Directed by The Russo Brothers
Barbican Comic Forum
00000000 / Kraken
What I’m hoping for is that it opens with a title card that says “6 BILLION YEARS LATER” and then it cuts to Spider-Man riding a dinosaur being chased by an army of robot versions of the Black Panther and then it just gets weirder and stranger from there. Like somekinda Steven Moffat crossed with Grant Morrison style-shit. Time travel mixed with liquid realities insider parallel worlds. Each scene more WTF than the last.As I write this I haven’t seen it yet. So am couched down in a corner of the internet where I can’t see the rest of the internet. No way am I going on Twitter.I want to see it pure and fresh and unspoiled: I don’t even want to know if the general consensus says it’s good or bad or whatever. Different people have different standards of what a spoiler is. Some people seem to think that if you see something in the trailer or it happens in the first half an hour or whatever then it’s fair game – but that’s not my religion. Unspoiled means no information. Means that I want to go and see something and have absolutely no idea what to expect. In fact – my dream way to see a film would be to not even know the title before it starts. Just someone saying “oh hey – this is a really cool film: do you wanna watch it right now?” And me saying: yes.
Those of you paying attention will know that since we started doing this Film Club last year the only films we’ve talked about have been the ones that have long since been relegated to DVD / Netflix but I thought it might be fun / interesting / cool to pick a film that was actually playing in the cinemas for once. And seeing how Avengers: Endgame is currently on track to being the most popular (and profitable) film in the history of all time, and seeing how this is the London Graphic Novel Network and seeing how when Infinity War came out I *ahem* had a few things to say – well: it seems like a good idea – no?
And you know – I’m quietly optimistic I guess? Obviously it never pays to build up your expectations too much over a movie: but it feels like Avengers: Endgame has the potential to be a fun night out at the pictures. As we saw with Django Unchained I’m a sucker when it comes to underdogs coming back from impossible odds to win hard-won victories and I guess at the moment the Avengers are at that point where they’re naked and hanging upside with Walton Goggins leaning over them with a sharp knife. And well yeah – that’s an interesting place for a film to start. But there’s another part of me that worries that with Thano’s finger clicking moment of triumph the Marvel Cinematic Universe reached it’s peak. I’m racking my brains to think of any kind of counterbalance moment to match it and I think I’m drawing a blank – isn’t the defeat of any bad guys always a bit of an anti-climax? Darth Vader throwing the Evil Emperor over the railings isn’t even in the Top 10 Star Wars moments. The Terminator being crushed by that crusher thing? Yeah ok I guess. And jezz like I already pointed out: the Alien being flushed out of the airlock is probably the very worst part of the first Alien film.
Like – how are they going to do it? Will all the Avengers hold hands and believe in the power of love? Iron Man defeats Thanos in a game of chess? Or maybe everyone combines forces and they rush him at once when he’s walking home from the pub or something?
CAPTAIN AMERICA (MASTER TACTICIAN): “Kick him in the head! Kick him in the head!!!”
I mean: all I want is something satisfying, thematically succinct, gorgeously cinematic all capped off with a line as totally goddamn baller as “you should’ve gone for the head.” How hard can it be? And am I just setting myself up for a fall by hoping that the second part can live up to the thrills and excitement of the first? All the best parts of the Marvel movies basically come in all the moments you don’t expect (Spider-Man in the back of the car, Thano’s snap and erm… some of the CGI in Doctor Strange was kinda cool maybe?). But hmmm – maybe there’s a contradiction in terms between being a cinema fan and being a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan?
A friend said that I said that Marvel have largely got “competent” down. But competent isn’t really what I’m looking for anywhere when I know that things can always be better. And there’s a part of me that hopes that Endgame goes big and insane and far-reaching and wide and basically: I get to see Spider-Man riding a dinosaur six billion years in the future.
What do you think?
Weekend at Arnie’s
I think Endgame’s got to do three impossible things and I’m confident it’ll manage at least two:
-Tie off Phases 1 to 4 and send various Chris’es and whoever else’s contract is up off to either Marvel retirement or Marvel ‘We’re bringing you back for a MASSIVE nostalgia pop in three movies’
-Set up Phase 4 or at least establish the status quo that the Disney Plus shows will draw from.
-Be emotionally honest. This is a movie about journeys ending, about burdens being put down. That’s not all going to be happy funtimes. it’ll mostly be happy funtimes but not all.
