Friday, May 3, 2019

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers: Endgame 
seen @ Cinemart Fiveplex, Forest Hills, Queens, NY

I was gonna pass on this. One friend said on Facebook he was gonna go watch a French New Wave movie playing in his town instead of Endgame (I believe he said it was Cleo From 5 to 7). I was willing to wait until it came to cable, at the very least. Then I rewatched Infinity War and Guardians 2 and Thor: Ragnarok on Netflix out of boredom (not all at once) and decided I needed to tell my grandchildren I was there for Endgame, or some such bullshit excuse. And in all seriousness, I truly wanted to know what would become of the Guardians.

As little kids, we would dream about our favorite Marvel comics becoming movies, but we never conceived it would happen by turning civilization into fans. Fans of the characters, mind you; the kind who would wear a Captain Marvel t-shirt or write a college paper about the Black Panther or eat Pez from a Groot dispenser but not buy the actual comics. Then the movies came: Blade, Spider-Man, X-Men, etc. Some were cool, some sucked, but none of it prepared us for the era that began in 2008 with the first Iron Man film and culminated this year with Endgame. Props to Kevin Feige and everyone at Marvel Studios for creating a series of movies that captured everyone’s imagination — and in so doing, conquering the world.

Endgame arrives at the same time as the final season of Game of Thrones, and Fandom Assembled is currently at a fever pitch over the winding down of both series. (The Avengers movies will continue, but Endgame is the final chapter in the Thanos storyline, which, in a sense, is equal to the end of a season on television.) This means social media is ablaze with discussions on both, and not just social media: the message board of the writers website I belong to has active threads on both. And references to both pop up in everyday conversation, whether you’ve seen them or not — but you HAVE seen them, HAVEN’T you? You don’t want people thinking you’re some kinda weirdo, do you?

I recently finished re-reading Funny Girl by Nick Hornby, a novel about the rise of a TV star in 60s Britain. Towards the end of the book, Sophie, the main character, looks back on her career as an old woman. Amazed and a bit befuddled by the present-day landscape, she remembers when pop culture had to fight for respectability. Now, she muses:
...entertainment had taken over the world, and she wasn’t sure that the world was a better place for it. Sometimes it seemed as though all anyone wanted to do was write television programs, or sing, or appear in movies. Nobody wanted to make a paintbrush, or design engines, or even find a cure for cancer.
I dunno. I see no lack of engagement with the rest of the world. Entertainment does feel like it’s closer to our hearts than before, but look how things are now. Can you blame us? (Funny Girl is actually a very good book; don’t be misled by this passage. It’s nowhere near this gloomy.)

It’s the hive-mind mentality Fandom assumes with geek entertainment in particular, especially  superhero movies, that I find off-putting. I started this blog, in part, to get away from superheroes and their stranglehold on the comics industry, and now look where we are. It seems as though all anyone wants to do is watch Fandom movies and TV shows. Nobody wants to see a film noir, or a hard-hitting documentary, or even a witty rom-com. Not true, I know, but if you look at how much money the geek films make... Still, I should’ve known better.

I am Fandom too.

So I tried to see Endgame last Thursday night, but of course, it was all sold out — or at least, the only seats available were the kind where I’d have to contort myself like a pretzel to see the screen properly. It’s okay, though, because I was able to pay matinee price for an afternoon show instead of full price (eleven bucks) for a nighttime show, but I still hadda wait until Tuesday because even the Monday matinee shows had been gobbled up.

It was more emotional than I expected, more character-driven. Directors Anthony & Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, all of whom also worked on Infinity War, made a concerted effort to show the ramifications of the team losing, of coping with grief at seeing so many people annihilated, including friends and family — and then finding the fortitude to overcome that grief when an opportunity to right the wrong Thanos inflicted arises.

The DeMille-sized cast gets some genuinely fine performances. Karen Gillan as Nebula, the character with an inferiority complex the size of Ego the Living Planet, was quite good; Chris Evans has proved, I think, that he’s not just a slice of beefcake; and Scarlett Johansson has some great moments, but Robert Downey Jr. delivers one of the best performances in a superhero movie. (I’m not ready to detach that qualifier at the end.) By showing Tony Stark as a family man, with a wife and child that he’s desperate to hold on to no matter what, we see the character in a way we can’t in the comics, and Downey sells it.

Comics fans are used to seeing gigantic, sprawling battles within the pages of the books themselves; these last two Avengers movies have done an outstanding job at bringing similar tableaux to life. I don’t know how much is a result of the Russos coordinating the action on-set and how much is CGI, but for the most part, I didn’t find it too confusing. Enough can’t be said about the FX. I was particularly amazed at how much the Hulk not only looked realistic, but how much he looked like Mark Ruffalo and not Shrek!

That said, this wasn’t perfect; in fact, I’d argue Infinity War was better. Thanos didn’t seem as complex a character this time around. The time travel aspect was confusing, as time travel stories usually are. The rules behind the Infinity Stones made me think [SPOILER] shouldn’t have died and [SPOILER] should still be alive. Captain Marvel wasn’t as big a deus ex machina as I thought she would’ve been, but she still felt out of place. I’d rather they had held her back until the next series of movies. I’m still not sure why Dr. Strange did what he did at the end of the last movie. And whither Loki?

Ultimately, I’m glad I saw Endgame, believe it or not — for myself, and not just to be in on the conversation — but it left me with too many nagging questions for me to enjoy it as much as I wanted to. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. In the old days, in the letters pages of the comics, the late, great Stan Lee, to whom this movie should have been dedicated, used to award “no-prizes” whenever a fan not only spotted a continuity error, but was able to explain it in a way such that it was no longer an error. A “no-prize” is exactly what it sounds like.

Maybe Fandom Assembled needs to close those plot holes so they can have something to argue about. Zod forbid a screenplay was written tight as a drum — though in all fairness, this is a three-hour movie with a gargantuan cast. The fact it exists the way it does at all can almost be called... a marvel.


  1. Excellent read.

    Janet has two groups she has watched this with, her friends and her mom (yes, we're a group). The friend group will be seeing the movie this weekend. I have not been able to work up my usual enthusiasm, and may wait until I can watch it at home. What you said about the emotional aspect has been mentioned by others. I'm sure care was taken and eventually I will be glad to have seen Endgame.

  2. The big battles may seem old hat after LOTR, Harry Potter, the new Star Wars movies, etc., but the character-driven moments ALMOST make the whole thing worth seeing on the big screen. Janet will dig it for sure. You probably will too, but it’s THREE HOURS long, so be warned.

    1. Geesh, that's almost as long as my dialysis treatments.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.