Early on someone concludes that “No amount of money ever bought a second of time.” Wise words indeed. Yet it’s also a vertiginous enigma when you consider that this very well could be the most expensive film ever made. “Avengers Endgame,” as the title suggests, has more epic showdowns, reflexive jokes and superhero heroism than anyone could absorb in a single viewing. I have only seen it once, so all I can say for now is that it’s a fitting end to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a great deal of fun, and proof that money can not only buy time, but it can also buy one hell of a blockbuster.
Running at just over three hours, you can feel time withering away as effortlessly as sand falls through your fingertips. It’s been 11 years –yes, 11 years!– since Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man arrived on the scene. His cocky, cockeyed persona beneath the metal suite made an impact that even the Walt Disney Corporation couldn’t have predicted. Like it or not, the franchise has become a cultural touchstone. Grossing 18 billion dollars in 22 films, which is nearly enough to build Trump’s wall, the series has transcended borders, race and age in that it has something for everyone.
Still, the infinitely overlong “Infinity War” had many scratching their heads. As the ambitious baddie titled Thanos (Josh Brolin, in the form of a muscular eggplant giving new meaning to double chins) reduced half the universe’s population into powder in the cliffhanging conclusion. Why? Because, why not? The way he sees it: the six infinity stones give him the opportunity to do some intergalactic gardening, making him the leader in reducing overpopulation. The way we see it: he’s just another bad guy threatening to take over the world (nothing new here).
But there IS something new in “Avengers Endgame.” Real stakes. Also, real warmth, zest, and a real sense of family connection. When someone asks the surviving Avenger’s about a loved ones family, the whimpering reply lands with palpable poignancy, “We were her family.” What makes these movies work like gangbusters is that sense of unity. The franchise, whose 22 films have all been remarkably interwoven into one story, have not only given these heroes lasting friendships, but have also given all of US lasting friendships. You will find that decades of adventures will make this goodbye a bitch.
I laughed, I cried, and I cheered along with a crowd of fanboys who looked as if they had just gotten off the bus from Comic Con. They were giddily shouting spoilers on the way out–in today’s culture, everything constitutes as a spoiler– so I will do my best to keep the plot mechanics to a minimum. What I can say is that, unlike chess, in this endgame the board is filled with pieces. There’s Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, who has gone from super sad to super dad–you can see why, his daughter is adorable! There’s Chris Evan’s endearingly virtuous Captain America, whose stance on his fellow teammates changes more often than the actor’s hairstyle. Also, Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk returns with a smashing outfit instead of a smashing mentality. And we can’t forget about Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. Who nearly steals the show as a beer-bellied spirit of Jeff Lebowski.
They are all dealing with loss in their own way. That is, until Paul Rudd’s Ant Man shows up at headquarters. With the idea that quantum entanglement could allow for a redo. It does. At least once they figure out that time travel is a little more complicated than “Back to the Future.” They then team up with the heroes back from the past. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Hawk (Jeremy Renner) return for one last hoorah. And when they battle Thanos “Henry V”-style, charging him and his legion in a single file line to Alan Silvestri’s score, resistance to the grandeur will be futile. Resistance to goosebumps will be futile.
The last hour is as preposterous as it is spectacular. All of our favorite superheros in more or less one frame. Showing off their distinct powers and personalities one last time. At times it can be too much to bear, but even the too muchness is top notch. Much like directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo’s previous successes, it finds grace, humor, and moralistic virtue amidst the thrilling explosions. As well as the lesson that to experience a great gain we must experience a great loss. It isn’t a spoiler to say that some of our friends won’t be returning. And that’s okay with me. Marvel knows that to actualize an ending as moving as this it’s going to have to take some risks. Whatever it takes.