If you went to a movie last weekend, odds are good that you saw this one. And enjoyed it.
It caps a 22-film narrative that stretches back to 2008’s “Iron Man,” the first Marvel movie, which showed us how Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) turned himself into a superhero devoted to protecting humanity and, over time, life generally.
Endgame opens ominously, with Iron Man in exile, other Avengers in sorrowful states and a palpable sense of worldwide loss over the consequences of last year’s “Infinity War.” The dark tone enhances the theme that much is at stake.
The Avengers meet and disagree about whether to accept what has happened or to try again to defeat archenemy Thanos. Their decision is the expected one.
From there come experiments in “quantum mechanics” and the space-time continuum — a necessary bit of mumbo-jumbo — that launches Antman, Hulk, the Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, et al. on various quests to retrieve the lost Infinity Stones that are essential for galactic harmony.
The film climaxes in an epic battle with Thanos, for which Marvel pulls all the stops, and I do mean all of them.
Afterward, a coda mourns team losses and suggests possible new Avengers members and/or a series of stories involving another Marvel team, the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The film includes some notable elements:
— Much more attention to the superheroes’ (and even the bad guy’s) personal backstories than is typical in the genre. The Avengers care about their families and each other, and the emotional drama plays well with audiences who have grown to care about the characters after seeing the previous movies.
— Plenty of humor, including an unanticipated Thor development, time-heist boo-boos, references to other space-time movies, and good-natured needling among the Avenger crew.
— Cameo appearances, apparently from old movies, by a number of famous actors and even Stan Lee, who created dozens of Marvel characters and who died late last year. (Lee cameos featured in all the previous Marvel films.)
— Various setup-payoff lines and themes to keep the story knitted together. The most prominent is Thanos’ oft-repeated declaration — “I am inevitable!” — that pays off nicely late in the movie.
The movie is long at three hours but accounts for itself well enough to sustain viewers’ interest. A nice piece of work.
Some enthusiasts have been watching or re-watching all the previous Marvel films in preparation for this one, but this YouTube video is a useful prep for those who do not have time.
The question before this movie was released Thursday evening was whether it could set a record $300 million in domestic ticket sales over its opening weekend.
By late Sunday the answer was in: Yes, yes it could. North American ticket sales were estimated at $350 million, with another $860 million in sales worldwide.