29 April 2019 | jon.h.ochiai
The Legacy in "Endgame"
Robert Downey Jr.'s gaunt Tony Stark records his message to his beloved Pepper Potts, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, aboard the disabled spaceship last seen in "Avengers: Infinity War", "Part of the journey is the end..." After 11 years of Marvel movies, Directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo's "Avengers: Endgame" signifies the end of the journey with laughter and surprising poignancy. At one point holdout Avengers leader Natasha (former assassin Black Widow), played by beautiful soulful Scarlett Johansson, refers to the Avengers as "family". That resonates for us, too. For the last 11 years these screen Heroes have become family. We care what becomes of them. Do they find peace? Do they discover love?
"Endgame" screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely patiently crescendo to the showdown with seemingly omnipotent galactic villain Thanos, motion captured by malevolently measured Josh Brolin, whom defeated the Avengers, by wiping out half of all life in the universe using the Infinity Gauntlet possessing all 6 Infinity Stones. The climactic battle is visually astounding, and oh so costly. Yet, what inspires most about "Endgame" is family and heart.
Most of "Endgame" takes place 5 years after Titan's Warrior Thanos decimated half the population of the universe, including about half of the Avengers. Here less is actually more. Where as in "Avengers: Infinity War", way too many Superheroes resulted in the kluged narrative, focusing on the surviving Heroes: Chris Evans's Captain America (Steve Rogers), Robert's Iron Man, and Chris Hemsworth's Thor, displaced God of Thunder, empowers the story. Brie Larson's all-powerful Captain Marvel charismatically emerges as the new Avenger. Too bad the Russo's couldn't leverage more for Brie. Then again, that might have been narrative saturation.
Where "Infinity War" was so dour and so self-absorbed, "Endgame" has a wicked sense of humor. Mark Ruffalo's glasses wearing civilized green giant Hulk taking selfies with adoring teen fans is hysterical. Critical to restoring their fallen Heroes in Thanos's aftermath, the surviving Avengers utilize time travel in hopes of preventing Thanos from possessing all Infinity Stones. In the hilarious expository exchange regarding the effects of changing past and future events: "This is not 'Back to the Future'." No, it's not. And I busted out laughing.
The human narrative touches in "Endgame". The distinct strength of the Marvel Universe Movies are its Actors. Travelling back to 1970, Robert's Tony Stark meets his estranged Father Howard, the genius engineer, played by earnest John Slattery. Howard has no idea that he's talking to his future son, because his wife is about to give birth. Robert's authentic compassion moves. Tony hugs Howard, who expressed doubt about being a good Father, saying, "It'll work out." Then you realize that was the only time the two had ever hugged. On that same trip back, Chris Evans's Steve wistfully gazes at Peggy Carter, played by captivating Hayley Atwell. Peggy is the forsaken love of Cap's life.
Chris Hemsworth's Thor travels back to the Norse legendary Asgard to retrieve an Infinity Stone. He encounters his mortal Mother Frigga, the powerful sorceress played by beautiful strong Rene Russo, on the day she's to die. In a subdued joke, rotund Thor has seen better days, since failing to dispatch Thanos in "Infinity War". His loving Mom tells her son that she knows that he's suffered. Looking into his eyes Frigga says, "The measure of the Hero is being true to yourself." Amen.
Really, "Endgame" is awesome, because of heart. In that Karen Gillan is understated power as the mostly machine Nebula, daughter of Thanos. Her Father had contested her against sister Gamora, played by brilliantly strong Zoe Saldana, for his love. Tortured and devalued Nebula, becomes ravaged with vengeance upon her Father. Yet, Karen makes us believe that Nebula's soul is worth salvation.
Yeah, at 3 hours and 1 minutes "Endgame" is the restroom challenge. I kid, well sort of. Despite all that, I loved "Avengers: Endgame". It's the poignant, whimsical end of the journey. At least for me, the Avengers are my fictional Hero family. Like the characters on the wide screen, we all experience suffering, profound loss, joy, and triumph. In life, like Chris's Cap says, "Take your baby steps... Move forward." I for one shall remember the Avengers in my heart.