Avengers: Endgame
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Brie Larson, Scarlett Johansson, Karen Gillan
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
3 hrs. 1 min.

When last we left the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos the horrific (Josh Brolin), he of the diner-booth tuck-and-roll chin, had thrust the final Infinity Stone into his mitt. Fifty percent of the universe’s population, along with many of its foremost superheroes, then vaporized, en masse, into a flaky, black substance and floated away. I have to resist the urge to stop right there, so as not to reveal anything that would spoil the movie for those who didn’t see Avengers: Endgame in its first record-breaking weekend. There are enough impressions to give, however, without telling all.

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket Racoon et al are left in the wake of what Thanos has wrought with the powerful Infinity Gauntlet. They’re introduced to Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who is furious over the fate of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) — he, too, reduced to an onyx mist. To attempt a reversal of this terrible deed, some time travel is necessary, and a few Avengers battles of the past have to be revisited to alter the present.

Writers Christopher Markus and Steven McFeely have a ball with the mammoth script, supplying the trademark Marvel wit that augments the super-exploits (and makes the films so watchable to non-comic book freaks). More than other directors who’ve worked in the MCU, Anthony and Joe Russo had the task of creating a nexus for action, laughs, poignancy and tears. You will hear no complaints. The box office is booming, the seats are filled, the uber-fans are pumped and the critics are pleased.

This movie ensures we live in the golden age of superhero films. Without an ounce of camp or corn, Avengers: Endgame brings a conclusion to the decade-long story arc with both a light touch and powerful emotions heretofore associated with other genres. From the cold open, we’re reminded of the devastation brought on by Thanos and those stones. We see a gaunt Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark, his spacecraft having survived annihilation, left drifting, powerless, in a solar system we know not where. The Avengers are dolorous, but committed in their grief. Avenging, after all, is their métier.

We must further rave over the computer-generated images. The natural look of the pyrotechnics, the superpowers, the de-aging for period flashbacks make it all so palatable to the eye, so believable to even the most casual of moviegoers. Add that to the epic storytelling over three well-paced hours, and those witty characters who make you care, and the result is a license to print money — which is exactly what the movie has done.

There are lessons in Woman Power here, and allegories that reinforce and illuminate the truism that sometimes the best results do not come without a price. I don’t believe most people are ready to be so profoundly moved by a Marvel film. In saving the world, there arise the heart-tugging realities of love, and the inevitability of loss. And one thinks back to Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others who originally brought most of these characters to life in the pulpy pages of Marvel Comics. For a dime (later, 15 cents) you could let your imagination run free, and allow yourself to laugh, captivated by the talents of these writers and artists. Lee’s posthumous cameo in Avengers: Endgame reminds us how it all started, and what a treasure the MCU has now become for the world. It just keeps getting better.