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Thursday, April 25, 2019 12:04 am

Endgame a perfect ending to a marvelous saga

 

Expectations couldn’t be higher for Marvel Films’ Avengers: Endgame, arguably the most anticipated movie in film history.  Having already broken pre-ticket sales records before one frame has flickered on the screen, there’s no question that parent company Disney will turn a tidy profit on this endeavor.  Still, there’s a great deal riding on this movie in terms of fan loyalty, as filmgoers have a 10-year investment in this 23-film endeavor and the question hanging over it is if their time has been well spent in this unprecedented film-fan experience. 

What with Marvel Films’ track record, it should come as no surprise that the penultimate chapter of this saga is more than satisfying and actually quite moving at times, as it pulls off the impressive feat of being a genuinely nostalgic exercise as well as a subtle table-setting for future features.  Clocking in at three hours, the movie breezes along at a brisk pace, neatly divided into three acts that feature nearly every major or supporting character from all of the movies, a fanboy’s dream if there ever was one. Rest assured this will still prove satisfying, even to those who’ve only seen a few of the key installments.

Many have gone to great lengths to keep themselves in the dark where the film’s plot is concerned, so I will tread lightly here.  After the cataclysmic events of Infinity War, in which half of the life forms in the galaxy were wiped out by cosmic environmentalist Thanos (Josh Brolin) with the power of the six collected Infinity Stones, there are only a few Avengers left to lick their wounds.  The original six – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – are dealing with their grief in different ways, while the cyborg Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voice by Bradley Cooper), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) are also on hand, unsure of how to progress with their lives.  That is, until Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shows up after having been trapped in the Quantum Realm for five years, a place where time moves differently and holds the key to these heroes resurrecting their lost allies.

It should come as no surprise that time travel plays a key role in getting the whole Marvel gang back together.  But what directors Anthony and Joe Russo, as well as screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do with this conceit proves surprising and wholly entertaining.  Realizing they have to go back to different times to retrieve all of the infinity stones Thanos finds them and alter reality, the heroes divide into separate groups for this quest.

Each of them then travels to familiar scenes from previous Marvel movies, watching themselves in the past and commenting on the action. This post-modern take is a hoot as we see how the characters were, juxtaposed with how they’ve changed (Hulk and Thor, for good or ill, have gone through the biggest transformations) providing one moment after another of hilarious meta-comedy. Along the way, touching and unexpected reunions take place as well as the reappearance of characters long since dead. 

And that proves to be the most surprising and refreshing element of the film. Infinity War was a dire affair, and while the narrative stakes are just as high here, ultimately Endgame is much lighter in tone, reveling in its past and fully embracing the nostalgia surrounding the series as well as characters’ developmental arcs.  This is a trip down memory lane for the audience, being plunged into key moments from past films and given a fresh perspective on them. This is most effective with the heroes that have been around since the beginning with Iron Man and Captain America getting sincere farewells, each given a satisfying denouement that will elicit well-earned smiles and tears.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the film is the balancing act the Russos employ regarding the wide range of emotions at play. In the end, there’s little to quibble about where Endgame is concerned, as it ends Marvel’s grand experiment on a high note that could scarcely be improved upon.  And while these films could be dismissed as just overproduced comic book hijinks, there’s a thoughtful, introspective approach here that reminds us of how precious our lives are and that the greatest of crimes is to live with regret.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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