Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame ★★★★★

After the intergalactic supervillain, Thanos, has used the six Infinity Stones to destroy half of the living beings in the entire universe with a snap of his finger, the surviving Avengers grieve for their fallen comrades while coming to terms with the new dynamics of a fractured world. When an unexpected visitor shows up at the gates of their headquarters and offers a faint shred of hope, the lives of these superheroes are once again thrown into unimaginable peril.

The plot details in my above paragraph are all that you are going to get out of me with regard to Avengers: Endgame, the most eagerly awaited film of 2019 and the triumphant culmination of the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise that started 11 years ago. Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers who helmed the most engaging previous entries of the series to date, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Captain America: Civil War (2016), before closing last year's Avengers: Infinity War with the most riveting cliffhanger since Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, have thrown caution to the wind to give us a 181-minute film that flies by at lightning speed and never ceases to surprise its viewers. I went into the theater tonight, on opening night, with no idea what to expect, and I want all of you who read this to enjoy the same privilege.

I believe that I speak for most fans when I say that, during the past decade, I have come to think of the Avengers superheroes as friends. These characters have each been brought to the screen with utmost verisimilitude, thanks to stories that effectively blend action-packed intensity, visually-stunning special effects, well-timed humor, sadness, poignancy, offbeat absurdity, and earnestly inspiring displays of courage. This latest release is a well-earned victory lap for the franchise that gives each and every player an opportunity to shine once again with the attributes and flaws that have defined them in previous installments, but the filmmakers are not afraid to take new storytelling risks with the familiar faces.

Unless you are a robot, your eyes will probably tear up during certain moments involving your favorite protagonists, especially since the tangible humanity of each one is brought out like never before by the effects of the tragedy that ended the previous movie. The superheroes with whom we are reacquainted at the beginning of this story have been shaken to the core by a crippling defeat, and their collective trauma manifests itself in ungraceful ways. The universally relatable difficulty of rising to greatness after one's armor has been penetrated by the sting of failure is the engine that drives this ambitious undertaking, so the most intense gut punches come from seeing how each Avenger overcomes his or her inner demons.

As with the best Marvel movies, however, the emotional resonance is matched every step of the way by hilarity. Avengers: Endgame rewards loyal fans with amusing visual callbacks to its predecessors that feel genuinely earned instead of coming across as mere self-congratulatory nostalgic trips, so the comedic moments arise in natural unforced ways, even during the most serious plot developments. Fun references to films like Back to the Future, The Terminator, and even The Big Lebowski are icing on the cake.

Even if you are unable to make it to the theater on opening weekend, I encourage you to see this film in the company of a large audience, so that you will be surrounded by like-minded fans who are laughing and wiping their eyes at the same time. The first half of the movie is not without the occasional pacing lull, but the final hour is solid gold in terms of cheer-worthy spectacles, and it easily commands undivided attention. Wild horses will not drag any specifics out of me, but I will say that the ultimate showdown is an adrenaline-laced rollercoaster ride of the highest order, especially when seen in a crowded room.

Avengers: Endgame is a glorious payoff for those of us who have enjoyed its predecessors from day one. This is not the swan song of the franchise, since Disney and Marvel Studios are not going to kill a goose that lays the golden eggs, but, as a summation of everything that has come before, it delivers in full.

The Great Owl liked these reviews