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'Avengers: Endgame' offers emotionally resonant, action-filled, satisfying conclusion 

Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: Civil War) co-direct this follow-up to their 2018 film, Avengers: Infinity War, which resulted in Thanos turning half the universe's population into dust. The remaining Avengers reassemble and work to undo Thanos' destructive act and restore the universe. It's the 11th film in the connected Marvel Universe series. (181 min.)

Glen This direct sequel to the events of Infinity War opens with Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), aka Hawkeye, enjoying a picnic with his family on their rural property. He helps his daughter with her archery skills, and as he turns back from responding to his wife's call of lunchtime, the girl is gone ... vanished. When he turns back to his wife and sons, they, too, have disappeared. It's an emotionally resonant reminder of the stunning loss that the survivors of Thanos' act experienced. This scene is followed by other scenes introducing the various main characters and reminding viewers of their loss. This turns out to be both the film's strength and weakness. It's got surprising emotional heft for a superhero flick, but it's also overlong and repetitive as we explore in detail the dozens of characters, their relationships and connections, their losses and reaction to those losses, and their eventual reunification and renewed fight to reverse what Thanos wrought. As I wrote in my review of Infinity War, Thanos' act felt like a stunt. Too many of the characters who disappeared had already scheduled films and sequels coming up. It didn't feel final, and of course it wasn't because ... wait for it ... time travel! If that's a spoiler to you, you're obviously not a fan of the Marvel Universe because those who are know that Thanos' destructive act cannot stand. Luckily for everybody, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, is wicked smart and figures out how to go back in time. The film unfolds as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America; Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka The Hulk; Thor (Chris Hemsworth); Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka Black Widow; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper); and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), aka Ant Man, all team up to get the Infinity Stones before Thanos has time to wipe out half the universe with them. Even though I think the filmmakers could have cut 30 minutes and had a better film, this is still kick-ass!

click to enlarge TEAMWORK (left to right) Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Ant Man (Paul Rudd), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) join forces to restore the universe. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARVEL STUDIOS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Marvel Studios
  • TEAMWORK (left to right) Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Ant Man (Paul Rudd), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) join forces to restore the universe.

Anna I skipped Infinity War. Frankly, these bigger-than-life comic book movies usually aren't my thing, especially when they take themselves too seriously. I went in to Endgame with little hope of actual enjoyment but walked out pleasantly surprised. It's an ass-numbing three-hour saga, and I agree that it could have lost a bit of repetition and ended up with the same effect at a more reasonable length, but there is a lot going on here and a lot of superheroes to cover. There are some actually potent emotional moments from the start, and some pretty funny bits too. Thor is perfectly positioned to bring the laughs in. The God of Thunder has hidden himself away from the world, traded his god bod for a dad bod, and wastes his days guzzling beer and playing video games. He's a bumbling drunk who spends the movie unsuccessfully putting his life back together. But in the end, he snaps back into superhero mode with ease. The God of Thunder still has some tricks up his sleeve, beer belly or not. Putting this many superheroes together is a pretty daunting feat; the storyline tends to get sacrificed so everyone can have a chance to be a star. Endgame suffers this fate a bit, though for the amount of superpower up on screen, I think they stayed mostly on track. Judging by how many screenings were sold out, I'm betting the Marvel die-hards have already seen this by now. Even if you're more of a casual fan like myself, this is a pretty fun flick. And even though it's long, the three hours went by fairly quickly with all the action.

Glen Historically, the comic book realm has always been a boys' world. In the past, even the female superheroes seemed more designed to appeal to boys rather than girls—have you noticed, for instance, that most female superheroes dress like a PG-13-rated pole dancer or dominatrix? However, both Marvel and DC seem to be trying to evolve, not just on gender issues but on other social issues. For instance, when Rogers attends a survivors group therapy session, one of the male members casually mentions his gay relationship and nothing's made of it. It's accepted as normal. During the pitched final battle, it's a group of female superheroes who convene to take a stand while their male co-heroes wage individual battles. Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), aka Captain Marvel, is the desperately needed tiebreaker in the final fight to the death. These moments are signs that the times they are a-changin', and it's a welcome change. That said, don't leave reading this review with the idea that everything's going to turn out perfectly for our heroes. The film has the good sense to make at least some of its stakes real, so prepare yourself for some losses. Also, keep in mind, prequels are a thing, so I have no doubt that if your favorite hero meets her or his final demise, Marvel will find a way toward resurrection. This film is proof positive that anything, even time travel, is possible. Taking into consideration the spectacle on screen, this film is worth paying full price!

Anna Yep, it's got some real stakes, and the filmmakers were smart to make them count. Usually this type of big, action-packed flick doesn't carry a whole lot of emotional resonance, but here there are some touching moments, starting at the very beginning with Hawkeye's family disappearing. The Avengers' plan has them traveling in teams back to three different eras and places to retrieve the stones before Thanos can, one of which sends Thor back to Asgard the day of his mother's death. He's a mess over it and is torn between his mission and his mother's life. The past/present/future setup could easily get confusing, but the filmmakers kept it simple enough to follow. It's a wild ride every which way, and I for one appreciate that even though good triumphs over evil, there is still loss and inevitable sacrifice. All the kick-ass ladies on screen were a win for me—the turn to female heroes as of late is so awesome. We're more than just mini skirts and eyeliner, and the superhero industry has heard the call for strong, radical women to take over and save the world. Keep it coming! All in all, this movie was a pretty fun ride, and seeing so many characters share the screen is really what the Avengers franchise is about. You'll have to plan your day around it, but this epic hero flick is totally worth seeing in the theaters. Δ

Split Screen is written by Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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