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‘Avengers: Endgame’ is an explosive finale to the MCU saga

In case you somehow decided to skip out on the previous Avengers film, it ends—spoiler alert!—with our heros failing to stop Thanos, the Mad Titan, from using the infinity gauntlet, which in turn eradicates half of all civilizations. Avengers: Endgame picks up in the immediate moments after Avengers: Infinity War, as the toll of Thanos’ act continues to ripple through our world. While many of the more-popular and recent fan-favorite Avengers were turned into ethereal death-dust, Avengers: Endgame finds the core Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) burdened with the weight of failing to save mankind.

Five years after the “snap,” the world is in turmoil. While some have moved on—Tony Stark and Bruce Banner—others, like Black Widow and Captain America, live with the weight of failure. When Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) re-appears after a brief (but five years in reality) jaunt into the quantum realm, he has the not-so-bright idea to somehow go back in time and prevent Thanos from collecting the stones.

It’s not all that surprising that an integral part of this movie hinges on our heroes going back in time, returning to several key moments within the already-established Marvel Comic Universe (MCU) itself. It’s a plot contrivance that could feel a little too Star Trek: TNG than brilliant comic book plotting, yet it’s a delightfully satisfying walk down memory lane, as well as a clever opportunity to bring back most if not all of the supporting characters throughout the entire MCU.

As our heroes break off into teams to travel back in time, we return to the scenes from previous Marvel films: the NYC battle from the very first Avengers; the classic rock-infused space opera of the first Guardians of the Galaxy; even the oft-maligned second Thor, all in an attempt to collect the stones long before Thanos set out to go all Pokémon on them and bring back all that were lost.

It all builds to an even more rousing rematch between the assembled Avengers and Thanos and his throng of intergalactic baddies. If you felt like the battle scene from Infinity War was simply plodding filler to get us to this point, the culmination of this showdown will certainly leave you breathless from the sheer scale and spectacle, surprising re-appearances, and the heart-wrenching fallout of it all.

The heart of Avengers: Endgame, and the entire MCU to a greater extent, is Robert Downey Jr., who anchors the emotional fulcrum of this second part of the Infinity War saga. Whether it’s his star turns in the stand-alone Iron Man films or the multitude of contractually-obligated appearances in other MCU properties, Downey Jr. always seems to elevate the material, oftentimes providing a much-needed injection of humor and trademark cool-dad snark. So it comes as no surprise that much of the emotional stakes hinge on his Tony Stark’s desire to right the fallout of Avengers: Infinity War.

Avengers: Endgame is as much a three-hour, action packed culmination of the MCU phase three as it is a celebration of the decade-in-the-making cinematic takeover of the zeitgeist. With 22 (and counting) entries into the MCU, Marvel and its core-six stars take a victory lap celebrating the mountainous task of carrying one of the longest-running serialized movie-going experiences ever accomplished. And what an accomplishment it is.

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