Avengers: Endgame ***

It may not be everything you’re hoping it will be, but it is a fulfilling culmination of everything the Marvel Cinematic Universe has accomplished thus far. 

Is it worth $10? Yes  

In the interest of all that is good in the world, this is a completely spoiler-free review of “Avengers: Endgame.”

The ending of last year’s “Avengers: Infinity War” included the most shocking gut punch in recent memory: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and more literally turned to dust after Thanos snapped his fingers to eliminate half of all life on earth.

“Avengers: Endgame” begins in the aftermath. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is adrift in space with Nebula (Karen Gillan). Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) wrestle with losing the battle. Thankfully for them, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is there to help, and what a difference she makes!

More will not be written about the plot, but there’s plenty to say about the film. This is an awe-inspiring cinematic experience in its grandest form, complete with humor, sadness, and pure joy. On its own it’s not quite as good as “Infinity War,” but rest assured it’s satisfying.  

Some quibbles: There’s not as much action as you will expect, and the morose brooding in the early moments grows tedious. This is offset, as usual, by the interplay between the characters, which ranges from contentious to congenial. There’s also a decent amount of humor, particularly from Thor, whose film “Ragnarok” remains the funniest of the 22 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) entries.

Speaking of which, it’s well-documented that “Endgame” serves as a conclusion to the first phase of MCU films. That feels right. We’ve been watching since “Iron Man” in 2008, and the way this world has evolved since has been nothing short of astonishing. Appropriately, there are homages to the prior films, which means the more of them you’ve seen, the more rewarding you’ll find “Endgame” to be.

As for the 181-minute running time, the nicest thing I can write is that it doesn’t feel that long (your bladder may disagree – keep the soda to a minimum!). Yes the opening drags, but once the story kicks into gear it doesn’t let up, and is an absolute treat.

Looking back at the entire MCU, one has to marvel (pun intended) at what producer Kevin Feige has achieved. He’s successfully taken comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and made them into full-fledged, spectacular entertainments for more than a decade. They’ve been consistently good movies, even with different casts, directors, and tones. That’s pretty awesome.

“Endgame” was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, all of whom also worked on “Infinity War.” The continuity is appropriately evident, as is the freshness and breadth of the storytelling. “Endgame” may not be everything you’re hoping it will be, but it is a fulfilling conclusion to one of the greatest accomplishments the film industry has ever seen.  

Did you know?
Fear not, MCU fans: Just because this “phase” is over doesn’t mean the movies will stop coming. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” opens July 5, 2019.

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