“Avengers: Endgame” Movie Review


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WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS

    If “Avengers: Endgame” accomplishes one thing, it gives the audience exactly what they want.  I learned as much simply by sitting in my theater seat during preview night with hundreds of rabid fans clapping and cheering nonstop for over 3 hours.  Every character entrance and every call to action was met with the kind of enthusiasm one might see during a high leverage situation in a championship football or basketball game.  It’s not often an atmosphere like that is created by a film inside a packed theater, but then again, “Endgame” isn’t your ordinary night out at the movies.  For over eleven years, producer Kevin Feige has overseen each and every one of the now 22 films that comprise what is known within the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the Infinity Saga.  A story that is brought to a thrilling conclusion with Anthony and Joe Russo’s fourth time in the director’s chair, having already helmed last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War”, as well as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War”.  To say the least, Marvel fans will be more than pleased with their effort.

     With over 76 speaking roles, “Infinity War” was often criticized for trying to cram in too much, leaving many of the most popular characters underserved.  Of course, given the ending of that film, the cast has been simplified with only the original core members of the Avengers remaining.  All of which was obviously done by design since the MCU was built primarily on the star power of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark / Iron Man, Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers / Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor.  With the core group surviving the snap heard throughout the universe that instantly turned trillions of lifeforms to dust, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely began the task of penning this grand finale knowing it would be up to the three characters who started it all to ultimately save those who perished.

     But how will they do it?  With Scott Lang / Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) serving as the MacGuffin, the answer lies within the complicated science behind the Quantum Realm, but there is no need to go into that here.  It’s best to just accept what the characters say and roll with it.  Applying any sort of logic to a plot so convoluted it makes “Inception” look like grade school material will only take away from the experience the filmmakers want you to have.  We know what the ultimate goal is and we know exactly what these events will lead to.  Thanos (Josh Brolin) won’t exactly be thrilled when he finds out what the Avengers are up to, so another conflict with him and his minions is all but certain.  The question is, where, when, and how?

     The first two hours of “Endgame” spends a great deal of time with both our main characters, as well as the secondary ones who survived the snap and now must learn to cope with life after losing many of their loved ones.  Essentially, this is the Avengers version of HBO’s “The Leftovers”, and if you were lucky enough to have watched the three outstanding seasons of that show, then you know exactly how crazy people would become if all of the sudden half of all life on Earth disappeared without warning.  Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) was not part of “Infinity War” after choosing to leave the Avengers in favor of reuniting with his family, but it becomes immediately clear he is the Nora Durst of this film having lost all of them and now spending his days as a globetrotting vigilante.  But he isn’t the only one whose mental state took a substantial hit.

     Perhaps my only criticism of “Endgame” is the consistently goofy nature of the middle hour where a plan is formulated, but the need to reunite the entire team means trekking to their current locations and convincing them to once again take on Thanos.  And while it’s expected Steve Rogers and Tony Stark still must mend fences after the rocky events of “Civil War”, Thor has retreated to a beach side town he and his former Asgardians refer to as New Asgard, where he has drowned in sorrow and, shall we say, not kept track of his calories?  This lesser version of Thor spends most of the film drunk and unable to perform many of the tasks expected of him by the team.  This, of course, is milked for every ounce of comic relief the filmmakers can muster to a point where it just isn’t funny anymore.  For the seriousness of the situation, the comic banter, particularly in the film’s second act, presents a constant tonal change that doesn’t exactly work with the material.  This, after all, is not a story with the amusing tone of “Guardians of the Galaxy” or even “Thor: Ragnarok”.  Thanos killed half of all life, including several notable and beloved characters who otherwise would be a part of this story, and yet Thor is made to function as a Dude lookalike whose main concern is what brand of beer do they have on the Avengers campus.  

     That’s not to say the Russos fail to deliver the goods.  Everything you expect from “Endgame”, plus quite a bit that will surprise you as well, is waiting in the film’s final hour where  the Avengers are laser focused on both the task at hand, as well as the inevitable showdown that has become boiler plate for virtually every comic book based film with the MCU being no exception.  This is fan service at its very finest and most effective form.  And the fact the MCU is more akin to episodic television, with over 50 hours of screen time across 22 films, than it is a film franchise, means each and every main character arc is fully realized in a way only the small screen can regularly accomplish.  This means the relationships between the main characters, but also Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow, and Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes / War Machine have now come full circle while recently introduced characters like Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel set the stage for the next MCU saga.  

     By now, the performances by Downey Jr., Evans, Hemsworth, and the rest of the main cast are so thoroughly nuanced that these actors exude their characters in ways that bridge reality.  When given the opportunity in a scene that seeks to inject the sentimental side of the MCU, each and every one of these actors bring forth the kind of emotion that indicates just how high the stakes in this story really are.  And that includes Josh Brolin as well, who has helped bring to life one of the most notorious, yet conflicted villains even seen on screen.  A crucial and vital element that ensures our heroes ultimately become larger than life when they are thrust into circumstances that require facing seemingly insurmountable odds.  

     For some, the story ends, but for the many other characters within the MCU, it is just beginning.  The accomplishment in bringing this universe to life is one of the greatest cinematic feats in history.  And what’s even more amazing is the fact there is clearly so much more life within it.  GRADE: A-