The Screening Room | A perfect 'Endgame' to a marvelous saga

The Screening Room | A perfect 'Endgame' to a marvelous saga

Expectations couldn't be higher for Marvel's "Avengers: Endgame," arguably the most anticipated movie in film history.

Having already broken pre-ticket sales records before one frame has flickered on the screen, there's no question that parent company Disney will turn a tidy profit on this endeavor. Still, there's a great deal riding on this movie in terms of fan loyalty, as filmgoers have a 10-year investment in this 23-film endeavor, and the question hanging over it is if their time has been well spent in this unprecedented experience.

Or is there nothing left in this vast franchise's tank after "Infinity War," and "Endgame" is all hype and no substance?

Captain America (Chris Evans) leads the team of survivors in 'Avengers: Endgame.' (Disney/Marvel/AP)

With Marvel's track record, it should come as no surprise that the final chapter of this saga is more than satisfying and actually quite moving at times as it pulls off the impressive feat of being a genuinely nostalgic exercise as well as a subtle table-setting for future features.

Clocking in at three hours, the movie breezes along at a brisk pace, neatly divided into three acts that features nearly every major or supporting character from all of the movies, a fanboy's dream if there ever was one. Rest assured, this will still prove satisfying, even to those who have only seen a few of the key installments.

Many have gone to great lengths to keep themselves in the dark where the film's plot is concerned, so I will tread lightly here. After the cataclysmic events of "Infinity War," in which half of the life forms in the galaxy were wiped out by cosmic environmentalist Thanos (Josh Brolin) with the power of the six collected Infinity Stones, there are only a few of Avengers left to lick their wounds.

The original six — Thor (Chris Hemsworth, left), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., below), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) — are dealing with their grief in different ways, while Nebula (Karen Gillan), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) are also on hand, unsure of how to progress with their lives.

That is, until Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) shows up after having been trapped in the Quantum Realm, a place where time moves differently, for five years, and claims he holds the key to these heroes resurrecting their lost allies.

It should come as no surprise that time travel plays a key role in getting the whole Marvel gang back together. But what directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely do with this conceit proves surprising and wholly entertaining. Their postmodern take is a hoot, providing one moment after another of hilarious meta-comedy. Along the way, touching and unexpected reunions take place, along with a few surprises.

And that proves to be the most refreshing element of the film. "Infinity War" was a dire affair, and while the narrative stakes are just as high here, ultimately, "Endgame" is much lighter in tone, reveling in its past and fully embracing the nostalgia surrounding the series as well as characters' developmental arcs.

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) searches for an old friend. (Disney/Marvel/AP)

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the film is the balancing act the Russos employ regarding the wide range of emotions at play. In the end, there's little to quibble about where "Endgame" is concerned, as this satisfying conclusion to Marvel's grand experiment ends on a high note that could scarcely be improved upon.

And while these films could be dismissed as just overproduced comic-book hijinks, there's a thoughtful, introspective approach here that reminds us of how precious our lives are and that the greatest of crimes is to live with regret.

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'Avengers: Endgame' (★★★★ out of four)

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Brolin, Tom Holland, Brie Larson, Chris Pratt, Paul Rudd and Dave Bautista.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo; produced by Kevin Feige; screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

A Marvel Films release. 181 minutes.  Rated PG-13 (sci-fi violence and action, some language). At the AMC-Champaign 13, AMC Danville Village Mall 6, Harvest Moon Drive-in, Onarga Theater and Savoy 16 IMAX.

Topics (1):Film