Get­ting the band back to­gether

Marvel’s game of stones reaches its cli­max

The Tribune (SLO) - - Ticket - BY KATIE WALSH

Re­view­ing “Avengers: Endgame” is a uniquely chal­leng­ing propo­si­tion. How does one write about a movie with­out ac­tu­ally writ­ing about what hap­pens in it? Not only have co-di­rec­tors Joe and An­thony Russo re­leased an open let­ter and a hash­tag im­plor­ing early view­ers to “#Don­tSpoilTheEndgame,” but fans of the fran­chise prob­a­bly won’t even read this re­view, hop­ing to go in as blind as pos­si­ble. Re­views don’t mat­ter when it comes to the Marvel Cine­matic Uni­verse. Tick­ets have been pur­chased, seats have been re­served, and this cor­po­rate prod­uct sure doesn’t need my voice to call your at­ten­tion to it.

But here we are. At the blessed end of a long road. Good­bye, Avengers (for now – we all know these money print­ers are com­ing back). Good­bye, con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions. Good­bye, all of my tor­tured chain restau­rant metaphors I used to re­view all the previous films in the MCU. We’re be­ing sent off with a sick­en­ingly huge buf­fet of com­fort foods, three hours worth of cine­matic mashed potatoes. Eating too much can make you sick.

“Avengers: Endgame” is es­sen­tially “The Left­overs: Su­per­hero Edi­tion,” as the heroes left alive grap­ple with sur­vivor’s guilt after the in­fa­mous “snap” of Thanos (Josh Brolin) in “In­fin­ity War,” when half the world dis­solved into ash. Black Widow (Scarlett Jo­hanns­son), Cap­tain Amer­ica (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruf­falo), War Ma­chine (Don Chea­dle), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and of course Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), along with a few trusty com­pa­tri­ots like Rocket Rac­coon (Bradley Cooper) and Ne­bula (Karen Gil­lan) are mired in dif­fer­ent stages of grief: de­nial, anger, bar­gain­ing and de­pres­sion, mak­ing their way to some­thing like ac­cep­tance. But would any of these heroes ever “ac­cept” de­feat by Thanos? Not a chance.

Good thing there’s a star on the hori­zon, in the form of lady comet Cap­tain Marvel (Brie Lar­son). The tough-talk­ing Carol Dan­vers makes a few brief ap­pear­ances as a deus ex machina be­fore she jets off to other plan­ets while the rest of the Avengers puz­zle over time travel and In­fin­ity Stones, jet­ting through time to scoop up Thanos’ gems and share mean­ing­ful mo­ments with loved ones long gone.

“Avengers: Endgame” is a story about grief, loss and hold­ing tightly to loved ones and scraps of hap­pi­ness in the face of de­struc­tion. But it doesn’t ever fully com­mit to that darker tone. There’s the rapid-fire di­a­logue and warm hu­mor that has marked the films, but the script, by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, doesn’t have a shred of Whe­do­nian wit. There’s also one huge comedic, low­est-com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor swing that only squeaks by be­cause the star sad­dled with it is so nat­u­rally funny and com­mit­ted. It’s a tonal mis­match for this oth­er­wise incredibly dreary out­ing.

Per­haps the Rus­sos have made the fi­nal in­stall­ment of the se­ries this lack­lus­ter to make it eas­ier to say good­bye to the su­per­heroes, in this it­er­a­tion. We re­ally don’t need another one. Not like this.

The film­mak­ers and cor­po­ra­tions in­volved have painted critics into a cor­ner with this one, with their spoiler pledges and slav­ish de­vo­tion to The Fans. Should I even share what I re­ally think about “Endgame” – that it’s a dull, re­heated hash of stale hu­mor, over-the-top por­ten­tous­ness, swirled in a blender of gray CGI with enough end­ings and bit­ter­sweet good­byes to ri­val “Lord of the Rings: Re­turn of the King” – and risk back­lash from fans? Every­one has my bless­ing to en­joy this and have fun. What’s truly in­ter­est­ing about this cul­mi­nat­ing achievement is they seem to have fi­nally en­gi­neered the first critic-proof movie.

Marvel Studios

In “Avengers: Endgame”: Jeremy Ren­ner, James Rhodes, Paul Rudd, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Scar­let Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and Steve Rogers.

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