After 21 films, ‘Endgame’ was worth the wait

After 21 films, ‘Endgame’ was worth the wait

The end of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s initial story arc arrives to tie a bow on the tale started 11 years ago with the first “Iron Man” movie.

This time around, Anthony and Joe Russo have a lot more on their plates than Jon Favreau did in 2008. “Avengers: Endgame” has to mix multiple storylines and cram almost as many characters together as the previous movie, “Avengers: Infinity War.” It also has to deal with the fallout resulting from Thanos snapping his fingers to erase 50 percent of all life in the universe at the end of “Infinity War.”

After a brutally forlorn opening sequence, “Endgame” moves forward five years “post-snap.” The remaining superheroes are living a shattered existence. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, given a little more to do than usual) tries to keep everything together at Avengers headquarters, sending people out on missions. Newcomer Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) helps Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) out of a jam and then goes off into the cosmos. Captain America (Chris Evans) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) are doing their own thing, while Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) have more or less disappeared.

It’s not until the fateful return of Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, comically effectual as usual) that the ball gets rolling on trying to set things right. It helps to have seen 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” to understand where Ant-Man has been for five years. In fact, it helps to have seen pretty much all of the other 21 MCU films. It would be a difficult experience for those who have seen even just half of the previous movies. Most moviegoers have watched most of the films and want to spend three hours in the theater enjoying the grand finale.

The Russo brothers show us a troubling world without half of its former inhabitants. Garbage piles up on streets, entire city blocks have been left to crumble, faded missing posters are still up. However, the directors miss an opportunity to delve into how we have fared as a civilization, both on the macro and micro scales. Unfortunately, there is far too much ground for them to cover on the cosmic level.

Ant-Man’s plan sends our remaining crew in groups to far-flung locales in time and space. A wonderfully un-godlike Thor pairs with the always snarky Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper). Thor’s return to a previous version of Asgard brings unexpected pathos. Iron Man and Captain America venture to a place where they have to deal with heavy aspects of their past, while Hawkeye and Black Widow face an altogether haunting proposition.

Near the end of a massive comic series, readers expect a big battle and lots of tough decisions by the characters. Even if some characters die, there’s a good chance they’ll return in some form in a different series. Yet with “Endgame,” viewers must be prepared for the very good possibility they will never see some of these heroes onscreen again.

It’s a little long and has a few hokey shots that seemed to be there just to please fans, but “Endgame” is a worthy tribute to our favorite superheroes and their saga. B

Note: The DC Extended Universe continues its renaissance, as “Shazam” is a fantastic addition. A-

Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord. Email comments to