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[Herald Review] Avengers assemble for the glorious ‘Endgame’

My only real regret about “Avengers: Endgame” is that I watched it in a country where it is considered rude to burst into applause during a screening: There were several moments in this damn-near perfect film that deserved a standing ovation.

The last installment in the “Infinity” saga -- the first 22 films about the Marvel Cinematic Universe -- was the sort of culmination that the final film in any series should be. It had the catharsis and the wistful and loving farewell of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” the sense of closure of “The Dark Knight Rises” and the drama of “Return of the Jedi” -- although that last film was only OK.

Like most MCU films, it packed incredible action, visual effects and drama -- but most importantly, it provided perfect closure for those who have followed the franchise since Tony Stark uttered the words “I am Iron Man” and have been waiting for Captain America to shout “Avengers! Assemble!”

“Avengers: Endgame” (Walt Disney Company Korea)
“Avengers: Endgame” (Walt Disney Company Korea)

The film by Anthony and Joe Russo kicks off by looking at the world after Thanos has eliminated half of all life in the universe, with a horrid depiction of what happened to “Hawkeye” Clint Barton’s family. Meanwhile, drifting in space, Stark and Nebula are picked up -- literally -- by “Captain Marvel” Carol Danvers and head back to Earth to face their failures.

The remaining Avengers set out to kill Thanos, and soon find themselves on an unclear path.

Just as “Avengers: Infinity War” did, this film feels a lot like a gift to loyal Marvel fans. The directors seem to understand exactly what the fans of the franchise expect and have been awaiting with anticipation.

Throughout the film, they pay homage to past MCU works, even their own. The path the movie takes enables the audience to glance back at the past while looking ahead to the future at the same time.

“Endgame” is simultaneously adventure, superhero flick and drama. As an adventure film, it understands the excitement and uncertain nature of setting out on an unknown path and takes the audience along for the ride.

As a superhero flick, what more can I say? What haven’t the directors of some of MCU’s finest action flicks proven so far? Most of the action that made their past works so amazing is back, and then some.

As for the climactic battle, there are just no words for it -- one, because I’m not allowed to blurt out spoilers, and two, because it is beyond anything I’ve come to expect even in a Marvel film. It is, simply, epic.

Lastly, the drama. Marvel Studios could not have picked better directors to wrap up the saga that was 22 films and 11 years in the making. The audience follows the heroes we have loved and rooted for as they venture on -- not only on to the task at hand, but on their own inner journeys.

I loved how this film mirrored moments from the earlier films, but was not content with feeding fans’ nostalgia. Each of these moments built on the narrative, and despite the flick being three hours long, there were no wasted scenes. The movie really took me back, and pushed me forward.

While the characters were generally covered well, there was one glaring problem with “a certain character.” Having a hero who has fallen from grace and needs to face inner demons is one thing, and building a story arc based on a hero’s failure is another.

But there is a fine line between depicting a fallen hero and making that person an absolute joke, and this film has done the latter. While I understand that the Russo brothers were trying to add depth to the character’s story arc -- and there is a strong, emotional moment that resulted from that attempt -- I’m afraid they may have gone one step too far.

As a result, that character’s narrative, which the films had built up over the years, just went backward.

This is just a minor drawback, really. A far greater issue was with Captain Marvel.

I am starting to worry that being strong and unrelenting may be her only outstanding character traits, which could make her a poisoned apple for the franchise in the next phase of the MCU. The Russos actually did a good job handling this Mary Sue of a character in this picture, but it could potentially be a serious issue in other MCU films to come.

Sure, a deus ex machina may work for a minor character like Vision, but Captain Marvel is supposed to be a major player in the MCU. When a character like Scarlet Witch, with no standalone movie, is more relatable, you have a problem. MCU needs to build up Danvers’ character, and fast.

But these are all the complaints I have in an otherwise perfect ending to a perfect story. I love how the Russo brothers toyed with the viewers’ emotions by sucking them in, shaking them up, and then soothing them once they are crumpled up, overcome with feelings.

The final 10 minutes or so are an absolute gem because this segment has so much heart -- and it’s even more touching because the audience has been watching these characters for 11 years. As I said, perfect closure.

The movie will have you in tears, or out of your seats cheering, as you enjoy the height of possibly the grandest film franchise of this generation.

What can I say but “Thanks Marvel”, and “Excelsior!” 

By Yoon Min-sik