Oh and Spidey on the dinosaur, obvs.
I read this recently as some interesting analysis both for Marvel novices who may want to fathom what’s happening, and solid criticism of those who’ve seen all of the,. I liked the argument that some of the films are military propaganda via funding, critique of existing power structures, and where they focus/leave things out.
What does tying off Phase 3 / setting Phase 4 mean tho?
Like – unless I’m missing something? – that doesn’t really seem too hard? All they need to do is show Thanos being defeated and then have a shot of everyone hugging and looking into the sunset. Maybe everyone jumps into the air and then a freeze-frame and a slow fade to black? And then a post-credits shawarma scene – because everyone loves a call-back.
Also: I think it’s very interesting / super telling that the way we’ve been taught to think about these movies isn’t really in terms of “was that a good movie?” anymore but instead it’s – contacts and Marvel and Disney Plus. The spectacle isn’t really so much what we see on the screen – but the spectacle of how much fucking money it’s making and how all encompassing it all is: where a big part of the frisson of every movie they make is “oh my god I can’t believe they’re actually getting away with this.” LOL
Also at this point – everyone is so sure that either Iron Man or Captain America is going to get it I’d actually find it kinda cool and shocking if they both survive. 😀
Barbican Comic Forum
I feel confident in Endgame mainly because it feels like lessons have been learned at as the series matured. Age of Ultron was so so poor, possibly one of Marvel’s worst movies. It suffered from all the things you would expect – bloated nonsensical main plot; weird plot threads that didn’t really go anywhere; and a cast desperately struggling under weight of numbers. Thanos shows up at the end and says “fine, I’ll do it myself” which just underlines how far the film had strayed, because it felt like he was responding to a different movie. Was he just finding out through the bureaucracy that he had been defeated in the Battle of New York? Or was he implying that the Ultron fiasco was some elaborate piece of 10 dimensional chess (the same dimensional chess that presumably meant the last Infinity Stone he collects, the one it took a whole army to fight for, and which was destroyed in front of him, was one that he already had before he gave to to Loki!)
Civil War has a few issues as well, and despite all the praise heaped on it, also felt bloated. So my expectations for Infinity War were fairly low, like so I figured maybe Cap or Iron Man might die in it and that would be the arc. Maybe that is still the arc, but I never expected such a confident and well constructed movie that didn’t need to be so obviously manipulative. The ending is horrifying because for once the unstoppable threat is not stopped, it just ploughs on through shattering the status quo our brave heroes have been defending for a decade.
The 50% thing is also kind of evil genius (The Leftovers’ evil genius admittedly). It’s good to have survivors to care that the dead are dead. In Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, the fact that Arthur Dent doesn’t actually lose a single person he cares about means the destruction of humanity is just not particularly meaningful in the plot. At least in Red Dwarf lister misses Kochanski, but Arthur is hanging out with his best mate and a girl he fancies. Infinity War twists a knife in the heart of almost everyone in the universe and then fades to black. To have your king, your friend, your ward and your allies just disappear in front of you is fucking harsh, especially as the movie teases with you with so many opportunities to avoid catastrophe. Gamora keep your mouth shut! Cap, you traded hundreds of Wakandan lives! Thor, aim for his damn head!
And so while part of me thinks, well it’s not gonna get better than that, part of me thinks *maybe* they can do it. Fellowship of the Ring took the weakest part of the book and made it into the best bit of the trilogy and part of that is because at the end everyone is basically fucked. This long road back to victory meant that when the Riders of Rohan come over the hill 2 movies later, I was punching the air, like “yeah Sauron, dodge this ya bastard.” Because the series had earned it.
So yeah. Hyped.
Ok. So. I saw Avengers: Endgame over the weekend which means that the following is going to be incredibly spoilertastic – so if you’d rather see the film fresh you should turn away now.
Ok – here we go…
Before I saw Endgame I made nosies about how I wanted somekinda “Steven Moffat crossed with Grant Morrison style-shit. Time travel mixed with liquid realities insider parallel worlds. Each scene more WTF than the last.” And well yeah – coloured me surprised but that’s…. kinda what I got? Like you can talk about all the Marvel comics you want in terms of what influenced what and which reference got made to which thing (and to be fair – that climatic scene at the end did feel like reading a succession of splash pages come to life which I’ll admit was… pretty cool) but the thought which kept ringing throughout my mind watching the whole movie was: “Oh wow – this really feels like new series Doctor Who.”
