Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are front and center in a scene from 'Avengers: Endgame'

Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are front and center in a scene from “Avengers: Endgame.”

Review

2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” ended with a hell of a punch. With a snap of his finger, Thanos (Josh Brolin) wiped out half of the universe including 50% of Marvel’s superheroes. For a year now, fans of the MCU have been speculating about the next and possibly final chapter of the series, and now, the three-hour conclusion has arrived with “Avengers: Endgame.”

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo still have a few tricks up their sleeves by wiping out audience expectations in the first 30 minutes and following that move with a satisfying finale worthy of a 22-film compilation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this conclusion without giving away any spoilers, it’s that “Back to the Future” was all a lie.

The film opens with founding Avenger Hawkeye, who was MIA in “Infinity War,” still under house arrest enjoying some quality time with his family. Within a few minutes, we realize we are still in the pre-snap Thanos timeline.

Fast forward to the present. It’s been five years since we lost half of the population in the universe. The original surviving Avengers have moved on after losing all hope of a solution. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is raising a daughter in the country, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is taking selfies with his fans, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has turned into The Big Lebowski, while Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Captain America (Chris Evans) are holding down the fort at the Avengers Facility. War Machine (Don Cheadle), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan) and the team’s newest addition Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) work the field to keep the peace.

If you stayed for the post-credits scenes in “Captain Marvel” you witnessed Larson’s character showing up at the Avengers Facility post-Thanos snap asking about Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). In “Endgame,” she doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but her moments in the film are pivotal to the narrative.

The real MVP in the film is Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man who gives David Banner’s noggin a run for its money as the pint-sized superhero brings up the subject of quantum physics. In a funny scene, the reassembled Avengers discuss time-travel movies “Somewhere in Time” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” as they scramble to find a solution but screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely don’t make it that easy for our heroes.

It’s hard for the Russo brothers to match the emotional impact of “Infinity War” after that devastating finale, although “Endgame” has its share of touching moments.

The two films, however, are very different. To use a sports analogy, the Avengers were playing defense in “Infinity War,” and in “Endgame,” it’s all about the offense. As expected, there are more stand up and cheer moments in this film. The best happen before the inflated finale, but I won’t give them away.

“Avengers: Endgame” represents the Phoenix rising from the ashes. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the series that will leave the audience pondering Marvel’s next move. The three-hour run time goes by quickly as our heroes focus on the Quantum Realm and those precious Infinity Stones. You can expect plenty of humor, pop culture references, CGI reunions, a great Fem-Power moment and nice closure for a couple of the franchise’s major players.

The Russo brothers surpass all expectations with a film worthy of respect from Marvel fans who have been there from day one when “Iron Man” hit theaters May 2, 2008.

And that’s a wrap.

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

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