Movie Review: ‘Avengers: Endgame’

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Here it is – the grand finale to the superhero franchise that defined a whole generation of blockbusters. Moviegoers thought they were going to get a definitive end last year with “Avengers: Infinity War,” but then the evil Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, procured the powerful Infinity Gauntlet, snapped his fingers and half the cast died. Never before had a superhero movie ended with a bad guy standing tall on that level. It was hard to believe that Marvel Studios would kill off so many popular characters, and even harder to believe that they’d let those characters stay dead. Now comes “Avengers: Endgame,” where those characters are probably going to be brought back to life, but how? And how long will the movie take to get there?

I suppose I should start off with a roll call. Still alive are Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr.; Captain America, played by Chris Evans; Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth; The Incredible Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo; Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson; Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner; War Machine, played by Don Cheadle; Rocket Raccoon, played by Bradley Cooper; Nebula, played by Karen Gillan, and last-minute contact Captain Marvel, played by Brie Larson. Marvel returns a stranded Iron Man and Nebula to Earth, where they join the others in formulating a plan to go after Thanos. The plan doesn’t work out. This is one problem that won’t be solved with a finger snap.

Five years pass. The Avengers disassemble and go off to deal with the grief in their own ways. But then a speck of hope appears, no bigger than an ant. It’s Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd, miraculously freed from the quantum realm, where he was trapped at the end of last summer’s “Ant-Man and The Wasp.” For him, the five years felt like five hours. If time works that weirdly in the quantum realm, maybe it is possible to use quantum physics to travel back in time and stop Thanos. It’s crazy, and confusing and overly complicated, but it just might work.

The reformed Avengers need to keep Thanos from getting his hands on the six Infinity Stones that control the gauntlet. To do this, they’ll have to travel back to three of their previous adventures: “The Avengers” from 2012, “Thor: The Dark World” from 2013 and “Guardians of the Galaxy” from 2014. They see old friends and enemies in these scenarios, and the movie keeps the audience guessing as to who will pop up in a cameo next and a certain late Marvel honcho does make an appearance. Needless to say, things don’t go as smoothly as our heroes would like, and they’re forced to make some hasty decisions with results ranging from humorous to tragic.

Naturally, there are some laughs, tears and excitement along the way. But nothing compares to the last half-hour of the film, which effectively had the audience at my screening roaring, bawling and screaming. Especially screaming. Then again, maybe “bawling” should have taken it because there are some majorly sad moments in the film. But they’re beautiful, well-earned, touching sad moments, unlike the cheap “things are not right with the world” shocker that was the ending to “Infinity War.”

“Avengers: Endgame” is every bit the juggernaut it’s been made out to be. I’m perfectly fine with it making a record-shattering $350 million in its opening weekend. Do I have some problems with it? Sure, some of the time travel stuff doesn’t make sense, certain characters pose for a moment of fan service instead of helping where they’re needed, and I think one character could have replaced another in a climactic moment – email me if you know which one. But this movie is so much fun, so emotional and so big that it’s nearly impossible not to find several things to like about it.

Grade: B

“Avengers: Endgame” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language. Its running time is 181 minutes. Yeah, it’s an epic.

Contact Bob Garver at rrg251@nyu.edu.