July 19, 2019

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Conclusion of superhero saga satisfies

Third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ends with literal blasts from the past

Note: This review will have no spoilers related to Endgame but may have spoilers pertaining to the previous Avengers entry Infinity War.

Anyone who has read comic books with any consistency knows that nobody ever dies... for long.

There must be dozens of comic-book covers with a teary-eyed hero clutching a fallen comrade to his or her breast while the title proclaims: (Secondary hero name here) Dead! Then those same fallen heroes show up a few issues later, apparently no worse for wear.

That's something to keep in mind when taking in Avengers: Endgame. The sequel to the 2018 Avengers: Infinity War requires a little skepticism, because, as it stood at the end of that film, half the heroes of the Marvel Universe were wiped out.

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Note: This review will have no spoilers related to Endgame but may have spoilers pertaining to the previous Avengers entry Infinity War.

Anyone who has read comic books with any consistency knows that nobody ever dies... for long.

There must be dozens of comic-book covers with a teary-eyed hero clutching a fallen comrade to his or her breast while the title proclaims: (Secondary hero name here) Dead! Then those same fallen heroes show up a few issues later, apparently no worse for wear.

That's something to keep in mind when taking in Avengers: Endgame. The sequel to the 2018 Avengers: Infinity War requires a little skepticism, because, as it stood at the end of that film, half the heroes of the Marvel Universe were wiped out.

That will not stand. After all, Spider-Man has a new movie coming out in July.

Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) ponders the fate of his fellow superheroes as the Avengers saga comes to an end. (Film Frame / Marvel Studios)

Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) ponders the fate of his fellow superheroes as the Avengers saga comes to an end. (Film Frame / Marvel Studios)

The start of Endgame brings that trauma home, literally, in the rustic abode of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who, while physically removed from Thanos's apocalyptic finger snap, finds himself nevertheless devastated by its effect.

In the aftermath, the surviving Avengers — Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — resolve to live up to their name by taking Thanos (Josh Brolin) to task.

But that plan proves to be problematic because it won't bring back the fallen. Then along comes Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), whom we last saw trapped in the Quantum Realm micro-universe at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Scott suggests said realm may hold the key to reversing Thanos's devastation.

This much can be gleaned from watching the trailers for the film, of course. You won't see any plot spoilers here.

One must acknowledge that in the final Avengers-as-we-know-them chapter, directors Anthony and Joe Russo, working from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, take a few bold liberties, specifically with how it presents a couple of its heroes, played mostly for comic effect. In a franchise that so frequently trades in end-of-the-world gravitas and hero poses, such irreverence is almost startling, but not unwelcome.

That aside, this is a movie that is otherwise geared to gratifying its fanbase. Since it is basically the grand finale to a franchise that encompasses 22 movies over the course of 11 years, it freely references dozens of scenes from past films. (If Endgame is the first Marvel movie you see, prepare to spend three hours of unending confusion.) For this reason, the film may have an enhanced emotional impact for audiences who grew up with Marvel movies.

Hammer of the Gods: Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor in Avengers: Endgame. (Film Frame / Marvel Studios)

Hammer of the Gods: Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor in Avengers: Endgame. (Film Frame / Marvel Studios)

For the truly invested geek, it has the potential to be more upsetting than a cancelled comic con. It is possible some tears will be shed.

Movie-lovers may be less impressed and the reason for this is that all 22 films are really like a mega-TV series. Like the preceding film, it's a movie so wrapped up in engineering satisfying conclusions to its many moving parts that it doesn't feel much like a movie at all.

Still, there is lots to love here: the way Downey balances acerbic wit and heartfelt feeling. The way Ruffalo somehow manages to invest Hulk/Banner with warmth. Evans' all-American sincerity. (Recall Evans gleefully playing a celebrity dirtbag in Scott Pilgrim to be reminded he's acting.) Rudd reflecting the fanboy enthusiasm of Marvel's own audience.

The women don't fare as well, even in the immediate wake of Brie Larson's debut as Captain Marvel. She is relegated to little more than guest-star status in this movie.

One shot in the film pays homage to The Avengers' fighting femmes, but it's wholly gratuitous. Marvel still has a woman problem, and as the "Phase three" of its franchise draws to a close, we're left hoping it may finally get addressed as Phase Four ushers in a new age.

There are no end-of-credits stingers at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Feel free to leave as the credits roll. You're welcome.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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