I usually don’t do this, but I’m warning you now -- DON’T read this column if you haven’t seen Endgame, the latest, longest, and best Avengers movie from Marvel Studios.
If you must, skip down to Ronda Rich’s column, turn to the next page, or read one of our wonderful front page stories and come back here next Friday to read something that has nothing to do with comic book movies. (Well, it probably won’t. No promises.)
With that spoiler warning out of the way, here’s my (partial) review of Avengers: Endgame, why it works as the capstone to 21 (!!) consecutive movies and sets up -- along with another movie coming down the pike -- the next decade worth of Marvel movies.
At 3 hours and 2 minutes long, Endgame is the longest Marvel movie to date. The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t feel like three hours. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo & Co. did a great job of pacing the film in such a way that while, yes, the story is massive, hardly anything drags. And that’s despite the fact that there are quieter beats on the way to one heck of an ending for 11 years worth of movies.
Let’s get the sad stuff out of the way (again, if you haven't watched the movie, this is your last chance not to be spoiled). There are two big deaths in the film: Natalia Romanova/Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) at about the half-way mark and Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) near the very end of the film.
There are some people who are down right angry about these losses. In Black Widow’s case, some are claiming her death is yet more of the “fridging” of female characters, especially in comic books and movies. The term comes from, years ago, DC Comics killing off the girlfriend of a superhero and having her body, literally, end up in the hero’s refrigerator. Grotesque, to say the least.
I don’t see Natalia’s death in Endgame this way. First of all, she wasn’t killed; she sacrificed herself so that Hawkeye/Ronin (Clint Barton, played by Jeremy Renner) could live. This was a teammate doing what was necessary to both reach an objective that required a sacrifice and save someone who had much more to live for, in this case, Hawkeye’s family.
Don’t get me wrong, I was sad to see this happen and am not really happy that a purported Black Widow film will now take place in the past while she was still alive. There’s no doubt Johansson had a lot more she could do with Black Widow’s future growth, rather than playing her as a past version.
Meanwhile, Tony Stark’s death was pretty much inevitable, if for no other reason than Downey -- while he’s never expressed being tired of playing Stark -- is likely looking to take a back seat at this stage in his life.
Iron Man was the first of these 22 movies, way back in 2008. It was fitting that what started with Stark end with Stark. Indeed, this leads me to an impassioned plea to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Give this man an Oscar.
RDJ’s work in Endgame is worthy of a best performance nod. There’s despondent Tony at the beginning of the movie. There’s angry Tony after he’s brought back to Earth by Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers, played by Brie Larson). There’s scared Tony, worried he’ll survive when everyone else dies. There’s determined Tony; there’s ecstatic Tony; there’s family-man Tony; and, finally, heroic Tony.
When Thanos declares “I am inevitable” during the film’s climactic battle, Iron Man proves that he’s not. Instead, he has the six infinity stones and declares, “I am Iron Man,” an echo to the ending of his first film 11 years ago.
I have no doubt -- “because, comics!” -- Tony will be back in some form, perhaps as the artificial intelligence for another iron-clad hero. There’s a number to choose from for the next generation of Avengers.
Tony’s arc and many other touches are why Endgame is a masterpiece of superhero, popular movie art. By using time travel as part of the plot, the film puts the characters back into earlier movies, sometimes even interacting with themselves to great, humorous effect. One of the best scenes is between an intelligent Hulk/Bruce Banner (the vastly underrated Mark Ruffalo) and the Sorceress Supreme (the marvelous Tilda Swinton) from Doctor Strange.
Then, of course, there is the absolute thrill of all the heroes who were “snapped” out of existence at the end of Infinity War returning for the big fight against Thanos and Co. The cheer that went up inside the Little Theater when I saw it was thunderous and well-deserved. And, yes, I admit to crying when Tony hugged Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland).
Endgame’s end left us with a satisfying end (which I refuse to completely spoil) while -- along with the trailer for July 2's Spider-Man: Far From Home -- leaving open what could happen during the next 11 years.
And when I think that they could include the Fantastic Four and X-Men, I suspect they’ll be MARVEL-ous!