- The Washington Times - Monday, August 12, 2019

The highest-grossing movie in the history of cinema travels to home video realms to forever remind viewers how to create a mega-entertaining superhero film in Avengers: Endgame – Cinematic Universe Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 181 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $39.99).

This epic culmination of 22 movies spanning over a decade allowed directors Joe and Anthony Russo to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of the Infinity Stone saga to a rousing close.

Of course, aligning with the true heritage of any massive superhero, comic book crossover saga, the movie invariably invokes the requirements of calling into play multidimensions and time travel to solve an apparent unsolvable crisis.

Thus is the case with this story that finds Iron Man aka Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow aka Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Professor Hulk aka Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and War Machine aka James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) unable to cope with Thanos obliterating half of all living things in the universe with a finger snap while wearing the fully loaded Infinity Stone gauntlet.

Ant Man aka Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) unexpectedly reappears after having been stuck in the Quantum Realm and with intellectual help from Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, the team comes up with a way to use Pym particles to travel back in time, collect the Infinity Stones and reverse the unspeakable act.

Their travels lead to key points in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that include visits to New York City, Asgard, Morag and Vormir that all will give fans a nostalgic rush.

Of course, the past version of Thanos gets wind of the plot, and he arrives just in time to give the Avengers one final taste of his merciless personality on Earth.

The Russos again concoct an irresistible and unheard of cinematic formula that mixes humor, pathos and loss with a few clever plot twists and large-scale action as they manage to balance the stories of an enormous ensemble cast.

For example, the epic final battle for planet Earth involves no less than 30 superheroes and their brethren with every famed actor who took on the roles returning for one insane bow.

When Captain America’s declares at the start of the final battle “Avengers Assemble,” it’s impossible not to stand up and cheer as every Marvel comic book fan’s dream (mine included) had really come true. All of the legendary heroes I had read about in colorful pulp pages over the past 50 years had really come to life.

Spoiler alert finale: One of my audience members was absolutely livid with the creative decision that allowed Tony Stark to die. Other than Mr. Downey Jr. being tired of the role, why would they do that, she lamented.

Professor Hulk (the hybrid humanoid of the savage Hulk and brainy Banner) could have handled the task of wearing a version of the Infinity Gauntlet (easily absorbing the gamma radiation) or why not Captain Marvel (Brie Larsen), who was shown to be practically invulnerable in every situation so far.

However, it was a story arc of redemption that seemed inevitable since Stark was trying to atone for past mistakes that were kicked off with his arrogant weapons dealing in the original “Iron Man” back in 2008. So, I was OK with his passing, but I suspect, he is one interdimensional time jump away from returning if needed.

4K in action: Alas, reportedly shot with IMAX cameras as well as digital cameras offering a whopping 6.5K in resolution, the 4K presentation only arrives upscaled from a 2K master format and with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

I can dream about seeing the grand effort bursting off the screen (via an IMAX aspect ratio that existed) but still, viewers will appreciate the 2160p results despite my grumbling.

Especially notable are moments such as raindrops crisp enough to count clinging to Ronin’s face as he talks to Black Widow, the glistening of Thor’s orange fake eye as he banters with Rocket Raccoon in the new Asgard and Thor’s tentacled lightning strikes that look like they could jump off the screen.

Sharp detail further blends well with high dynamic range enhancements seen in the faint reflections of purples and blues in Captain America’s eye as he hyper jumps through space for the first time, Thanos’ golden armor covered with grime and blood, and the intricate cyborg body of both the present and past Nebula.

Now, as often is the case with a Marvel movie home theater release, it’s a close call between 4K and Blu-ray when watching the film with my television using the same 4K settings. As is the case here, the visual results are very close with the high definition version actually offering a warmer, more life-like presentation.

The welcomed Dolby Atmos sound mix pays dividends often but especially during the final battle for Earth. Heroes of all shapes and sizes display a variety of powers as Thanos and his minions attack, leading to a wonderfully varied aural bombardment on equipped home entertainment rooms.

Best extras: All contained on the Blu-ray version of the movie as well as an extra Blu-ray disc, the bonus stuff begins with a short heartfelt introduction to the movie by the directors. They do give away spoilers so don’t watch until you have seen the full film.

Next, the directors join screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for a sometimes somber but non-stop discussion not only about the movie but the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Specifics revealed included the evolution of Tony Stark from the first “Iron Man” film; how Captain Marvel found Tony and Nebula; how superheroes handle loss; revealing that Robert Redford’s appearance as Secretary of the World Security Council Alexander Pierce was his last day of his acting career; and how Professor Hulk was supposed to appear in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Suffice it to report, it’s worth listening to, considering these four guys were the architects to many of the amazing Marvel movies.

Next, move over to that second disc to get 46 minutes of featurettes tied mainly to the history of the franchise.

Best of the bunch allows fans to briefly celebrate part of the life of late Marvel Comics’ patriarch Stan Lee, specifically tied to his numerous cameo appearances in the films.

During on-set interviews and in scenes, it’s obvious that he is so happy and giddy to be part of the process. Lee really appreciated all of his characters that he created or co-created coming to life in live-action blockbusters. The legend will be sorely missed.

Next worthy of a look are three segments highlighting the importance of Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with vintage film and interview clips and a pinch of classic comic book illustrations.

Also, take a look at six deleted scenes (under 5 minutes in total) with the best being Rhodie (War Machine) asking Cap why he just didn’t jump out of the plane instead crashing into the sea back in World War II; a fat Thor peeing off the side of a castle in Asgard; and the Avengers all taking a knee to mourn the loss of one of their own.

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