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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, May 3, 2019

Critic's Corner: ‘Endgame’ a fitting farewell for longtime investors in franchise




Goodbyes can be hard. Bidding farewell to a child who’s collegebound, a spouse who’s leaving to serve in the military or friends you’ll never see again can stir rivers of sadness in you as you think back on your time together and begin to feel the void their departure will create.

Saying goodbye to fictitious characters can be difficult, too. My mom was inconsolable after watching the series finale of “M*A*S*H.” Recently, I felt melancholic as I viewed the last episode of “The Americans” knowing I’d never spend another lunch hour with Philip and Elizabeth Jenkins.

Somehow, we develop real affection for the made-up people who inhabit our favorite movies or TV shows and actually grieve their departure. If you don’t believe people can form an emotional bond with fabricated characters, then buy a ticket to “Avengers: Endgame” and listen to the crowd during the final scenes.

I’ve heard less sniffling at a funeral.

The aptly titled “Endgame” brings an expansive 23-movie narrative arc to a conclusion. Beginning in 2008 with “Iron Man,” Marvel Studios has patiently built to this film, giving us rousing self-contained adventures featuring Captain America, Thor, Black Panther and others while building toward an explosive showdown with the villain Thanos, who aimed to kill half of all sentient life in the universe as a means of preserving resources.

As “Endgame” begins, Thanos has accomplished his objective, creating an Earth that has 50% of its former populace and twice the depression. During the opening scenes, which focus on the Avengers as they deal with their failure to defeat Thanos, as well as their personal losses, I would not have been surprised to see Cap or Black Widow popping regular doses of Prozac.

Eventually, the Avengers pull themselves out of their emotional muck and pose a question Marvel movie fans have been asking since “Avengers: Infinity War” ended last year: Can they reverse what happened?

The rest of the film provides the tremendously satisfying answer.

I’m going to make only a few observations about “Endgame.” First, the creative team of directors Anthony and Joe Russo, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and what must have been an army of studio executives wisely emphasized the characters over the action.

No matter what you’re expecting from “Endgame,” it is above all else an intimate character drama. Throughout this series, friendships have been formed, tested and ripped apart, beloved characters have wrestled with their place in the universe (even as they saved it) and an assortment of goofy-sounding characters have seized our hearts. (I am Groot!)

And I cannot imagine a better story about who lives, who dies and what they achieve together. Yes, we’re talking about a silly comic book universe that’s not meant to be taken seriously, but as a character drama, “Endgame” is a masterwork that ties together story threads from nearly two dozen movies into a single remarkable tapestry.

That’s not to say the story is seamless. Many minor characters and even a few major ones are given only a brief moment to shine and most of these scenes are inconsequential and feel forced. Thankfully, “Endgame” hits all of the right emotional notes with the characters that really matter at this point and plays those notes brilliantly.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about the action in “Endgame,” which seems compulsory. Although there’s less action than the typical Marvel film, little of what’s there actually matters.

Even the massive end battle could have been scaled back without damaging the story, as most of the characters involved have nothing important to do. I could tell you why, but I don’t want to spoil anything, including something you’ll see coming from a million lightyears away.

That said, I didn’t care. Maybe the Russo brothers didn’t, either. After directing four of these films, perhaps they were tired of choreographing endless UFC matchups between battalions of superheroes and megavillains. I’ve certainly seen enough and didn’t need more, especially given the unimpressive animation in “Endgame.”

Speaking frankly, there are videogames with better animation than “Endgame.” Marvel has rarely prioritized the CGI in this series, despite the films having collectively grossed nearly $20 billion globally. The animators for “Endgame” didn’t even bother to erase the glaringly obvious seams in the prosthetics that make Tilda Swinton, who plays the Ancient One, bald.

What else? Just that “Endgame” is riotously funny in places. Humor has generally been a big part of these movies, although some of the jokes have missed the mark. But I think even my daughter, who abhors the comedy in Marvel’s films, would crack a smile.

With “Endgame,” the Russo brothers and their creative team made a very difficult task look easy. And the actors who brought these characters to life over the last decade have done good work. If the sniffles I heard while watching the film are an indication, I’m not going to be alone in missing them, even as Marvel starts afresh with “Spider-Man: Far from Home” in July.