It's been a little over 10 years since the first Iron Man film taught us that comic book flicks could be well-made, quite fun and well worth it, and the saga it spawned—which of course rolls up about a zillion other titles from Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel to Dr. Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming—comes to a close in the latest and final (we think) Avengers movie, Endgame.

We rejoin Iron Man, Thor, War Machine, Black Widow, Rocket Raccoon, Ant Man and a whole cadre of other heroes in the aftermath of super villain Thanos' finger-snapping annihilation of 50% of the universe's living creatures. This meant a whole mess of our favorites—like Spider-Man, dammit—had faded to death and to dust. Cue tears.

But despite the despotic madman from across the stars' best hopes for some sort of universal balance restoration, pretty much no one in galaxy is grateful. Hence, the surviving Earthlings and non-Earthlings alike keep the teamwork going and hatch a plan to try and bring everyone back. Cue more tears.

It's true what you've heard about Endgame's long runtime (just pee before), but the magic in directors Joe and Anthony Russo's latest entry is in how it never ever stops rocking even for an instant. If anything, it feels a little shorter than it could have been. Perhaps it's in how everything from every extended franchise has been leading to this showdown since day one, or maybe it's in the clever ways the Russo brothers manage to present a greatest hits feel without exhausting the audience. Even the slower moments feel necessary, even the clearly emotionally manipulative swelling of the music as fight scenes go down or friends come together feel warranted.

For this and so many other reasons, Endgame is wildly satisfying, even when it doesn't go down the ways we might like. Cue even more tears—which is odd, really, because these are comic book characters with fantastic powers who are wrapped up in utterly absurd scenarios time and time again. But they've been with us most of our lives, in comic form and on television, in movie theaters and video games. Scoff if you will, non-fans, but for those who surrender to the siren call of Marvel Comics and Studios, it feels like we're rooting for our friends through every painful twist and heart-soaring victory.

Toss in that tech that makes old folks look young and young folks look old, some honest-to-God tearjerker moments and the return of Brie Larson's ultra-fun Carol Danvers, and we've really got something going. Think of it like a love letter to the fans—a bombastic, over-the-top love letter rife with the smoothest CGI, a darker tone and a couple cameos from the Community cast (from whence the Russo brothers came) all working together in glorious synergy for what is easily one of the best action movies of our time. Go for the face-punching, stay for the hugs; engage in the culture every once in awhile.

8
+Breakneck fun and incredible special effects; so satisfying
-A little manipulative with the old emotions

Avengers: Endgame
Directed by the Russo Brothers
With way more movie stars than we could ever list here
Regal (both locations), Violet Crown, PG-13, 181 min.