The Avengers are dead. Long live the Avengers. For the millions who watched half the Marvel universe vaporize onscreen in the final moments of 2018's Infinity War — whole standalone franchises reduced to swirling ash with a sweep of ubervillain Thanos' meaty paw — there had to be one last sequel to set it right.

Nearly a year to the day, Endgame returns with the promise of many things: revenge, redemption, a runtime that defies the limits of most streetside parking meters. And the movie largely delivers, splashing its ambitious three-hour narrative across a sprawling canvas of characters, eras, and not-quite-insurmountable challenges.

As the story opens, though, Infinity's surviving superheroes hardly seem up to the task. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has cocooned himself in a remote country cabin; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is staring into space and eating sad peanut butter sandwiches; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) spends his days drinking, a beer-gutted agoraphobe in a bathrobe.

Even Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) has other galaxies to worry about. But there is an Ant-Man with a plan: Paul Rudd's ageless, shrinkable Scott Lang may have the seeds of a time machine that would allow the crew to go back and gather the Infinity Stones that triggered the original, terrible snap.

Avengers: Endgame
'Avengers: Endgame'
| Credit: ©Marvel Studios 2019

That means one more chance to see Chris Evans' Captain America and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye do the things they do with shields and arrows and thousand-yard stares. But also to witness a Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) who has learned to own his oversize power (he willingly takes group selfies and wears shawl-collared cardigans now!); to follow along as Stark and Thor make some kind of peace with their pasts; to bask in the banter of bounty-hunting space raccoons and dry-witted billionaires.

Thanos, voiced by Josh Brolin, is still a formidable antihero, with his ominous proclamations — "I. Am. Inevitable," he intones more than once — and a chin furrowed like wide-wale corduroy. And oh, the cameos; sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo, veterans of the MCU, max out their Rolodex in nearly every scene, though half of the A-list appearances are over before the audience's happy gasp of surprise even fades.

With nothing less than the fate of the free world (or at least approximately 50% of it) at stake, there's an expected urgency to it all, but an underlying melancholy too — not just for everything that's been lost, but for what won't be coming back. After 11 years, 22 films, and uncountable post-credit Easter eggs, the endgame of an era has finally come. B+

Related content:

Avengers: Endgame (2019 movie)
See what EW thinks of the 'Avengers: Endgame,' starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, and more.
  • Movie

Comments have been disabled on this post