[Screen It]


(2019) (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans) (PG-13)

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Superhero Action: Having been spared the murder of half the world's population by a powerful villain, the surviving superheroes must not only figure out how to find and deal with him, but also whether they can possibly go back and stop all of that from having happened in the first place.
In the aftermath of Thanos (motion capture performance by JOSH BROLIN) having used his Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out half of all life in the universe, the survivors on Earth are still reeling from the massive losses. Those include superheroes who weren't spared the culling of the herd, with the likes of T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther (CHADWICK BOSEMAN); Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man (TOM HOLLAND); Stephen Strange, a.k.a. Dr. Strange (BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH); Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. Winter Soldier (SEBASTIAN STAN); Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon (ANTHONY MACKIE); Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch (ELIZABETH OLSEN); and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy crew -- Star-Lord (CHRIS PRATT), Groot (voiced by VIN DIESEL), Drax (motion capture performance by DAVE BAUTISTA) and Mantis (POM KLEMENTIEFF) -- disintegrating like half of the population.

But some survived, such as Tony Stark (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.), a.k.a. Iron Man, who's adrift in outer space with Nebula (KAREN GILLAN), one of Thanos' daughters whose sibling, Gamora (ZOE SALDANA), was killed by Thanos in his quest to obtain the Infinity Stones needed to accomplish his goal. With a little help from Captain Marvel (BRIE LARSON), a.k.a. Carol Danvers, they're reunited with the rest of the surviving Avengers -- Steve Rogers (CHRIS EVANS), a.k.a. Captain America; Natasha Romanoff (SCARLETT JOHANSSON), a.k.a. Black Widow; Thor (CHRIS HEMSWORTH), Bruce Banner, a.k.a. Hulk (regular and motion capture performance by MARK RUFFALO) and the Guardians talking raccoon pilot, Rocket (voiced by BRADLEY COOPER).

They must not only figure out how to find and deal with Thanos, but must also consider whether to follow up on a suggestion by Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man (PAUL RUDD). With him having survived the killing spree while off in the Quantum Realm, he proposes that they use that very alternate dimension to travel back in time, stop Thanos from collecting the Infinity Stones, and thus prevent the previous catastrophe. Fully aware of the dangers related to all of that, and now teamed up with Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye (JEREMY RENNER), the remaining Avengers and their allies set out to make the world right once again.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
While they existed prior to the advent of cinema in various forms of literary fiction, so-called cliffhangers really came into vogue in early movies where things weren't resolved at the end, all to make audiences came back -- and thus buy more tickets -- to see how everything worked out (often with another cliffhanger to keep the cycle going).

That storytelling hook eventually became more popular in TV shows -- many of us grew up with "Tune in next week, same bat time, same bat channel" while worrying about the pending fate of Batman and Robin -- and probably hit their zenith with the "Who Shot J.R.?" mania following the mysterious shooting of that character on "Dallas."

Of course, while most movie studios abandoned that storytelling gimmick, a particularly notable one was the ending of "The Empire Strikes Back" that left fans wondering for a number of years about frozen Han as well as Vader's shocking familial revelation to Luke.

But that cliffhanger might have met its match in the waning moments of "Avengers: Infinity War" when a variety of superhero favorites -- including the mega-popular Black Panther who had just headlined his own feature a few months prior -- crumbled away into dust along with half of the rest of living things across the universe, all "thanks" to the culling of the herd by uber-villain Thanos.

Fans and casual moviegoers were shocked by the development, although most likely didn't believe the situation was permanent and that the surviving superheroes would somehow make things right in the follow-up film, at least for most if not all who went along with the old Kansas song and became dust in the wind. But then "Ant-Man and the Wasp" concluded the same way a few months later and everyone realized the powers that be at Marvel Studios were not messing around.

Well, the wait is now over as the next chapter in Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe arrives in the form of "Avengers: Endgame" that, despite its title, doesn't completely wrap everything up as there's still "Spider-Man: Far From Home" coming out this summer. Even so, and befitting the name, this one definitely has the look, feel, emotional payoff and overall culmination vibe of a series that began in 2008 with "Iron Man" and has played out over the course of now twenty-two films.

It won't really spoil anything to state that time travel is involved, but with Superman operating in another comic book universe and new-to-the-fold Captain Marvel not being around as much as some fans might like, there's no zipping around Earth to slow and reverse the rotation to go all Cher and turn back time to fix things.

So, it's up to those who survived the culling -- including but not limited to Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) -- to come up with another solution (during which there are some comedy riffs on past time travel movies, although the 1978 version of The Man of Steel saving Lois Lane from being swallowed up by an Earthquake by lapping the planet is conveniently ignored).

Needless to say, the trip is made, but not before a fairly shocking moment that might have viewers wondering what returning directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (who work from a screenplay by similarly returning scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) have in mind for how things are going to play out over the course of the film's three-hour runtime.

That temporal number might seem excessive for a comic book movie, but despite many scenes of talking, brooding, having lost confidence and more, the time flies by. And like before, much of that's due to a near expert mixture of action, comedy, solid performances, and true human feelings, the latter of which are in abundance here.

Of course, the more familiar and invested you are in the previous films and their characters, the greater the payoff is going to be. That even includes the big, action-filled final battle that ends up segueing from "here we go again with more of the same old, same old obligatory mindless spectacle" to something rewarding and even emotionally moving due to what transpires right before it starts. And a closing end credits sequence featuring the various characters we've come to know and, yes, even love over the past decade literally had me tearing up.

I won't go into details about how things unfold, albeit to say I likely would have made a few changes here and there and probably would have lopped off 15 to 20 minutes from the running time. Otherwise, this is a terrific conclusion to this particular chapter of the MCU and one that gives fans everything they want and deserve from an epic superhero offering. "Avengers: Endgame" rates as a 7.5 out of 10.

Reviewed April 23, 2019 / Posted April 26, 2019

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