Review: ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Expect the Expected

Released in May 1998, Patrick Yau’s Expect the Unexpected followed a small group of Hong Kong police officers who endeavored to solve a crime with ultimately tragic results.

The ending was telegraphed by the film’s English-language title, so when I watched it on DVD, probably sometime in 1999, I knew what to expect … and was still unexpectedly shattered into tiny pieces.

In large part, that was because the law enforcement characters (Simon Yam, Lau Ching Wan, YoYo Mung, Ruby Wong, Lam Suet) were so blasted likable. So I wanted only good things for them, even though that wasn’t going to happen. The film’s ending still makes me tear up at the thought of it.

Released in April 2018, Anthony and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Infinity War followed an ungainly group of Marvel superheroes who endeavored to stop a mighty foe with ultimately tragic results.

The ending was telegraphed by the film’s endless marketing and the general trajectory of the story, so when I watched it in a theater last year, I knew what to expect … and at the conclusion, I sighed with its inevitability.

In large part, that was because the characters were extremely familiar and did nothing in the film that they hadn’t done before, either from a superpowered and/or dramatic perspective. They were carrying events out to their logical conclusion and some of them needed to dissolve into non-existence for the purposes of the story, i.e. to set up the next film.

Now the next film in the series, Avengers: Endgame, steps up to take its place in the hearts of its heartbroken fans. (Captain Marvel, released earlier this year, mostly takes place during an earlier time period.) The events in the film serve as dramatic beats and/or interludes between the inevitable, extended live-action action sequences, which are bolstered by extensive and highly-detailed animation, the true raison d’être for the film’s existence.

For those who are not familiar with various Marvel comic book series, which tend to kill off and then resurrect iconic superpowered characters with regularity, Avengers: Endgame may be a complete surprise. From a marketing perspective, that makes complete sense, though I am sad to say there is little in the film that holds any surprise for more seasoned readers. Neither are the action sequences, which are fashioned in the exhausted fashion of most other outdated action movies, anything special to behold.

As the film dawdles through its three-hour running time, one is left to wonder: what awaits the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The tremendous financial success accrued by Marvel and its partners surely points to many more future installments that are fairly indistinguishable from one another, save for slightly different scenes of comic relief.

There is some indication, after Black Panther and Captain Marvel, that more diverse characters will be given greater opportunities and more lead roles going forward, and perhaps that will broaden out the superpowered universe. We can only hope for some blessed, greater diversity in the method of storytelling at some distant time in the future, after the current blockbuster world has run its course.

Avengers: Endgame opens tonight in limited engagements, and more widely in theaters throughout Dallas and surrounding areas tomorrow, April 26.