AVENGERS ENDGAME: Having failed at protecting half of the Earth’s population as well as their crime-fighting cronies from being vaporized by Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin), the surviving title characters have succumbed to various stages of a kind of collective clinical depression and degradation. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has become a beer-guzzling slacker with the prominent gut to show for it while the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has even taken to wearing a shirt. But just when all seems lost, enter Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) with the overused and nearly worn-out convention of time travel that would allow the good guys to go back and retrieve the Infinity Stones in order to restore everything back to the way it was. You know, sort of like the plot in THE TERMINATOR (1984). It’s all explained in a fashion that comes off like “Quantum Physics For Dummies” and I got the impression that the screenwriters were hardly interested in providing any kind of logic to explain exactly how this plan would actually come to fruition. But the tone of the movie is appropriately and consistently gloomy and much more focused on creating a needed sense of urgency throughout the work than its’ predecessor. Without revealing too much (I’ll do that in my CLOSING CREDITS.), I’ll say that some character resolutions lack a sort of believability while others are right on target and give the film its’ deserved sentiment. By reducing the number of main characters here, there’s far more room for individual development although Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and even ubervillain Thanos feel like they’re given short shrift and relegated to the second-tier of relevance. But the production design of Charles Wood is excellent and Alan Silvestri’s musical score is both sweeping and nostalgic at just the right moments. The film moves at an unwaveringly steady pace with a rousing climactic battle that while predictable (I’m guessing there were a billion reasons to “resurrect” Black Panther and Spider-Man.) is beautifully staged. Watching this “wannabe epic” gave me the idea that this movie was aiming for the kind of grand scale established by THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING (2003). While it doesn’t quite hit that level, it is unabashedly great fun to watch and goes out with the sort of closure that Marvel fans wanted and pretty much get. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Warning, Will Robinson. This portion of the review contains a “spoiler” so if you’re one of the fourteen people in America who haven’t seen this movie, stop reading here. As if to say that ENDGAME is truly the conclusion to the 21 previous Marvel films, there’s no post-credit sequence that fans of the genre have come to expect. However, there is one clever little “cookie” that I caught in a concluding scene. It happens during the memorial service for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) when we see nearly all of the surviving superheroes standing with their groups with the exception of a teenage boy (Ty Simpkins) who’s standing by himself. A look at the credits reveals his character’s name to be Harley who was the kid who helped Stark resuscitate his armor in IRON MAN 3 (2013). Having a soft spot for young prodigies like himself, Stark gave Harley his own laboratory. His appearance here is rather fitting since it shows how Stark managed to change the life of an ordinary kid.