FILM REVIEW – AVENGERS: ENDGAME. With Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Josh Brolin, many, many others. Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references. 181 minutes.
At the end of “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), Thanos (Josh Brolin) had succeeded in gaining all six of the “Infinity Stones” and used their combined power to turn half of all life in the universe into dust. The closing scenes were devastating to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), as we watched a number of characters disintegrate, including Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), but not before he sent out a signal for help. A few months later came “Ant-Man & The Wasp,” in which the events of “Infinity War” seemed to have no impact, until a scene in the closing credits dusted a host of characters and left Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) trapped in quantum space.
We found out who Fury was summoning last month in “Captain Marvel,” introducing the character played by Brie Larson. And that so-called “Easter Egg” (because it was “hidden” in the closing credits after the movie ended) with Ant-Man introduced something else that will play out in the new AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Although the superhero genre is looked down upon – much as other genres now taken seriously were once dismissed as “oaters” or “tearjerkers” – the intricate plotting and characterization across nearly two dozen films made over the course of a decade is something that will both entertain and be studied for years to come.
As for “Endgame,” this reviewer is redacting most of the plot summary. Suffice to say, after some opening scenes which contain a few surprises, the story proper begins with the remainder of the Avengers drawn into a plan to reverse the calamity brought about by Thanos. While Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) are ready to get to work, others – like Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) have, for better or worse, moved on.
What they decide to do, how they do it, and what obstacles they face are left for viewers to discover. There are just a few points to be made. First, many movies get touted as “epic” adventures, but this is that rare film that lives up to the hype. It’s three hours long, and yet doesn’t feel it. You get caught up in the story and with the choices facing the characters. There are moments of humor, many involving Hemsworth, who comes as close as anyone to stealing the film. There are also many touching moments, including some that may leave you teary-eyed.
Second, almost anyone who has had a significant role in the MCU movies turns up here, including some big names showing up to reprise parts in earlier films. While Downey, Hemsworth, Ruffalo, Evans, Johannson, and Jeremy Renner (as Hawkeye) get much screen time, other characters get their moments as well. It’s a combination family reunion and farewell party, so perhaps it’s fitting that the movie includes one final cameo from the late Stan Lee.
Finally, in terms of both big screen action and tying up loose ends, “Avengers: End Game” really brings it to an end, with no additional scenes in the closing credits to tease future installments. The climactic battle – and it’s not a spoiler to note that there is one – features a number of moments which are destined to become iconic. After a payoff like this, it’s fair to ask where the genre goes from here. “Avengers: Endgame” will be a very tough act – if not an impossible one – to follow.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.