RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
After 11 years, 22 films and more heroes and villains than you can shake a magic hammer at, the current iteration of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to a climactic close this weekend with "Avengers: Endgame."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "AVENGERS: ENDGAME")
ROBERT DOWNEY JR: (As Tony Stark) I know I said no more surprises, but I was really hoping to pull off one last one.
MARTIN: That's from the movie trailer - some major foreshadowing from Tony Stark, whose alter ego is Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr. NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour's Glen Weldon reports on superheroes for the network. That's, like, your title. It says that on a business card.
GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: It's a small wheelhouse, but it's mine.
MARTIN: (Laughter) OK, so we're going to have this conversation about this film, and we are going to try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible because there's been a whole lot of secrecy around this.
WELDON: Yeah, I don't want people coming after me. And also, if you've seen anything from this film so far - any ads, any trailers, any images - they all come from the first 20 or so minutes of the film. So there's a lot left that people won't see coming, so let's keep it that way.
MARTIN: Right, a lot because it's real long.
MARTIN: It's over three hours, right?
WELDON: Yeah. Now, to defend that, I mean, it does feel like...
MARTIN: Please defend it (laughter).
WELDON: Yeah, it does feel like it's the culmination of a massive story. You've got a lot of characters to address, and you need to wrap up a lot of different storylines. Some of those storylines - like, you mentioned Tony Stark. His storyline's been going on for 11 years now. That said, let's do some service journalism, you and I.
WELDON: It's probably best...
MARTIN: It's public radio.
WELDON: ...Yes - to go into this thing managing a couple things - A, your expectations and, B, your fluid intake because three hours is a long time. And I went into this thing parched.
WELDON: And I was grateful for it because once it starts going, there's really not a lot of places to duck out.
MARTIN: I mean, you could go to the restroom, Glen. You just couldn't tear yourself away from the compelling story.
WELDON: I went in chapped, and I'm happy.
MARTIN: (Laughter) All right, so walk us through the plot.
WELDON: OK. The last time we saw these characters, the massive, purple, intergalactic despot named Thanos turned precisely 50% of the universe - the entire population of the universe - into dust with the snap of his fingers. And that's something that Marvel wants us to call the decimation.
WELDON: But we're not going to do that.
MARTIN: We're not.
WELDON: Because we're adults, and we know that words mean things.
WELDON: And decimate means to reduce by 10%, so this is different.
MARTIN: Ah, of course it does, yes.
WELDON: So we've got to call it something else. Yes.
WELDON: So let's call it - (snaps fingers) - the Snapture (ph).
MARTIN: The Snapture.
WELDON: Yeah, sure.
MARTIN: That's - you coined that?
WELDON: I did.
WELDON: Now, the remaining Avengers are coming off this massive loss. And as we meet them, they are all kind of cycling through different Kubler-Ross stages of grief. You've got despair. You've got anger. You've got depression. That's where we find them.
MARTIN: So emo - I mean, there's so much emotion happening.
WELDON: It is - the first two hours of this thing, Rachel, is really emo. It's really intimate. It's really somber. Now, there's lots of funny moments provided by Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Mark Ruffalo as Hulk. They are both having a great time.
WELDON: And so we are too. They look a lot different from the last time we saw them. I'll just say that much. And also, Paul Rudd is Ant-Man. He's goofy as ever, and he's a big part of this thing.
MARTIN: Love Paul Rudd.
MARTIN: What about fighting, Glen? Isn't there supposed to be a lot of, like, action and fighting...
MARTIN: ...In addition to, perhaps, emoting?
WELDON: Well, it can't possibly be a spoiler to say that there is a big climactic battle eventually. And it is the most thrilling sequence of superhero cinema I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot.
MARTIN: That's not hyperbole.
WELDON: Yeah, because it's coming from - think about it. It's coming from all the familiarity we have with these characters, our affection for these characters that we've developed over the last decade.
MARTIN: How big a movie is this supposed to be at the box office this weekend?
WELDON: Biggest ever, probably. I mean...
MARTIN: Come on - biggest ever.
WELDON: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, it's already breaking records. A lot of China on the show today - it's already breaking records in China. And it's going to have the biggest opening weekend ever. It could reach as much, internationally, as a billion dollars.
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