”Avengers: End Game” is funny, exciting, a bit too long and a bit absurd...or in other words, it’s exactly what we’ve come to expect over the course of the 21 previous Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies. “End Game” is the 22nd MCU film and is billed as the “final” installment for this particular group of superheroes.
And while it's a crowd-pleaser through and through, what wasn’t expected was for this last chapter to pack such an emotional wallop.
WARNING: What follows is a review of the film that DOES contain MILD SPOILERS, so proceed with caution.
Let's boil it down: "End Game" isn't quite the all-around film that last year's "Infinity War" was, but you better bring some tissues. It's hard to discuss this film in any real way while trying to avoid "spoiling" anything, but let's just say that this film has a definitive END. So much so, that you don't even have to wait for the end credits to roll, like we've grown so accustomed to with MCU movies. There are no "stinger" scenes at all during the end credits of "End Game," because simply put, there is nothing left to tease. This is the end.
When we last saw Earth's Mightiest Heroes, things looked bleak, to say the least. The Avengers had failed to prevent bad guy Thanos (Josh Brolin) from assembling all of the Infinity Stones on his Infinity Gauntlet, and with a snap of his fingers, Thanos wiped out exactly 50% of all of the universe's living creatures. The only glimmer of hope was when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) seemed to call on his old friend, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), to come to the rescue...and now that we know what she's capable of from her own stand-alone film, it made us all even more optimistic that the evil Thanos could somehow be stopped, and his terrible genocide reversed.
But let's face it: We didn't really think that a lot of these characters were gone for good...Spider-Man (Tom Holland), for example, has a new movie coming out later this Summer, and there's no way we've seen the last of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). The real compelling part of "End Game," for me, was not THAT they were going to bring these characters back, but HOW. "Infinity War" was awesome because for once in the MCU, there were serious stakes, serious consequences. Was "End Game" just going to wipe all of that away? Would we look back on "Infinity War" and realize that we had all been emotionally duped?
The answer is no and no. "End Game" creatively and masterfully deals with these "lost" characters in a way that not only keeps the events of "Infinity War" intact, but it handles things in a way that gives long-time fans love-letter after love-letter. It even finds a way to weave completely lost characters (like, from before "Infinity War") into the fold. And speaking of lost characters, both Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) - both of whom were missing from the events in "Infinity War" - carry a significant load in this film.
The heart of the Avengers has always been the relationships between its central characters, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and to a certain extent, Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). You don't quite realize how far they've all come, how much growth they've all experienced, until you see it through the lens of "End Game." The MCU has managed not only to create the most popular, successful film franchise of all time over the past 11 years, but it sneakily has made this a character-driven journey. Sure, the Marvel "formula" has leaned heavy on explosions, wise-cracks and insurmountable odds, but at its core, we care about the characters at the center, and we'd follow them anywhere.
The reason "End Game" isn't quite up to par with "Infinity War," is because the first 60-70 minutes are slooooooowwww. The remaining characters after the "purge" are rightly down and depressed, but after some shocking occurrences early in the film, the story just seems to be drifting without a rudder. And while we just "go with" the logic it provides, if you think about it, not much of what goes on makes ANY sense...in fact, there is an absolutely EGREGIOUS error involving Spider-Man that would normally make fanboys' heads explode, if they weren't caught up in all of the emotion and drama occurring elsewhere.
But oh, how the final hour is worth it. I had chills, the likes of which I haven't experienced in nearly 25 years, back when I saw "Braveheart" on the big-screen for the first time (and anyone that knows me, knows that ANY comparison to "Braveheart" is about the highest honor I can bestow upon a film). The film culminates in the only way it could, with an epic battle between the forces of good and evil, with the Avengers standing in the way as the Universe's last hope.
There are laughs, for sure, but there are perhaps a disproportionate amount of tears. Tears of excitement, tears of joy, tears of sadness. If there was any justice in the world, Robert Downey Jr.'s performance would be given serious awards consideration...he's that good.
When the dust settles, we all know that "End Game" won't be the last of the MCU...it's just the last of this mix of characters, and the last of this Thanos story that began way back in the closing credits of "Thor" in 2011. The conclusion lives up to the hype and is well worth the wait, well worth the anticipation.
With an endless wealth of stories to pull from (from the comic book source material), the MCU isn't going anywhere, but for now it's time to celebrate, laugh and cry together, as we turn the page on the Stan Lee era of the MCU.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy.
Run Time: 3 hours, 1 minute.
Starring: Brie Larson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Paul Rudd, Josh Brolin, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Brie Larson, Sebastian Stan, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Pratt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo ("Avengers: Infinity War," "Captain America: Civil War," "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," "You, Me and Dupree").
"Avengers: End Game" opens on Thursday, April 25th, 2019.
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