“Avengers: Endgame” has already broken records for advance ticket sales, crashed some websites because of demand, provoked 4 a.m. show times and forced some theaters to stay open for 72 hours straight this weekend.
But is it any good?
Well, movie mavens, you’ll be pleased to know that the latest Avengers installment is a wonderful way to spend three hours at the multiplex. It gives us a collection of compelling characters, ties up a lot of loose ends, provides the satisfying pow and wow of a superhero movie, but then takes it all to another level, delivering a poignant drama with relatable human emotions.
“Endgame” is, after all, the second part of last year’s “Infinity War.” We pick up right where we left off. There aren’t many people left to counteract the world-wide devastation caused by Thanos (Josh Brolin), who left a trail of evaporating bodies. Those that remain are so grief-stricken that exactly how to proceed with their own lives becomes a challenge.
This chapter embraces an all-star assortment of Marvel heroes, but the core group is made up primarily of the team from the first Avengers film: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner).
The gang gets a big assist from War Machine (Don Cheadle), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), and a few others, and they come up with an ingenious plan (no spoilers here) to try and set the world right and battle Thanos once again.
“Endgame” wraps up many of the story elements that began with the first “Iron Man” movie in 2008. It serves as a tribute to the all of the Marvel movies since then. But what could have been an overstuffed slog, is instead a heartfelt farewell to certain aspects of the franchise.
Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and the directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo (brothers and Cleveland natives), let the characters breathe in “Endgame.” It’s a case of less high-tech hijinks, more character-driven dramatic moments.
You’re also reminded what terrific performers Downey and Evans and Hemsworth and Ruffalo are. Even when they aren’t fighting on green screens in other galaxies.
The Russos joined the Marvel party in 2014 with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and brought their love of '70s thrillers and crime dramas to the franchise. They went on to co-direct the next Captain America movie, “Civil War,” and the double finale of “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” This beautiful film is their best one yet.
Like Joss Whedon, who directed “The Avengers” in 2012, the Russos prove that you can successfully mix a slew of multiple characters and story lines and keep things moving toward a satisfying end. (Satisfying ends are often lacking in these movies, because they need to keep feeding the sequel assembly line.)
And like another comic book-based film, the melancholy “Logan,” which chronicled the final days of a reality-confronting Wolverine, “Endgame” is willing to wallow in its sorrow. But it's not all bummer-time. It also injects a lot of humor, camaraderie, self-deprecation and bit of self-mockery.
It’s been a great run for these films that taught us to sit through all of the closing credits.
There were a few duds (“Age of Ultron” anyone?), but Marvel overlord Kevin Feige designed a master plan for cross-pollinating characters guided by clever directors, and an amazing array of performers and technicians, that has succeeded in outrageous proportions. This isn’t the end-end. But it is an ending.
Clint O’Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies.