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Avengers: Endgame Movie Review

Avengers: Endgame (2019) movie poster Avengers: Endgame

Theatrical Release: April 26, 2019 / Running Time: 182 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo / Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (screenplay)

Cast: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Don Cheadle (Lieutenant James Rhodes/War Machine), Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel), Karen Gillan (Nebula), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Benedict Wong (Wong), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Bradley Cooper (voice of Rocket), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Josh Brolin (Thanos), Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Stephen Strange), Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man), Chadwick Boseman (T'Challa/Black Panther), Chris Pratt (Peter Quill/Star-Lord), Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne/The Wasp), Elizabeth Olsen (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Tilda Swinton (The Ancient One), Rene Russo (Frigga), Robert Redford (Alexander Pierce), Michael Douglas (Hank Pym), John Slattery (Howard Stark), Taika Waititi (voice of Korg), Linda Cardellini (Laura Barton), Frank Grillo (Brock Rumlow/Crossbones), James D'Arcy (Edwin Jarvis), Hiroyuki Sanada, Katherine Langford (Cassie Lang), Yvette Nicole Brown (Woman in Elevator), Pom Klementieff (Mantis), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Vin Diesel (voice of Groot), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet Van Dyne), Hayley Atwell (Margaret Carter), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duke (M'Baku), Carrie Coon (Proxima Midnight), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), William Hurt (Thaddeus Ross), Marisa Tomei (Aunt May), Sean Gunn (On-Set Rocket), Ken Jeong (Storage Facility Guard), Stan Lee (1970 Driver)

 

Avengers: Endgame is an epic three-hour finale not just to the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but all three phrases.
This is not the end of the Avengers, but it is the end for certain Avengers and functions as a welcome reset of sorts for the biggest and most active franchise in the history of film.

Fourth in the Avengers series and twenty-second in the deeply connected MCU developed over the past eleven years, Endgame opens up where last April's Infinity War left off. As you undoubtedly recall, the Avengers' most formidable foe to date collected the six Infinity Stones in a gauntlet and with the snapping of his fingers, half of Earth's population turned to dust. Half of the Avengers did too and while you might not remember who survived and who didn't, this movie and the duos that wrote (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) and directed (brothers Joe and Anthony Russo) both it and Infinity War do.

Superheroes at the foreground of Avengers: Endgame" include Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

Those seemingly arbitray eliminations hang over and shape Endgame to a large degree. After a vengeful visit to Thanos (Josh Brolin), surviving heroes Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) move on. They're not out, but they certainly are down and mostly remain so after the film jumps ahead five years. It is in the year 2023 when a rat inadvertently pushing a button summons Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), better known as Ant-Man, back from a quantum realm where he's spent the last five years, although they passed like five hours to him. Ant-Man is shocked by the changes Thanos has wrought upon our world, but he thinks his experience with quantum physics holds the answer to undoing Thanos' act of population control: time travel.

Perhaps it was inevitable that our heroes would turn to time travel to course-correct the universe. The surviving Avengers bring the idea to the smartest guy they know: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). But he's too happy living in seclusion with his wife Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and their young daughter. After crunching some numbers, though, Iron Man thinks it could work and gets on board with the plan, which by now is loosely being overseen by another intelligent, powerful man, an evolved Hulk who can now control his emotions in muscular green form, while sporting clothes and looking more like Mark Ruffalo.

If our heroes, which also include Rocket the racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who has gotten away from his fitness regime, can collect the Infinity Stones and keep them out of Thanos' hands, their colleagues will not be turned to dust. That is their hope, anyway. Their understanding of time travel is a bit different than how it is portrayed in other movies, which makes for an amusing couple of scenes. Suffice it to say, their mission requires them to revisit the settings of a number of past entries to the MCU, including 2012's original The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, and Thor: The Dark World.

To avoid wading into spoiler territory, I'll refrain from further synopsis. You've got the heart of the plot and I'm sure you can imagine an inevitable climax of sorts.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) records a grim video on the dour state of the world in "Avengers: Endgame."

