‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review: Marvel Sticks the Landing

avengers-endgame-still
Disney/Marvel Studios

When it comes to a Big Movie, the anticipation is what makes us most vulnerable, and when it comes to a Big Movie Sequel, the anticipation is an even bigger deal because you want to experience that first time all over again. This means that when the lights dim, your movie lover’s heart is begging for a beat down.

We all remember what it felt like to sit through the Matrix sequels, or the moment those goddamn Ewoks arrived in Jedi. We all remember Superman III and IV, Batman and Robin, Speed 2, Evan Almighty, The Hunger Games 3 and 4, Terminator: Shoot Me Now, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the WTF Was That…?

All it takes is one to break your heart … or to deliver the once in a lifetime cultural experience of an Avengers: Endgame.

My usual approach to one of these reviews is to lay out the first act, the first 25 minutes or so, and then not spoil the rest. But there are so many surprises, so many Big Moments in the first 25 minutes of Endgame, it would be a disservice to reveal any part of the story. So I’ll be as careful and cryptic as possible.

What we have with Endgame is something of a miracle. That’s not to say it’s the greatest movie ever made, or even the greatest superhero movie, or even the greatest Marvel movie. What I am saying is that for Endgame to be as satisfying as it is… Well, like I said, this is a once in a lifetime cultural event.

The pressure to deliver was enormous. After all, we are talking about a 22 chapter universe filled with dozens of beloved characters that was built over a decade — all of it leading to This One Movie. But Marvel did it. From the opening scenes to the slam-bang finale, you are in for a thrilling experience filled with lovely character moments. You’re going to laugh, choke up, applaud, and exit the theater satisfied.

The best comparison I can make — if you’ll pardon me showing my age — is 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  By then we had spent 25 years with those characters, had grown up with them over 72 television episodes and six feature films. Just like the Marvel franchise, there were some disappointing stories along the way, some stumbles, but when it came down to the moment that mattered, when it came down to the end, Star Trek VI stuck the landing. It was worth the wait, a fitting farewell.

Endgame starts where Infinity War ends. The Al Gore of the Universe, the environmental extremist Thanos has “saved the planet,” saved all the planets, actually, by wiping out half the life in the universe. The Earth is less crowded now, the water and air are cleaner, but nobody cares and no one can move on with their lives because Endgame is a rarity in Hollywood today, a humanist story.

Beaten, demoralized, and shattered, the few remaining Avengers assemble to try to reverse the snap that turned trillions into ash. This will require all sorts of daredevilry, a ton of fan service, and a stroll through some memory lanes. Most of this is delightful.

Like any three-hour epic, Endgame drags some in the middle, but for the most part it’s a blast with at least a dozen moments that had my audience cheering.

One thing I noticed that was interesting…

Maybe because she’s so new or maybe because she’s portrayed by such an asshole, my crowd felt no warmth towards Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel.

Endgame assumes we love her. Captain Marvel is given as many applause moments as the other big players, as a Captain America or Thor. But this crowd just wasn’t feeling it. They went crazy over everyone else, including supporting characters like Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Wong (Benedict Wong), The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), and anyone — and I mean anyone — who hails from Wakanda, but Ms. Marvel left them cold.

It probably didn’t help she’s the movie’s deus ex machina — which is only a small complaint.

Endgame is a true epic, filled with spectacle and purpose. It has something good to say about the world, a real philosophy about the importance of humanity, family,  and self-sacrifice, and there are countless moments — big and small — that surprise and pay off.

Best of all is the sense of closure that won’t have you regretting even a moment of your ten-year emotional investment.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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