No spoilers: Epic 'Endgame' pays off huge

There's a lot of pressure riding on “Avengers: Endgame,” and I don't just mean the usual superhero, fate-of-the-world stuff.

There have been highs and lows in the epically ambitious crossovers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it has taken beloved comic book characters and carved new paths for them on the big screen.

All “Endgame” has to do is bring the dramatic arc of 20-plus movies in for a graceful landing. And it does it better than I possibly imagined. No spoilers ahead (seriously, none, aside from the previous Avengers movie).

“Endgame” begins amid the fallout of the world-shattering conclusion of “Infinity War,” where chief baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin) succeeded in collecting the six Infinity Stones and subsequently wiped out half of the living creatures on Earth with one snap of his fingers.

The surviving Avengers are on the ropes, their ranks thinned. Half of their friends are dead. All hope is gone.

But, notably, the core Avengers that Joss Whedon first assembled onscreen have survived. We still have Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

There's a reason I'm not giving away any more plot than what was known during the end credits of “Infinity War.” Even the trailers for “Endgame” have really only revealed the obvious addition of Brie Larson's Captain Marvel.

“Endgame” sticks this landing in ways that are thrilling, funny and emotional, and it does it by executing both on story and characters.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo work from an outstanding script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely that's inventive and unexpected, while also honoring the characters.

This is why this movie clocks in just over three hours, although it cruises by with excellent pacing.

The end events of “Infinity War” were a dramatic device that also brings “Endgame” into more manageable focus. “Infinity War” had 23 characters on its poster. “Endgame” is down to 13.

So while the last movie felt crowded, this one just feels epic.

The cast members seem to have stepped up their game for this finale, each actor tapping into their history with the character. It's easy to remember why Iron Man revived Downey Jr.'s career, and it's the best turn yet from Mark Ruffalo's Hulk/Bruce Banner, among others.

There's an ample amount of humor amid the tragedy and high stakes, especially in the familial banter between the team.

If you bought your opening night ticket in advance, you're in for a treat. Soon the internet will be flooded with details. Stay away, and make sure you see “Endgame” as soon as you can.