Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Few film franchises can hold a candle to Marvel. Since 2008, the geniuses behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have weaved a careful web of stories for comic book superfans, each one uniquely connecting to the next. They’ve given us subtle teases and post-credits scenes, fueling our cravings for what’s to come. But all good things must come to an end, and we have arrived at our final destination full of superhero madness.

Directed by Kevin Feige and produced by Anthony and Joe Russo, Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is a three-hour thrill ride, and you’ll go through every emotion you can imagine before you even finish your popcorn (don’t get a soda. You cannot pee during this movie.). It all goes by in a flash but leaves viewers satisfied with a complete storyline and meaningful conclusion to the 22-film super saga.

Dead Dead vs. Dusted Dead

There are two types of dead in the MCU: dead dead and dusted dead. Did Thanos crush your throat in his hands or throw your body off a cliff in pursuit of the Soul Stone? That’s dead dead. Did you evaporate into dust while saying, “I don’t feel so good?” That’s dusted dead.

The people Thanos (Josh Brolin) murdered when he wiped out half the universe in Infinity War are known as “The Vanished.” In Endgame, the world tries to cope with this new reality. But the 50/50, perfectly balanced world Thanos achieved turns out to be less than ideal. Thanos’ self-perceived success results in a stunned world full of support groups, abandoned possessions, and a whole lot of mourning. It’s hard to move on when you can’t let go of what you lost.

Marvel Studios’ ‘Avengers: Endgame’ L to R: Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), War Machine/James Rhodey (Don Cheadle), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) Photo: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

The Real OGs

Endgame does a lot of things well, but perhaps the best is the razor-sharp focus on the original six Avengers: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Captain America (Chris Evans). The MCU has expanded over the years to include dozens of other heroes and sidekicks, from the Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), but the small group of legendary heroes that began this wild ride is front and center in Endgame, and it’s the perfect setup for a poetic story of epic proportions.

Marvel Studios’ ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Thanos’ armor. Photo: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

Though fans have speculated (to no end, honestly) how the heroes will defeat Thanos, including theories like Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) — who was absent from Infinity War due to house arrest) — shrinking small enough to fit inside the Infinity Gauntlet, the method they settle on provides fans with a delightful trip down memory lane. It pays homage to Marvel movies past while reminding us why we fell in love with these butt-kicking badasses in the first place.

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye/Ronin (Jereme Renner). Photo: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

All of our Avengers have their own struggles: Missed opportunities at love, daddy issues, guilt over their past lives, fear of not living up to expectations, and putting the needs of society over those of your own family. It’s these struggles that make the heroes so relatable, reminding us that even with super strength and a dope costume, life is hard. Endgame gives each of the core Avengers a shot at redemption, letting them face their demons head-on. Some come out on top. Others … don’t.

Marvel Studios’ ‘Avengers: Endgame’ L to R: Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine/James Rhodey (Don Cheadle), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Photo: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2019

Fan Service

Endgame is a film for the fans. It’s jam-packed with Easter eggs, including the iconic Stan Lee cameo, but also countless others that will incite giggles from true fans. It’s impossible to stay quiet while you watch characters you’ve followed for more than a decade shout their iconic catchphrases, surprise you with a new look, or come to the rescue just in the nick of time. It’s heartwarming, passionate, and even a little silly. But it’s the small, fun moments that keep the film balanced amid the seriousness of the storyline. After all, we’re trying to save trillions of people and living creatures ­— a tough job with or without metal suits of armor, special weapons made for the Worthy, and all the Vibranium in Wakanda.

Fans have also been amped for Captain Marvel to make her debut as an official Avenger since her standalone origin story film premiered last month, after which she appeared with Black Widow, War Machine, and Captain America in a post-credits scene. But, she’s a lot less important than fans expected. If you haven’t seen Captain Marvel yet, you’ll make it through Endgame just fine. I suspect she’ll play a larger role in phase four of the MCU. Captain Marvel was one of the few things I was disappointed by in Endgame, but keeping her in the backseat makes perfect sense considering this film is really about the OG squad of heroes, a theme that fans will pick up on almost immediately.

 Avengers: Endgame is a swan song, and it’s one of the most satisfying conclusions to a story I’ve ever seen. Audiences should definitely go in with a willing suspension of belief — after all, we are talking about a superhero movie complete with alien races and time travel. But if you take it for what it is — flashy, fun, and fictional — you’ll love it.

The film is a wild ride and a good time, tying up story arcs and loose ends in a neat little bow. All of your favorite characters are there, coming together for one last epic fight against a powerful foe, each one getting what they need before turning the MCU over to the next phase of heroes.

P.S. Bring tissues.

Photos: Marvel Entertainment