Endgame manages to reach a higher level of entertainment than most of the Marvel films, which range from the cheesy (Ant-Man and the Wasp) and forgettable (Thor: The Dark World) to a few genuinely delightful works that crash through the genre's ceiling (the first Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor: Ragnarok). Most of the Marvel movies, including all three previous Avengers ones, have been, in a word, "good." Endgame is better than good and it's not hard to understand why that is.

Everything has been leading up to this movie, which sounds like marketing hyperbole, but is essential to Endgame's appeal. Our familiarity with and appreciation for these characters have
been nurtured over anywhere from one (Brie Larson's Captain Marvel) to ten movies (Iron Man, counting his cameo in 2008's barely canonical Incredible Hulk). Marvel Studios has cunningly built this web of heroes, villains, and universes. It has already paid off in the three Avengers movies (and the third Captain America, which was an Avengers film in everything but name), all of which rank among the twenty highest grossing films of all time. It pays off even more this time around.

While devastating for our planet and the grief-stricken half that survived it, Thanos' big snap is a blessing for the Endgame filmmakers. Instead of having to juggle an impossibly vast cast, as Infinity War had to, Endgame gets to focus on a more manageable core of about eight characters. That allows each of them to have a satisfying fleshed-out arc that leans upon the years of plots and growth but stands as thoughtful and self-contained within these three hours.

Another stroke of genius comes from the way that Markus, McFeely, and the Russos figure out how to make a superhero movie stand out in 2019 after the absolute deluge of superhero movies these past two decades have given us. The answer is not diversity (which seemed to be the answer the last two years, a theory supported more by box office numbers than prevalent sentiment), but in making something that doesn't play like a superhero movie. Endgame goes a full hour without feeling like it belongs to the genre. Before even the Marvel logo appears, the movie opens with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) gathering for a family dinner outside and though that doesn't go as planned, it sets the tone for a film that is far more invested in its personalities than simply them doing good and fighting evil.

Captain America (Chris Evans) and his fellow Avengers pin their hopes of restoring the universe on something they call a time heist.

The type of investment we have in these characters is sort of unlike anything else we've seen in film, apart from the Harry Potter franchise. Even there, the biggest fans knew where the characters were going as soon as the final book was published and experienced the greatest joy from reading. Sure, these Marvel characters have been around in comic books, some for more than fifty years, but the Cinematic Universe is its own enterprise, cloaked in secrecy and a desire for the viewing experience to remain pure and unspoiled.

Even if you didn't catch all twenty-one of the movies to precede this one (the most recent of which, Captain Marvel, is still playing in theaters), you've likely caught enough to recognize dozens of these heroes and the actors playing them. You've watched Robert Downey Jr. go from risky casting to one of the actors parents probably feel safest about their kids watching and idolizing. You've seen the superhero movie evolve into one giant Disney-owned network and noticed the rest of the industry (from DC to Universal's scrapped Dark Universe line) try to emulate that approach and fall short.

You can argue that this superhero movie boom serves to stifle cinematic creativity at large and that the more superhero movies that are made, the less special they all seem. You can echo the negative sentiments voiced by James Cameron and Steven Spielberg, two of the biggest budget directors who have steered clear of the genre. Avengers: Endgame neither supports nor refutes such arguments. It is, unquestionably, one of the most creative, epic, and satisfying superhero movies ever made. But for it to truly have the meaning it appears to, Marvel does need to take a little break and let us all collect our breath, culturally speaking. Should you doubt that a company whose last nine movies have brought in average of $1 billion worldwide each is capable of hitting the brakes, the end of the Avengers: Endgame credits boast the most shocking tag to date: nothing at all.

Related Reviews:
Avengers: Infinity War Avengers: Age of Ultron Captain America: Civil War
Now in Theaters: Shazam! Captain Marvel
Iron Man Iron Man 3 Spider-Man: Homecoming Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Thor Thor: The Dark World Thor: Ragnarok Doctor Strange Black Panther
Captain America: The First Avenger Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ant-Man Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Reviewed April 23, 2019.



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