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Avengers: Endgame Movie Review

Avenge Is Sweet

Editor's note: the following review is as spoiler-free as possible but does include some basic plot points, references to material from the film's trailers, and one big giveaway from 2018's "Avengers: Infinity War" - but of course we know you've seen that already!

Regarding "Avengers: Endgame":  right, let's not bury this lede. Go see this movie. Right now. I mean it: go find a great big movie screen with Dolby Atmos/DTS/whatever surround sound and settle in for three hours plus change. I'll wait. Not yet a fan? Then you have a lot of catch-up to do. We'll see you in a few weeks.

Ok, now that you're back, let us - with minimal spoilers - dig into how this spectacular film by Anthony and Joe Russo ("Avengers: Infinity War") delivers a significant return on our collective investment - 11 years and 22 films' worth - in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the culmination of dozens of stories across hundreds of characters spanning time, space, and multiple realities. And while it is not perfect - nothing this massive could hope to be - it is astonishingly well-crafted and balanced across its considerable run time.

New storylines open here, while others see their ends. For those who have been keeping track across all of these movies, rich rewards await you in "Avengers: Endgame."  Even "Thor: The Dark World" (which I think we can internet-debate is one of the worst MCU films, right?) gets a solid nod.  There's exceptional action - I admit to cheering, along with many fellow theater-goers, at the screen during a few great scenes - complemented by small moments and tender emotional beats. These well-earned smaller moments make me believe Evans and Hemsworth when they admit to crying during the premiere; our screening room was clearly a bit dusty at several points. Lastly, that now-expected MCU humor is present and correct, even at the risk of being a bit too much in the way of gallows humor gone sideways. It mostly works, and there are some truly on-point jokes, even though it is occasionally a little too much, given the broader circumstances of the world.

At the heart of it all is the OG Avengers team: Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Joined by Nebula (Karen Gillen) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper), our heroes are living in the immediate aftermath of the snap.  Cue Carol Danvers, fresh off her debut whooping Kree backside, who answers a certain pager and leads the team to "Go kill Thanos (Josh Brolin)."  What happens next is unexpected, and it leans into the realities of that aftermath: surviving, moving on, staving off despair.  The team goes in separate directions to do the most good where they can.  It's at this point that we see those random haircuts from the trailers and commercials.  And then Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Regular-sized-Man (Paul Rudd), shows up and everything changes.

Allow me to digress, for a moment, to the Quentin Tarantino films "Kill Bill, Vols. 1 and 2."  I will always remember how "Kill Bill Vol 1" slickly executed its homage to kung-fu film; I was energized by it and love it to this day.  "Kill Bill Vol 2" was a different matter altogether: it was slower and methodical, and driven by the DNA of great Western films.  At first, I really disliked that dissonance. But in the long view, I've come to admire how well "Vol 2" works in a grander scheme. Intentional or not, "Avengers: Endgame" pulls off a similar trick.

Back to the movie in hand. Upon Ant-Man's arrival "Avengers: Endgame" accomplishes a similar stylistic shift that, when taken along with its predecessor, drives "Endgame" to great effect.  "Avengers: Infinity War" was a non-stop sprinting race to beat Thanos, and its structure and feeling matched prior Avengers films.  "Avengers: Endgame" resumes this sprint at first with the presence of Carol, but with several dramatic shifts it's suddenly a different kind of movie. Cap and Black Widow must put the band back together and commit to a heist across time and space, playing within the Avengers mythos and past narratives in an attempt to undo the effects of the aforementioned "snap." But fear not, "Endgame" comes back around to that delicious MCU action you crave before the credits roll.

I will again admit that "Avengers: Endgame" is not perfect. When you are dealing with this many often- great characters, some are going to see less of the limelight. (In particular, this film could have used a bit more Deus-Ex-Captain Marvel.) There are also a few narrative choices that would benefit from additional exposition; they just seem a little TOO conveniently designed to serve the needs of both the protagonists and antagonists.  Like "LOTR: The Return of the King," "Endgame" gambles a bit with epilogues. But I sincerely doubt that there is a way to remedy these issues without pushing the runtime beyond its already endurance-testing triple-hour level.

Both Alan Silvestri's original score and contemporary music selections deliver the right emotional cues and make a few great callbacks to previous MCU films (reminder: "Guardians Vol 1" had a great soundtrack!).  I've commented before on the impact of the Avengers leitmotif, and it's used in careful doses here...when it plays, it matters.

The special effects are in fine form, as expected, with special plaudits again given to the MCU de-aging tech - it really is quite remarkable.  There are a few water effects that I'm uncertain about, but nothing that pulled me out of the moment.

The Russo brothers deserve credit for their structure and staging to the action scenes as well. They clearly have had time to hone their vision in the MCU, and it's on full display here.  The climactic battle reminds me of the best of "The Lord of the Rings" crossed with the finale sequence in "Ready Player One"-but with more "holy crap" and "oh yeah!" inducing moments than either.

This movie will no doubt be described as epic, and I think it has earned that honorific.  "Avengers: Endgame" serves as the capstone not only to "Avengers: Infinity War," but also to a tremendous body of storytelling, and it accomplishes this while tying its many preceding threads together with meaning, heart, and style.

Go see this movie.

PS: No mid or end credits scenes this time.  Feel free to get up and stretch your legs!

PPS: This is a long movie, so plan your beverage consumption and bathroom strategy accordingly.

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