SCREEN TIME: 'Avengers: Endgame' sticks the landing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

No spoilers, but 'Avengers' balances heavy themes with delightful twists

Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios
GAME FACE: Chris Evans suits up as Captain America in 'Avengers: Endgame,' filmed in Atlanta.

Walt Disney Studios has shown admirable restraint in avoiding spoilers for Avengers: Endgame in its trailers and marketing to date. So, it’s only fair that this review follow suit and discuss the film’s story in the broadest possible strokes.

Suffice to say that the plot follows hard on the events of last year’s Avengers: Infinity War, which concluded with galactic warlord Thanos (Josh Brolin) using an all-powerful weapon to eliminate half of all life from the universe. The early scenes of Endgame has the Earth’s mightiest heroes reeling in grief and trying to process their failure.

The Avengers’ core group of actors, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Chris Hemsworth, have become seasoned pros at this point and deliver the emotional beats with aplomb. Karen Gillan, as the blue-hued alien cyborg Nebula, emerges as one of the MVPs.

It’s heavy stuff for Hollywood product, at times more like HBO’s Rapture drama “The Leftovers” than standard superhero fare. And while it’s no surprise when Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang shows up, what’s less expected is how the film’s middle section seems to take a cue, at least in tone, from the breezy capers of the Ant-Man. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo helm elaborate set pieces that prove to be wildly imaginative and rather delightful, often fun where Infinity War was more fraught.

Endgame marks the 22nd film and kind of the capstone to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (about a third of which, including Endgame, were filmed in Pinewood Atlanta Studios). The script’s twists and turns, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, deliver not just a compelling action epic but a kind of celebration of the MCU as an unprecedented cinematic project. Endgame ties off major plot threads and delivers deep pulls from its movie mythology.

The worst you can say about Endgame is that it’s unlikely to win converts to the MCU. It assumes the audience has been paying attention to most of the previous movies and builds to a predictably ginormous battle that overstays its welcome. Sometimes actors (particularly those making cameos) seem to be digitally plopped into scenes or even onto bodies that don’t match their cast-mates, which can be a distraction.

But if you enjoy – or even tolerate – these movies, Avengers: Endgame delivers a charming, dazzling and possibly tear-jerking spectacle. Few movie series make such big swings as the MCU or have stuck the landing so well as Endgame does. At the same time, its three hours leave you hoping that Marvel Studios doesn’t go for an encore. Plenty more Marvel movies are on the way, including The Eternals, scheduled to film in Atlanta this summer, but perhaps the MCU should start ramping down. Supremely satisfying against all odds, Avengers: Endgame can also leave you wanting a little less. Maybe the Avengers don’t have to assemble again.

Avengers: Endgame. 4 stars. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo. Stars Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans. Rated PG-13. Opens April 26. At area theaters.

Unsettled: Compared to the connectedness of modern life, the indie supernatural drama The Wind evokes the eerie isolation of this country’s past. Like 2015’s The Witch, The Wind finds dread on the frontier, only replacing the vast emptiness of the 19th century American plains for The Witch’s 17th century New England forests.

Director Emma Tammi depicts two couples scraping an existence in the middle of nowhere: Lizzy and Isaac (Caitlin Gerard and Ashley Zukerman) are well-established but haunted by their lack of children, while a pair of newlyweds (Julia Goldani Telles and Dylan McTee) arrive clearly unprepared for life as settlers.

The more dependent the newcomers grow on Lizzy and Isaac, the more uncomfortable Lizzy becomes around them. Her suspicion also feeds her belief that a malevolent unseen force is stalking them, but the audience gradually wonders if Lizzy suffers from mental illness rather than occult bedevilment. (Instead of Rosemary’s Baby, think Rosemary’s Prairie.)

Composer Ben Lovett, an Atlanta native who scored The Signal, builds atmosphere with mournful cellos and spidery string arrangements. The Wind cultivates mood and makes the most of its unusual setting, but feels like it’s just one ingredient short of really clicking. It lacks a transcendent performance, an ingenious supernatural concept or an indelible image to really leave the audience. But it definitely makes the wind sound sinister with its whispers and howls.

The Wind. 3 stars. Directed by Emma Tammi. Stars Caitlin Gerard, Ashley Zukerman. Rated R. Opens April 26 at The Plaza Theatre.

Coming Attractions: The new documentary Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury has roots in small-town Georgia. As the title suggests, it follows the band Luxury from its origins in Toccoa in the early 1990s through artistic and personal highs and lows, including three band members becoming Eastern Orthodox priests.

Having its New York premiere May 15-19, Parallel Love is directed by Atlanta native Matt Hinton, whose resume includes membership with Luxury since 1999 and ownership of Bell Street Burritos. Hopefully, Parallel Love will book a local screening later in 2019

Screen Time is a monthly column about film and cinematic narratives, from the big screen to streaming services.