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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Avengers: Endgame is the final film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's current generation of movies, bringing together storylines and characters from 21 previous movies, starting with 2008's Iron Man. Families with younger kids should know that there's definitely as much intense violence (decapitation, explosions, stabbings, impalement, crushing, shooting, etc.), and even more pain, trauma, and grief here than there was in Avengers: Infinity War. Spoiler alert: A couple of beloved characters die, which will prove particularly upsetting. The language is similar to that in previous movies (mostly uses of "s--t," "ass," "d--k" -- even Captain America swears this time!), but there's no romance beyond a few brief embraces and kisses between established couples; a very minor male character talks about dating another man. Thor drinks a lot to numb his pain. Those who haven't seen any of the previous MCU installments should at least watch Infinity War and Captain America: Civil War to follow the plot, but those who are familiar with the movies and comics will be rewarded with plenty of inside jokes and references. With themes of courage, teamwork, and perseverance, this epic Avengers finale is the ultimate gift to Marvel fans -- they'll laugh, cry, and cheer as their favorite superheroes team up to save the universe one more time.
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What's the story?
AVENGERS: ENDGAME is set after Thanos' catastrophic use of the Infinity Stones randomly wiped out half of Earth's population in Avengers: Infinity War. Those left behind are desperate to do something -- anything -- to bring back their lost loved ones. But after an initial attempt -- with extra help from Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) -- creates more problems than solutions, the grieving, purposeless Avengers think all hope is lost. They're reenergized by the eventual reappearance of Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who was stuck in the quantum realm during the fight on Wakanda. He believes there could be a way to reverse Thanos' deadly snap. It takes a while to gather the squad -- some of whom have changed dramatically -- but eventually Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant-Man team up for one last life-or-death mission to outsmart Thanos (Josh Brolin) and save the universe.
Is it any good?
The Russo brothers' poignant, powerful finale more than lives up to the hype: It's a thrilling conclusion and a deeply emotional exploration of loss and love, duty and honor, friendship and family. Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the story focuses on the remaining Avengers and their post-trauma lives. Each seems overwhelmed by their failure, so when they start to regroup, it's clear that they're far from the same confident, optimistic superheroes who thought they could defeat Thanos in Infinity War. The dads in the group are particularly effective at showing how personal the grief is, providing a contrast to the general sense of failure and loss that the single superheroes feel. As the often underappreciated Hawkeye, Renner stands out in a crowded field of immense talent for making his character feel central. His intensity and his platonic, brotherly love for Natasha/Black Widow is perfectly conveyed. Johansson does a lot of the emotionally resonant work in the movie, keeping tabs on everyone, encouraging her friends, and acting like everyone's favorite sister (except in the Hulk's case). The big three -- Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor -- are also fabulous. Their differences have never been more obvious, but each proves that despite past conflicts and heartbreaks, they're worthy and ready to fight side by side.
There's so much packed into the three hours of Avengers: Endgame that it might seem overwhelming at times; this is clearly a film that will inspire repeat viewing. There are unexpected twists and moments of hilarity, as well as more serious scenes and themes. Those well-versed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will delight in the many Easter eggs and clear fan service (yes, there's still a Stan Lee cameo), while more casual fans will still find plenty of reasons to applaud. What's also true is that the three-hour movie brings all the feels. Just when one gut-punching beat finishes, there's barely enough of a break for a zinger from Tony or Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) before another "oh no" moment squeezes your heart. But don't despair: This is a bittersweet example that the best heroes won't allow hubris or insecurity to defeat them. Endgame ranks up there with The Return of the King and Deathly Hallows: Part 2 -- all are epic, emotional, and exceptional franchise finales.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the action violence in Avengers: Endgame. Does any of it seem realistic? Is it intended to? Is there a difference in the impact between hand-to-hand combat and catastrophic, buildings-collapsing-type explosions? How can a single death be just as or even more upsetting than the death of crowds?
This movie deals with grief, loss, and trauma. How do the characters handle their pain differently? Which ones deal with trauma in a healthy way, and which don't? What motivates them all to "be better," as Natasha says?
Why is it important for superheroes to be diverse? Do you think the Marvel Cinematic Universe offers strong examples of racial and gender diversity? Has that changed over the films' history? What other types of representation would you like to see in these movies?
What will you miss most about this particular combination of Avengers? Which characters did you like best in this installment? Which characters surprised you the most? What Marvel-based stories do you hope they continue making?
- In theaters: April 26, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 13, 2019
- Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson
- Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 181 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: December 4, 2019
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