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‘Avengers: Endgame’: A movie for all seasons (no spoilers!)

AVENGERS ENDGAME
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For those who have become invested in these characters over the years, fear not, 'Avengers: Endgame' makes all those hours spent with them worth it.

One of the earliest things kids learn in their religious education classes is that the word Catholic means “universal.” Appearing in writing as early as the year 108, the term is used to reference the multicultural, multiracial, multi-whatever mass of humanity that makes up the membership of the Catholic Church. Recognizing this all-embracing nature of the Church and her message, Irish author James Joyce famously quipped that a better definition of the word Catholic would be “Here comes everybody!” Well, if that’s true, then Avengers: Endgame must be the most Catholic movie of all time, because it features just about everybody you can think of, and then some.

This is not hyperbole. All of those superheroes and all of their supporting casts that Marvel Studios has spent 12 years developing? Almost all of them appear here in some form or other. You would think such an undertaking would be a recipe for a jumbled, over-stuffed mess of a movie, sort of an It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marvel World, if you will. Amazingly, that’s not the case. Instead, Avengers: Endgame is a meticulously crafted love letter to the fans who have stuck with this franchise over the course of 21 films, providing them with just about everything they could possibly want.

The first thing, of course, is the answer to what happened in the aftermath of the events depicted in Avengers: Infinity War. It was at the end of that film where the mad titan Thanos, in a deranged attempt to ensure sustainability of resources, used the near-omnipotent power of the Infinity Stones to eradicate half the population of the universe. How did the survivors of that apocalyptic moment react to the seeming triumph of the culture of death?

Not well. The start of Avengers: Endgame finds most everyone on this world and others suffering from a combination of PTSD and survivor’s guilt. Naturally, a plan is concocted to locate Thanos and the Infinity Stones, but for reasons that won’t be revealed here, it doesn’t go as intended and things actually look worse than before. But just when all hope seems lost, a minuscule, near impossible chance at salvation arrives in the form of the most unlikely of sources.

And that’s all of the plot you’re getting here. After years of following these characters through trials and tribulations, it would be monumentally unfair to audiences to have the Avengers’ penultimate story spoiled in a movie review. Obviously, at least some of the heroes who evaporated into dust at the end of Infinity War return by the climax of Endgame. They’re already showing trailers for the next Spider-Man movie, for crying out loud. Even so, there’s simply no good reason to ruin the journey it takes to reach that moment.

And what a journey it is. For those who have become invested in these characters over the years, fear not, Avengers: Endgame makes all those hours spent with them worth it. It is a movie for all seasons, with times to laugh and times to cry, times to stand and cheer and, yes, times to sit in silence and mourn. Probably the closest equivalent to the experience of Avengers: Endgame is the final Harry Potter movie, but that film already had a pre-written ending available to anyone who wished to read it and had nowhere near the scope of what’s on the screen here (sorry Potter fans, but it’s true). Avengers: Endgame is on an entirely different level.

Sure, if you’re a newcomer to the Avengers universe, the emotional impact of many scenes may be lost on you. Endgame absolutely requires a good deal of knowledge of the films that came before it. And truthfully, the sheer spectacle of it all may be too overwhelming for some viewers. For the most part, though, it’s hard to imagine too many moviegoers being displeased with what they see. And kudos to Marvel Studios for putting in the effort. Let’s be honest, if the film were nothing but one long fight scene, it would still make a billion dollars. A soulless cash-grab isn’t what we get, though. The filmmakers obviously care for these heroes as much as their fans do, and they have provided them with possibly the best send-off we could have hoped for. Much has been made of the film’s three-hour running time, but honestly, it almost doesn’t feel like enough.

Avengers Endgame is rated PG-13 for superhero violence and a few bad words. It is literally playing everywhere there’s a movie screen.

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