Superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, Carmen Sandiego, Inspector Gadget and Super Mario Return To The Big Screen To Thrill Fans In Avengers: End Game
Just when you thought cinema was dead a stupendously entertaining pop-corn-munching escapist thrill-ride hits the silver screen and makes you believe in the magic of the movies again. In case you haven’t heard, film-goers, young and old, are flocking to crowded movie-theaters around the globe to see the triumphant conclusion to Marvel Studios superhero saga: The Avengers. Producer Kevin Feige and the fraternal directorial duo of Anthony and Joe Russo have accomplished something truly special with the release of The Avengers: End Game. In the history of cinema only three films compare: Gone With The Wind, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries and perhaps Schindler’s List. Indeed, if Orson Welles had seen the Avengers before he made Citizen Kane he would have stuck to theater and never even attempted to become a film-maker. Above all, what stood out the most to audiences was one critical element: storytelling. It was amazing to see how screenwriter Christopher Markus perfectly balanced the character arcs of Marvel heroes we have come to love like Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Spiderman, Thor, Hawkeye, Ant Man, Black Widow, Inspector Gadget, Carmen Sandiego, Dr. Doolittle, Count Chocula, Smokey the Bear, Flo from Progressive Insurance, Mario and Luigi and the Muppets while still making them compelling figures with emotional depth.
The story picks up immediately following the events of Infinity War. Warning: this review will contain spoilers! Three weeks after the super-villain Thanos used the infinity stones to destroy half of all life in the universe Tony Stark reunites with Natasha Romanoff, Thor and the Geico Gecko to find Thanos in the hopes of retaking the stones and altering the events of the previous film. Using Nebula’s knowledge, the Avengers accompanied by Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Fred Flintstone and Tweety Bird track Thanos down to an unguarded planet only to find that their arch-nemesis has already destroyed the stones preventing their further use. An enraged Thor beheads Thanos and Tweety Bird says “I tawt I taw a puddy cat”.
Five years later we encounter our heroes at their lowest points. Overcome with despair from their failure to stop Thanos, the Avengers forsake their calling as caped crusaders and do their best to go on living in an Earth still devastated by Thanos’ cruel attack. Each one copes with “the vanishing” in their own way. Tony Stark resigns himself to a life of domestic comfort and finds solace in nurturing his young daughter while Thor has become an overweight, depressed alcoholic. Meanwhile a despondent Tasmanian Devil visits the grave of his daughter who perished in the attack. Laying a wreath on her tomb, he ponders the fragility of mortality in a poignant 40-minute scene that lends pathos to the film in a manner that can only be described as sublime.
The Avengers are thrust back into action, however, when Scott Lang escapes the quantum realm. Having noticed that he only experienced five hours while trapped, he deduces that the quantum realm allows time travel. Ever-the-optimist, Lang calls a meeting at the Avengers Compound with Bruce Banner, Asterix and Obelix, Natasha Romanoff, singer-songwriter Neil Diamond, Tony Stark, and Clippy -the default assistant in Microsoft Office for Windows 98- to conduct time-travel experiments. In a delightful send-up to heist movies that provides some of the movie’s biggest belly laughs Lang determines that they must get the gang back together for “one last big score” and recover the infinity stones from different moments in the past.
Stark, Rogers, Lang and the Green M&M form a team bound for New York in 2012 while Banner and visits the Sanctum Sanctorum along with Mr. Magoo, Tarzan and Gay Zorro. Hilarity ensues when the Green M&M uses her sex-appeal to create a diversion allowing Stark and Lang to capture the stone.
In the meantime, Nebula, Rhodes, Mr. Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Ron Popeil- TV pitchman for the Ronco Rotisserie Oven-head to 2014 Morag to steal the power stone before Peter Quill can get his hands on it. Rhodes, Mr. Yunioshi and Ron Popeil make it back to the present with the stone, but Nebula is unable to return as her cybernetic implants malfunction and she interfaces with her 2014 self, alerting Thanos to their plan along with his ruthless henchmen Dr. Robotnik and the 8-foot-tall assassin with metal-teeth known only as Jaws, who surely must rank among the most terrifying creations ever conceived by Marvel! “Bring me the stones, immediately!” bellows Thanos to the laconic and lethal Jaws as Dr. Robotnik flies away on his hovercraft cackling maniacally.
At this point in the film audiences were treated to one of the most surprising cameo appearances in any movie ever adapted from a comic book. Close to the half-way mark former President Barack Obama came on screen with an urgent message for his fellow Americans. “We all enjoy a good movie, don’t we? Michelle and I certainly do. If you don’t mind, I would like to take the opportunity during this record-breaking blockbuster to tell you about the Affordable Care Act. If you go to healthcare.gov you can compare insurance rates and find the healthcare plan that’s right for you”.
Wow! I bet a lot of people didn’t see that plot twist coming!
While some would say that these extraneous plot lines caused the movie to drag on for too long, nothing could be further from the truth. During the intermission a woman in the lobby remarked to me that she was giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait to see the 4-hour second half. Upon returning to the theater and rising for the national anthem we sat back down and were riveted by the climactic finale.
Thanos, aware of the Avengers’ plan to recover the stones descends on Earth with countless legions of elite, mechanized troops for a final battle with the fate of the universe at stake. Captain America goes toe to-toe with the super-villain and puts up a good fight, but before long is bested by the cosmic evil-doer. Just as all appears lost, unexpectedly, as if out of thin air, some of Marvel’s most beloved heroes enter the Battle Royale to save the day. Stephen Strange and his fellow sorcerers along with Spiderman, Wesley Crusher, Jeannie from I Dream Of Jeannie, the Wakandan Armies, The Ravagers, the Asgardians, the Keebler elves, Pac Man, Free Willie, Gordon Ramsay and NBA legend Larry Bird enter through another dimension and launch an attack on Thanos’ armies of darkness that has to be one of the longest and most ambitious battle scenes ever brought to the big screen. The Hamburglar- played by an African-American actor in a bold casting decision indicative of social progress in Hollywood- wields Thor’s hammer and decimates the enemy.
While the forces of good put up a valiant fight, they are soon bogged down and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the enemy. “Get to work you bloody, fuckin’ tossers! How can you expect to save the universe like this?” shouts an enraged Gordon Ramsay.
Clutching the infinity gauntlet, Thanos, assured of victory prepares to snuff out the universe in one fell swoop, yet is miraculously thwarted as Larry Bird shoots a three-pointer with one second left on the clock causing the villain to wither into dust. The universe is safe for now, but at what cost? In the maelstrom of battle Black Hamburglar has died.
In a scene that no doubt proved emotional for movie-goers everywhere, the Avengers bid farewell to their fallen hero Black Hamburglar, while audiences bid farewell to the Marvel universe. I cried. The woman sitting next to me cried. Yet, the ending was bitter-sweet as the Hulk married the Green M&M and Captain America went back in time to run off with a woman from the 1940’s.
Speaking on behalf of fans, I can only say that for many of us our happiest memories are associated with Marvel. We carry with us the nostalgia of reading about the exploits of Iron Man in comic-books as children. The end of this franchise for us represents a moment of completion and wistfulness, joy and longing. It is a longing for a thing that perhaps never existed and that cannot ever exist again. It is a peculiar sentiment which the Portuguese refer to as Saudade. While the conclusion of the Avengers saga represents an end, it is also a beginning. Entertainment Weekly reports that DC will be releasing several films on the adventures of cleaning-product mascot Mr. Clean exploring the darker, grittier side of the aging bald-headed cartoon character and his quest to help women clean hard-to-remove stains from their bathrooms.