Note: This review will be as spoiler-free as I can make it for Avengers: Endgame, though I do discuss the latest season of Game of Thrones up through last week's episode. So … consider this a spoiler alert for something that's not technically being reviewed here, I guess?
Game of Thrones is a show that reveled in darkness and unpleasantness and sadness and angst; a show where The Bad Guys Win and Good People Suffer and Expectations Get Subverted; a show where a pregnant woman is stabbed to death in the belly on the orders of a man who is later fed his own sons and who is himself working on behalf of a family whose patriarch dies violently on the toilet for the crime of seducing his dwarf son's prostitute lover. And in its most recent season, it has become a show where a beloved character gets a slow-clap after she receives the thing she's always wanted but has always been denied due to her society's blinkered thinking: knighthood.
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My point, simply, is that the fan service that has crept into Game of Thrones over the last season-and-a-bit may be entertaining, but it is also unbecoming, a betrayal of the show's early spirit. Fan service is better suited for something like, say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a crowd-pleasing mega-series of blockbusters that promised little more than a good time and demonstrated to generations of fans that the comics they grew up reading could be done, and done right, on the big screen.
Avengers: Endgame is the logical culmination of 11 years and 21 movies, each of which played into the next with post-credit stingers and in-movie Easter Eggs. Virtually every protagonist in the history of the series makes an appearance as the heroes who remain after Thanos's finger snap at the end of Infinity War attempt to undo his devastation. They hang out together, fight together, quip and banter together, play off each other's powers in unexpected and hilarious and exciting ways.
The film's pandering occasionally grows tiresome. There's one moment near the end, maybe two-and-a-half hours into the thing, that's so outrageously, jaw-droppingly condescending that you might be tempted to chuck your long-empty box of Jujubes at the screen in anger. Though I'm being intentionally vague here, you'll know it when you see it, and when you see it, I promise you'll think to yourself, "Sonny was right, he always is." But more often than not, it all works. This is a movie designed to spark childish wonder in even those of us who have grown cynical at the whole enterprise.
I saw someone describe Endgame as Marvel's monument to itself, and that might be true. It's a monument that Marvel, Disney, and head honcho Kevin Feige deserve. The movie wraps up the arcs of characters we've spent more than a decade with, demonstrates their growth and change and, in one case, regression. It's even compellingly moving at times. Fatherhood has rendered me utterly incapable of stoically shrugging off Dad Stuff, and this movie is filled to the gills with father-daughter/father-son relationships. The MCU has never had the intellectual chops of its counterpart, the DCEU, but it's always had a surfeit of heart. Endgame fills that heart and makes it burst.
Frankly, one wishes Endgame was the end of the MCU, period. Just as Christopher Nolan found a logical endpoint for his Batman saga with The Dark Knight Rises, so too does the land of Marvel find itself at the end of its story. Alas, the imperatives of capitalism demand that the show must go on: you don't simply pull the plug on billion-dollar-grossing films because of a little thing like the story finding a logical endpoint. Time will tell if the new generation of heroes has what it takes to keep this money train rolling.