By Lexi Vollero
April 23, 2019 at 08:09 PM EDT
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It’s safe to say that Avengers: Endgame is the most highly-anticipated film of the year, if not the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The preceding Avengers: Infinity War left off with half the Earth’s population decimated with a snap of power-hungry Thanos’ oversized, purple fingers. A single instant swept away the ashes of Marvel’s mightiest heroes, including Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, and Nick Fury, as they disintegrated into dust.  

This plot point alone sets the bar for an epic ending, regardless of the tremendous pressure of wrapping-up a decade-long super-saga. Last night’s premiere marked the end of an era, and the critics have emerged with their initial reviews. 

Mike Sorrentino of CNET  in the title of his review calls Endgame a “three-hour Marvel thrill ride [that] tops Infinity War.” Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times declares: “I report that the Marvel series — or at least this current phase of it — has come to a stirring, satisfying finish with Avengers: Endgame.” Read a roundup of the spoiler-free reviews below:

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)

Oh, the cameos; sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo, veterans of the MCU, max out their Rolodex in nearly every scene, though half of the A-list appearances are over before the audience’s happy gasp of surprise even fades. With the stakes being no less than the fate of the world (or at least approximately 50% of it), there’s an expected urgency to it all, but an underlying melancholy, too — not just for everything that’s been lost, but for what won’t be coming back.  

Brian Truitt (USA Today)

If the Marvel superhero movies on the whole are your favorite band’s individual albums, “Avengers: Endgame” is the triple-disc greatest-hits package with the really awesome cover and a slew of familiar, comforting gems inside.

Jason Guerrasio (Business Insider)

“What’s so amazing about ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (in theaters Friday): It fulfills everything that was set up in ‘Infinity War.’ One of the biggest surprises about ‘Endgame’ is its tone. Coming off the seriousness of ‘Infinity War,’ you would think the movie would be a harsh revenge tale, as the existing Avengers try to avenge not only the friends they lost, but also half the population wiped out by Thanos. But in fact, there’s a lightheartedness that flows through the movie and never feels out of place.”

Justin Chang (Los Angeles Time)

“Despite its epic ambitions and tumescent running time, ‘Endgame’ often feels shorter, looser and lighter on its feet than some of its Marvel brethren. That’s true at least until a cataclysmic showdown, an ensemble mash-up of inevitably staggering proportions that, like too many of the action sequences in these movies, devolves into a murky, indecipherable blur.

A.O. Scott (New York Times)

There are roughly 10,860 of those — seconds, not cars — nestled in between the quiet, spooky opening and the last bit of end credits. Which means that whatever a ticket costs in your neighborhood, “Avengers: Endgame” might count as a bargain. At three hours and one minute, it’s shorter than “Titanic,” “The Godfather Part II” or Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard.” And while the time doesn’t exactly fly, it doesn’t drag either. The two hours and forty minutes of “Infinity War” (also directed by Joe and Anthony Russo) felt infinitely longer. Settling scores, wrapping up loose ends and taking a victory lap — the main objects of the game this ostensibly last time around — generate some comic sparks as well as a few honest tears.

Mike Sorrentino (CNET)

“Endgame is a giant sequel to every MCU movie ever, but thankfully an in-depth knowledge of those films is unnecessary. The plot does jump around at times, which might confuse casual viewers, but bottom line: this thrill ride kicks off big and never lets up. It’s so much fun.” 

Eric Kohn (IndieWire)

“Endgame” delivers the payoff countless fans hoped for, even as it struggles to fuse that commercial mandate into a gratifying whole. There’s much to enjoy about this mishmash of tender goodbyes and last-minute strategies to save the universe, but after an intelligent first hour, “Endgame” amounts to a dense nostalgia trip. With “Infinity War,” it was thrilling to watch a mass-market movie let the bad guy win, and it’s less satisfying to see the Avengers clean up the mess one last time. The title of “Endgame” is misleading: This busy love letter to the biggest movie franchise of all time unleashes several endings at once, resulting in a fascinating — if at times messy — collection of competing agendas.

Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair)

“Instead of a kill-a-thon, Endgame is a solemn and unexpectedly un-violent caper, a quest to undo the worst thing imaginable. Sure, there are action scenes peppered throughout—but Endgame is largely about stealth and internal reckoning. It presents the warming, moving idea that the strength and ingenuity of community can amply combat despair, even when all seems a frozen and lonely ruin.”

Eric Eisenberg (CinemaBlend)

“Joe and Anthony Russo’s Avengers: Endgame – a film that has been specifically described over the last four-and-a-half years as the movie that would be the ultimate capstone for the franchise, and exist as the story to which all of the previous 21 chapters have been leading. Obviously that’s an incredible amount of hype, and the end result is that it’s now considered one of the most anticipated releases in history… but what’s even more utterly spectacular is the fact that every ounce of that hype is totally justified. Simply put, Avengers: Endgame is one of the most ambitious, entertaining, emotional, and stunning blockbusters we’ve ever seen, and the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon thus far.”

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