who's almost treated like a joke in the Avengers, plays a pivotal role after getting stuck in the Quantum Realm in his own movie "Ant-Man and The Wasp." Ant-Man and Hawkeye may seem B-list compared to their mightier superhero friends but it is their respective journeys at the start of the narrative that ground the stakes of the Avengers journey.
None of the trailers have spoiled the Endgame. This is a good thing because this one takes a helluva journey through the MCU's story so far. There are payoffs and matchups that every Marvel zombie will appreciate. (One joke in particular about Captain America's old costume had the audience roaring.)
At the 30-minute mark, there is a bold story beat that arrives so suddenly I thought they made a mistake. And then it goes on and on and on - one glorious story that builds and builds until that final, glorious finish. Did I say it gets emotional? The Russo Brothers are geniuses at this: mining our heroes' emotional pasts to make a bolder, heftier story. All the fan theories lighting up the internet before this movie are going to go bananas over that finale. Bring tissue.
How about harrowing? There's a climactic battle here that I believe absolutely eclipses the nuclear crush of Infinity War's melee.
What about the humor? Well, we've got everyone's favorite son of Asgard -- Thor -- to thank for that. Thor Odinson brings the thunder and the rock and roll in this story -- a delightfully hilarious coda to "Thor: Ragnarok."
A word of caution: the movie's three-hour runtime can be crushing for the unitiated. Best to be prepared before going in. And once there, strap yourselves in for Marvel's biggest, boldest, bravest ride. MCU brainchild Kevin Feige promised an ending in this movie and that is exactly what it is -- an ending. And maybe, just maybe a glorious new beginning too.