“AVENGERS: ENDGAME” BOLDLY WRAPS UP SUPERHERO FRANCHISE ARC
A Film Review by Tim Riley
“AVENGERS: ENDGAME” (Rated PG-13) There’s a real challenge to reviewing “Avengers: Endgame,” not just to avoid spoilers but doing justice to what looks inevitably like the biggest film of the year even before the summer season delivers its share of blockbusters. “Endgame” sets a new threshold for the culmination of a superhero franchise that proves to be an overall satisfying cinematic experience even if disappointment sets in occasionally on the fate of certain characters.
At the press screening, Disney cautioned the assembled critics to not spoil the ending, as if that was a necessary admonition for any rational being entrusted to a review. There’s much more than the ending that should not be revealed and for many good reasons. A delicate balance must be pursued in any review, but anyone familiar with the franchise would take cues from “Avengers: Infinity War” knowing that this last chapter for the Avenger superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is slated for the deadliest showdown with Thanos.
The Marvel superhero adventure began with “Iron Man” in 2008 and in twenty-two films later, notably with story lines that include the Hulk, Thor, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel and countless others, it concludes with the last stop of an ultimate Armageddon. “Endgame” picks up where the Avengers have been soundly defeated by Thanos (Josh Brolin), the universe’s most powerful and deadliest villain, who after collecting the six Infinity Stones, wiped out half of the world’s population, including many of the Avengers.
This last chapter, jumping off the clues provided in the end credits of “Captain Marvel,” requires the remaining Avengers to pull themselves out of their depths of a blue funk to regroup for the decisive battle with Thanos. Possessing the Infinity Stones and with the snap of his fingers, Thanos previously reduced the still-standing superheroes to various states of despair or alienation.
At his farmhouse far removed from the center of action, Jeremy Renner’s arrow-wielding Hawkeye is profoundly impacted by the disappearance of his family.Adrift in space, Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are faced not only with no food and water but a dwindling supply of oxygen, while Stark’s beloved Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) frets back at home.
While Stark is trying to find a way back to Earth, Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) is holding down the fort at the Avengers compound and trying to wrap his head around and make sense of what has happened.The superheroes may be broken in spirit, but Captain America’s strong moral code as a noble mythological icon thrusts him to the forefront of the battle to come, which is in contrast to how he took a back seat to other characters in “Infinity War.”
As a World War II-era U.S. Army soldier given enhanced physical and mental abilities and then frozen for 70 years, Steve Rogers still pines for the love of his life from wartime that he will never see again unless some fluke on the space time continuum materializes. Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow lives a lonely existence munching on peanut butter sandwiches. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), self-assured in his green skin and wearing cardigan sweaters, poses for selfies with fans.
The planet Asgard, home to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), destroyed before “Infinity War,” has a new place in a Scandinavian fishing village where, for the sake of not revealing too much, Thor may be described as taking a more relaxed view of his superhero obligations. An interesting arc to the story takes place with Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) not having been affected by the wrath of Thanos because in the time period of “Infinity War” he was stuck in the Quantum Realm. His return allows for some good-natured levity.
Humor abounds in good measure throughout the story. The presence of talking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) is a welcome presence given his comic one-liners. His sarcasm always adds a nice touch of flippancy.Unexpectedly, there is even a parallel to “The Big Lebowski” when one of the main characters has let himself go to seed, looking and acting a lot like an overweight version of Jeff Bridges’ The Dude and thirsting too much for indulgence in alcoholic beverages.
The Avengers are flawed characters, some more so than others, and the vulnerability of the Avengers is a significant element to understanding how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become the cultural phenomenon that tops any other movie franchise.
Even the casual follower of the series, a category into which this reviewer mostly likely falls, will come away with an appreciation of the humanity of the characters, struggling with the weight of responsibility to set things right.
It should almost go without saying that the climactic showdown with Thanos offers plenty of gratification with its well-orchestrated battle scenes.“Avengers: Endgame” concludes an emotional journey that the ardent fan base is likely to embrace with a range of emotions from excitement to regret that a bold adventure has run its course.