By JAMES DAWSON
Front Row Features Film Critic
“Avengers: Endgame,” the epic wrap-up of superhero stories woven through all 22 Marvel Studios movies, arrives on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On-Demand Tuesday Aug. 13. Now the highest-grossing film of all time, as well as the record-holder for biggest opening weekend, the film features every Marvel marquee headliner and more in a time- and space-spanning battle royale against the alien villain Thanos (Josh Brolin), who wiped out half of all living creatures in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Gathered to oppose him in this sequel are Avengers team members Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Their allies include Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), the Guardians of the Galaxy (led by Chris Pratt as Star-Lord), and just about everyone else who ever has appeared on-screen in a previous Marvel movie over the past 11 years. (Note: That’s only a slight exaggeration.)
The massive scale of the story—which takes place on multiple planets, includes jumps to the past, and features a phone book’s worth of major and minor characters—makes the film’s 181-minute running time pass surprisingly quickly. It doesn’t all make sense (time travel stories rarely do), but after a downbeat start the plot becomes a satisfyingly entertaining ride.
Characters we were sure we hadn’t seen the last of when they vanished in “Avengers: Infinity War” come back to life, while others die here in what look like irreversibly definitive deaths. Then again, as comic books and the movies made from them have taught us, never say never.
The single-disc DVD includes no extras, but the two-disc Blu-ray and the digital versions feature lots of bonus features. The most powerful is “Remembering Stan Lee,” a joyous look back at the Marvel Comics writer, editor and publisher who helped create the entire Marvel universe in the 1960s. Lee, whose cameos in nearly every Marvel movie are remembered here, died in 2018 at age 95.
Other extras include an audio commentary track and six deleted scenes, some with incomplete special effects. (The roughed-in CGI version of Rocket Raccoon is particularly cheesy.) One cut scene shows numerous heroes solemnly going down on one knee to honor the tragic death of a major character. Although the two directors and two writers do not make any mention in their commentary of that scene or why it was cut, it’s hard not to wonder if modern politics played a role, now that “taking a knee” has acquired a politically polarizing new meaning.
In addition, the bonus disc includes a gag reel and featurettes about several individual Avengers. There’s also a look back at the casting of Downey, who is possibly the most important player in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe for getting the movies off to a wildly successful box-office start with 2008’s “Iron Man.” Finally, the exclusive digital bonus feature “Steve and Peggy: One Last Dance” explores the bond between Captain America’s alter ego Steve Rogers and his World War II-era great love Peggy Carter.