“Part of the journey is the end.”
In “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel Studios brings about a close to the story started in last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and shuts the door on their groundbreaking 22-film Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga.
When we last saw our heroes, they had suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of Thanos, who had finally accomplished his goal of population control (to the tune of annihilating 50 percent of everybody in the universe) and was happily enjoying retirement on some distant planet.
With their numbers dwindled and their spirits at their lowest ebb, the surviving teammates must carry on while waiting for their chance to take one last stand against Thanos, to avenge — or perhaps restore — the fallen.
It seems disingenuous not to say more of what happens, but with the constant #Don’tSpoilTheEndgame reminders everywhere, it is perhaps safer to leave it there. The chances are good that anyone reading reviews is looking at them after the fact anyway, as opposed to using them to decide whether to see “Endgame.” If you’ve been watching the last 22 films, you’re going to see it; if you haven’t, you’re probably not going to jump in now.
What I can tell you, is that “Avengers: Endgame” has pretty much everything you’d be looking for in terms of bookending this long MCU journey. There are glimpses of old friends, and visits from new ones; lowbrow humor and high tragedy; quiet moments and cataclysmic battles.
The structure of the film is such that it allows us a good look back on most of the major movies, equal parts touching and hilarious, before hurtling full steam into the final confrontations, and it is here where it really shines. If you’ve taken the time to rewatch the whole series in preparation for this, and maybe particularly if you have not, it’s amazing to see and reflect back on what a high overall standard Kevin Feige and the rest of his MCU team kept on all their films. So many characters and scenes are so memorable, it takes only seconds to identify and relate them to the current events as the action whips by.
“Infinity War” ended with most of the characters more recent to the saga sidelined, leaving us largely with the Old Guard Avengers. All of them have gone through enormous changes over the course of the saga, and the film gives each their time in the spotlight.
Out of all the main characters, the one who has undergone the most evolution is Thor. Ever since “Ragnarok” took him from the most boring Avenger to the most engaging, Hemsworth and Co. have continued to mold Thor into someone still eminently larger than life, but susceptible to enough human emotions and failings to make him relatable. As the one who has arguably suffered the most loss of all — Asgard, his family, and now half his remaining people — his failure to save them and stop Thanos in the end of “Infinity War” has weighed heavily upon him.
The newer arrivals, such as Ant-Man (played with Paul Rudd’s usual comic excellence) and Rocket, show a lightness that contrasts nicely with the gravity of the others. They show an eagerness for action that years of inner demon-wrestling have sapped out of veterans like the Hulk and Black Widow.
Steve Rogers, the perpetual man-out-of-his-time, has spent his whole superhero career getting jerked away from one place of stability after another. After sequentially losing Peggy Carter (“First Avenger,”) SHIELD (“Winter Soldier,”) and even the Avengers (“Civil War,”) Chris Evans continues his pitch-perfect job of showing us a Captain America yearning for a life his sense of duty and iron-clad principles perpetually deny him.
It is Robert Downey Jr. however, who most would pin as MVP of the MCU and they would probably be correct. Always a talented actor, Downey got the blockbuster role of a lifetime in Tony Stark way back in 2008’s “Iron Man.” Hard now to think of a better choice for the emotionally damaged genius with a flair for theatrics than the actor who had already overcome any number of personal difficulties to reestablish himself professionally. Stark has come a long way from his egoist days in “Iron Man,” to utter paranoia in “Age of Ultron,” to seeing his worst fears realized in “Infinity War,” and Downey always made him real on a level that elevated all the other MCU characters throughout the journey.
At just about three hours, there’s a lot going on in the movie, and it is maybe forgivable that some points seem a little rushed. There is the usual element of technobabble and convoluted timelines and a touch of deus ex machina, but the magic of Marvel Studios is that they have made these enormous special-effect spectaculars so character-driven that everything else seems secondary.
When I wrote about “Infinity War” last time, I noted that if you were invested in the MCU, you would not be disappointed, and I think that is even more true of “Endgame.” It’s wittier, ties together better, and has a more satisfying ending. Ultimately, “Endgame” aims to fulfill two goals: Bringing an end to a story 22 films in the making; and answering the Russo Brothers’ question from back in “Infinity War:” What does it cost to be a hero? Watching the Avengers over the years it has become evident the answer is “whatever it takes.”
“Avengers: Endgame” is presented by Marvel Studios. Rated PG-13, it stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Bradley Cooper as Rocket.
*Always stay to the end of the credits.
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo. Produced by Kevin Feige. The Executive Producers were Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Trinh Tran, Jon Favreau, Jame Gunn, and Stan Lee.
Rating: PG-13. Running time: 3 hours, 1 minute. The film enters general release on April 26, 2019, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
**Fake–there’s nothing to see here. Hey, what’s that sound…