Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan and Josh Brolin. Opens Friday (with Thursday night previews) at theatres everywhere. 181 minutes. PG
Mathematicians say infinity has no end. Avengers: Endgame thrillingly and movingly proves them wrong.
This 22nd and concluding chapter of the Infinity Saga, phase one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that began with Iron Man in 2008, fades to black in a three-hour finale that will satisfy fans — and surely baffle newcomers.
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It’s a superhero blockbuster jam-packed with moments both colossal and intimate, with visuals that demand the grandest screen available. The actors all bring their “A” game to Endgame — Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth are the standouts — making characters from comic books seem like they should be prowling the Stratford stage.
There’s a quest for closure right from the get-go and also a wicked sense of humour that keeps the story from getting too maudlin.
The Traffic song “Dear Mr. Fantasy” plays over a scene of domestic bliss that’s about to turn sour, with its lyric, “Do anything, take us out of this gloom / Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy.”
Something “snappy” already happened, in the previous film Avengers: Infinity War. Intergalactic felon Thanos, played by Josh Brolin and looking like Shrek’s nastier brother, snapped his fingers and eliminated half of all life-forms in the universe, a “correction” he deemed to be population control. Major cities like New York and San Francisco are in ruins; governments are in disarray.
Thanos obtained his Doomsday ability by rounding up six magical stones that, when placed together in an Infinity Gauntlet, confer omnipotence upon the wearer.
The Avengers and their allied heroes weren’t spared from the wrath of Thanos. It’s no spoiler to report what Endgame trailers and posters have already made clear about who was and wasn’t left standing after the events of Infinity War.
Along with Iron Man (Downey Jr.) and Thor (Hemsworth), the survivors include Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle), and, from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Nebula (Karen Gillan).
The fallen include Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Vision (Paul Bettany) and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
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This is by no means a complete roll-call; one isn’t necessary. The multi-thread narrative of Endgame, which continues with Infinity War’s directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is to try to find some way — “Whatever it takes” is the collective vow — to reverse the snap of Thanos.
Schemes bold, crazy and comical are attempted, and alliances and grudges are revisited, as the action pinballs around the galaxy making numerous callbacks to other movies both inside and outside the MCU. Who’d have guessed there would be name-checks to Back to the Future, Hot Tub Time Machine and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?
Woe betide anyone approaching Endgame without having seen Infinity War or other key MCU films, which would be akin to watching the final season of Game of Thrones without any prior knowledge. There are so many characters, so many plot twists and so many explosive moments onscreen, it could prove an impossible task for a newbie to parse it all.
For those already immersed in MCU lore, there’s plenty to savour as character and story arcs are satisfyingly resolved and pesky questions are answered. The film does almost too good a job of this.
Endgame doesn’t just dot the i’s and cross the t’s of the series; it also throws in a few unnecessary underscores and exclamation marks. The three-hour running time passes briskly for the most part, but the film could have used a trim in its slower middle section.
These are forgivable indulgences. Fans will want it all and who can blame them?
Peter Howell is the Star’s movie critic based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @peterhowellfilm