If there were ever a movie designed to please its target audience, Avengers: Endgame is an emblematic example. It assumes that its viewers are thoroughly familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and all of its characters, so when one (or a group) of them makes an entrance it’s a cue for gasps and cheers. An eager world awaits this summation of these characters’ coexistence onscreen, and I daresay no one will come away disappointed.

In the interest of providing a spoiler-free review I am limited in what I can discuss. Suffice it to say that the goal of our heroes is to undo the enormous damage that Thanos has perpetrated, especially in the previous installment of the Avengers saga and in the recent Captain Marvel outing. How they go about tackling this formidable challenge is the crux of Endgame and involves the specific skillset of every inhabitant of the MCU.

The results spread out over a three-hour storyline by Marvel movie veterans Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They have cannily injected the deadly-serious mission with a liberal sprinkling of banter and wisecracks. They have also crafted twists and turns that offer moments of genuine surprise, testing the loyalty and tenacity of their fans.

Although the events build up to a massive battle scene (no big surprise there) it is the personalities of the various characters that make the action meaningful. We have come to care about Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanova, and all the other principal players in this decade-long saga. Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and their many costars have a hold on our emotions. We are invested in them, to one degree or another (depending on your personal taste). That’s why their battle for survival matters to us.

Anthony and Joe Russo manage to juggle the many components of this mosaic with finesse, and despite the outsized running time the movie seldom lags. It is by nature an episodic venture, but it’s only in the climactic scenes that the arrival of certain characters seems arbitrary—a cue for moviegoers to let out a whoop of approval. On the whole, Avengers: Endgame does exactly what it sets out to do. It is escapist entertainment of a very high order, and an achievement that has no true precedent in the history of motion pictures. No series (or franchise, to use the current if clinical term), from Tarzan to James Bond, has ever attempted to incorporate so many moving parts in one conclusive film. I give credit to Marvel honcho Kevin Feige and his industrious team for pulling off a seemingly impossible task and doing it with style. Theater owners: heat up the popcorn and keep the rest rooms functioning. Here comes Avengers: Endgame. There’s never been anything quite like it.

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June 2024