Movie review: Epic ‘End’: Avengers go out on a high note
Eleven years and 22 movies later, we’re at the end - and what a ride it’s been. The journey was sometimes bumpy, loud, bonkers, but mostly it was a blast. Watching “Avengers: Endgame” it suddenly struck me how much I cared about all these characters. You never know what you have until it’s gone. My affection runs deep, especially for Cap (swoon). That’s why I love how this finale, more character-driven than any of the previous entries, returns to where it all started, to focus on the original six: Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). After all, they’re our first loves.
Reviewing a movie like this is a challenge. I pinky-swear promise not to reveal any spoilers. I will abide by the request of franchise directors Joe and Anthony Russo not to invite the wrath of the hashtag #DontSpoilTheEndgame, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s also not easy being one of the survivors of the finger-snap heard ’round the world. The script, from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, spends the first few moments of the movie rehashing the evil handiwork of Thanos, who decimated half of the population and wiped out superheroes like Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) etc. The remaining Avengers are depressed, coping with survivors’ guilt. You can’t keep a superhero down for long. Cue the plan for one last stand, which is a Hail Mary that requires an assist from other survivors War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan). The tough-as-nails Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) makes a couple of brief appearances, too.
Things start to get dicey at the mid-way point when you’re forced to try to figure out the plot. You notice glaring holes in the story continuity. Don’t dwell. Focus on the characters: Their growth, their strength, their sacrifice. Except, that is, for Fat Thor. That’s not how I like my Hemsworth. The Russo brothers, who also helmed three other comic-book blockbusters (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War”) lead us to the finish line with less Marvel bombast than usual. Sure, there are the de rigueur CGI battles, stupid expository dialogue about the Infinity Stones, time travel, Pym Particles, quantum this-and-that, but the actors are also called upon to act, to relay emotions. They spend a fair amount of time out their superhero suits. They feel fully formed, and that kind of humanity goes a long way to reconcile some of the film’s flaws. Ditto for the trademark comedic Marvel banter and humor. To further mark the end of an era, Stan Lee also makes his final cameo.
I can’t let you off without a warning. An epic movie usually means an epic runtime. “Endgame” is no different; it is 182 minutes. There is no post-credit bonus scene, but stick around for a rather sweet tribute to the cast as the closing credits scroll. Also, give Marvel props for not splitting the finale into two films, as has been the case with the endings of past blockbuster franchises (“Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” “Twilight”). It’s still a long haul though. If you need a bathroom break, then do it before the last hour, which will hit you with a case of the feels that you won’t be able to shake. I’m getting kind of misty-eyed again just writing it. “Endgame” is a satisfying swansong, nothing short of a fitting heroes’ end. Thanks, Marvel.
Dana Barbuto may be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.
Cast: Scarlett Johannsson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin.
(PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.)