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Avengers Endgame
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‘Avengers: Endgame’ deserves every dollar it makes

The closing scenes of “Avengers: Infinity War” were so powerful, so poignant, so philosophical that I feared its sequel “Avengers: Endgame” would inevitably suffer by comparison.

How do you follow up a superhero movie in which not only do the heroes lose the war but half the population of the universe is wiped out as well, including half of the superheroes?

Watching superheroes grapple with failure and death on such a personal level is not something we’ve come to expect in a Marvel Cinematic Universe. (An isolated death here or there, maybe, but not literally half of our heroes dissolving before our eyes. Poof! There goes Spiderman. Poof! So too Black Panther. And on and on and on.)

So how does “Endgame” follow up on quite possibly the most profound finale of any superhero movie? By eschewing the philosophical for the emotional. “Endgame” doesn’t grapple with ideas the way “Infinity War” does. It’s far less contemplative or reflective and much more emotionally reactive. Rather than provoking thoughts, “Endgame” elicits claps and tears, and that works just fine for a movie tasked with wrapping up a 22-film cycle with at least that many heroes. It’s a finale worthy of the series.

“Endgame” lets the tragedies of “Infinity War” breathe for a good half hour or so before the remaining Avengers talk themselves into going after the supreme villain Thanos and his six Infinity stones one more time, even if their forces are severely depleted.

He used the stones again.
Hey, hey, hey. We’d be goin’ in short-handed, ya know?
He’s still got the stones, so …
So let’s get ’em. Use them to bring everyone back.
Just like that?
Yeah, just like that.
Even if there’s a small chance we can undo this, we owe it to everyone who’s not in this room to try.
Let’s go get this @#$%

And the movie is off and running.

I’m very cognizant of the need to keep spoilers to a minimum so let me just say that the narrative device the screenwriters use to incorporate the entire roster of superheroes, both living and dead, is a time-honored comic book tradition. It may be hoary but it cleverly sets up at least six new adventure story timelines. All those storylines, and all the unexpected setbacks our heroes face while carrying out their missions, take more than three hours to resolve but the pace rarely wanes. It’s a masterful balancing act: high-energy action set pieces punctuated by large doses of self-reflexive humor and occasional dollops of pathos.

The quibbles I have are mostly minor: the Avengers’ various super strengths seem to come and go arbitrarily, especially in battle, the jokes are sometimes belabored, and certain emotional scenes are milked shamelessly. But these deficiencies are more than made up for by the film’s steady stream of happy surprises, satisfying complications, and enlightening revelations.

“Avengers: Endgame” may very well set the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend in American history. If so, it will have earned every dollar.

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