‘Avengers: Endgame’ delivers a truly epic finale

What began as a risky gamble over a decade and 22 Marvel films ago with “Iron Man” in 2008 is about to reach its blockbuster culmination this weekend with the highly anticipated release of “Avengers: Endgame”. In fact, at the very beginning, there was little reason to believe that a film based on a B-level Marvel comic book superhero starring a recovering, formerly troubled actor that few studio executives in Hollywood had professional faith in, would spawn a literal universe of popular characters with an ultimately common purpose.

Yet, from that hugely successful gamble years ago, moviegoers are about to witness the literal and long awaited endgame of these characters’ intricate and intertwined destinies. Suffice to say, the burden is heavy for “Avengers: Endgame” to deliver the goods.

I’m thrilled to say, this ultimate effort directed by brothers Anthony and Joseph Russo lives up to the overwhelming hype and miles high audience expectations in superbly grand fashion. Clocking in at three hours in length, “Avengers: Endgame” is definitely packed with the requisite dazzling CGI effects and action sequences expected of a film featuring almost every superhero in the entire MCU. However, what makes “Avengers: Endgame” so wonderfully unforgettable is its heightened emphasis on the relationships, love and deep friendships, old and new, that these characters have shared and developed with each prior film leading to this supreme test of their devotion to each other and those beyond their ranks, past and present.

It’s the heart, not the bravado and brawn, that makes this film resonate with emotions that touch not only the characters; but also, the loyal audiences that have steadfastly traveled with them on their journey.

Don’t worry. No spoilers approaching here about this film that is packed with numerous surprises, plot twists, unexpected reunions and events that will tax most all of your emotions. This is a film that will make you often laugh and, at minimum, also make you misty-eyed with both joyful happiness and poignant sadness.

The bare bones, spoiler-free synopsis of “Avengers: Endgame” follows 23 days after the moment from 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” when Thanos snaps his fingers while wearing the coveted Infinity Gauntlet and eliminates half of all living creatures on Earth. The film opens with a happy and carefree moment of tranquility that shifts in a way to show that no Avenger is spared the confusion and subsequent heartbreak of Thanos’ callous act of genocidal hubris.

Fast forward five years where we see the tragic aftermath of Thanos’ diabolical deed on Earth. The world, and the remaining Avengers, are struggling to come to terms with living in an existence where half the population has been disintegrated into dust, eulogized mainly in worn tattered flyers for “The Missing” posted everywhere reminiscent of 9/11 and memorial parks devoted to those lost but not forgotten by their beloved survivors.

As for the remaining six Avengers; a guilt-ridden Thor ( Chris Hemsworth ) finds pathetic and tragically comical solace in drink; Captain America ( Steve Rogers ) and Black Widow ( Scarlett Johansson ) struggle to keep a semblance of hope alive within the now-quiet Avengers compound; The Hulk / Bruce Banner ( Mark Ruffalo ) has found peace with his dual selves and enjoys the adoration of new young fans; Hawkeye ( Jeremy Renner ) has taken a darker path to cope with emotional loss; and Tony Stark / Iron Man ( Robert Downey Jr. ) has finally found a sense of tranquility and happiness that had eluded him for so long.

Also in the remaining mix are James Rhodes / War Machine ( Don Cheadle ), Rocket Raccoon ( hilariously voiced by Bradley Cooper ), Thanos’ now reformed daughter Nebula ( Karen Gillan ) and the arrival of a confident and cocky newcomer, Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel ( Brie Larson ).

The future seems destined to remain bleak, until an amiable and slightly befuddled Ant-Man ( Paul Rudd ) comes knocking on the Avengers HQ door after suddenly reappearing from the Quantum Realm explored in previous films. To say any more about the storyline from here skirts dangerously close to spoiler territory. In order to avoid the wrath of Marvel fan nation, I’m going to stop right here.

Suffice to say, the ride to come is a non-stop barrage of set pieces aimed at reclaiming what was lost, while defeating Thanos in the process. The exciting narrative twists and turns at a dizzying but exhilarating pace. Sometimes it may feel the script penned by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is a bit bloated with excess and far too much going on; however, the direction and pace of the film somehow makes the three-hour slog an enjoyable trek that flies by effortlessly. Like a bacchanalian feast, there may be way too much to devour, but it’s sure a lot of fun gorging on what’s on the menu.

At the core of “Avengers: Endgame”, its key advantage is the emotional journey and character development that most every central cast member experiences throughout this film. There are amazingly emotional moments that will truly tug at your heartstrings with genuine sincerity. You may weep alternately with joy, warmth, sadness and a sense of mourning at various stages of this film. For certain Avengers, there is the pain of additional loss. For others, there are unexpected opportunities to make peace with their unresolved past. You’ll also laugh many times with these old friends who find humor in the midst of grave danger and mortal risk.

“Avengers: Endgame” wonderfully wraps up this decade long chapter in the Avengers saga paying poignant tribute to those who, in varying ways, pass the torch to the next generation of superheroes preparing to assemble in the future.

Meantime, those audience members and fans who have traveled along the journey to this supreme “Endgame” will feel a deeply emotional mixture of exhilaration, grief, hope and measured happiness. It’s a journey with an ending that is certainly bittersweet in many profound and unforgettable ways; but the truly last scene, the last frame of film will leave you with a poignant smile and a warm feeling of satisfaction that will linger long after the credits roll.

Avengers: Endgame. Rated PG-13. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin, Bradley Cooper. In theaters, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Runtime: 181 min. 

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