How much should I read into the fact that the episode of Community which introduced the mighty Inspector Spacetime was directed by… Anthony Russo?)
And yeah: it’s just all the time travel stuff. Although obviously I guess that’s part of it. But mostly I think it’s the way it kinda copped the Doctor Who technique of completely unhooking the second part of the thing from the first part. The thing you’d normally get with sequels is having things take place immediately afterwards and having them solve all the things in the same space of time. Like my I guess rough expectation with this kind of thing would be that the film would mostly stick around Wakanda instead of… well… all the stuff that actually happened.
Is it too predictable if I admit that my favourite part was the first third when everyone was shell-shocked and dealing with all of their grief and misery and loss? I get such a perverse thrill watching films of this size and magnitude get all dark and morose and hopeless. It’s like getting on to a ride on Disneyland and instead of the usual thrills and spills it’s just 45 minutes of a slow, grey trudge through self-help groups and the sound of people crying. And because it seems like completely the wrong context – it all just hits that much harder. Captain America should be in many places doing many things but he definitely shouldn’t be in a… self-help group (oh my goodness).
(it’s already made all the money in the world right? And I keep hearing stories of friends who tried to book tickets to see it but can’t get in because all the cinemas are sold out which is just… kinda crazy).
And yeah the other thing I said before: “Or maybe everyone combines forces and they rush him at once when he’s walking home from the pub or something?” also seemed a little prescient in a bit of a strange way – I mean: that bit in the first 20 minutes when they tracked Thanos to his holiday home and do an Avenger’s style home invasion and chop of his fucking head (OMG). I mean – I think I was a little out-of-sync with the cinema that I watched this with because they cheered when the head came off and laughed when Thor delivered his James Bond quip – but I just found it kinda… ugly and sad and miserable? I mean – Thanos has killed off half the universe and all the Avengers can do is – well – impotently lash out and then crack jokes about it? I mean: the only thing that’s different between what happened on the screen and my idea of them all rushing him when he comes out the pub is the setting. You know – it felt kinda wrong. But in a good way. But it feels like the film knew this – but the audience had such a thirst for vengeance (or should I say “avengeance“?) that they didn’t really care… But yeah: a film which shows a bad person doing something and then the… sheer pointlessness of going in and inflicting violence in return actually seems like a… pretty healthy lesson? Maybe?
Just realised this now – but chopping people’s heads off is something that you most associate with ISIS – no?)
Sorry. Of course when we execute the bad guys it’s a good thing. Obviously.
I wonder how aware the filmmakers are of this stuff? Because the film is actually pretty smartly put together in lots of ways so I wouldn’t be that surprised if it’s a little deliberate you know? The first third is designed to be an intentional downer you know? And turning the Avengers into ISIS is certainly… pretty depressing. If superheroes are power fantasies and personified wish fulfillment: then taking you to the limits of that and showing you the point where they become powerless is… strong sauce you know? When everyone is dead and the bad guy has won and is already broken – what can you do?
Dirty Martini Reviews
Will be going into Spoilers in the second paragraph so if you have not seen Endgame, please just read the first one.
I went into Endgame with the lowest of expectations. As someone who didn’t enjoy Infinity War I was not excited. However, I thought this movie did an amazing job of wrapping up 11 years of an inter-woven universe. The plot was extremely well paced with giving the characters (in my mind) the right amount of screentime (of course Tony and Steve got the most). I did appreciate seeing more of Karen Gillan, who has come a long way from being a Kiss-o-gram on Doctor Who. The finale was exciting. However, it did have a problem with balancing the character’s screentime (Although I am yet to find a film that can).
Right now I can stop being vague. HOLY **** CAP PICKED UP THORS HAMMER, HE SAID “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE”, SMART HULK, WINTER SOLDIER LIFT REFERENCE AND MANY MORE!!!!! Yes there is a lot of references and moments that made people next to me give me dirty looks. However, I do think there were too many of them as it almost becomes distracting it big emotional moments (yes I said emotional, I’m still a child DAMMIT). Also Peggy aged well in 30 years.
“If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.” – Billy Wilder. So spoilers to follow.
Avengers Endgame is an awful lot of final acts
– Of the whole Marvel shebang
– Of each characters story
– Of the power stones, and Thanos etc
And as a film, it of course has its own final act. I think it succeeds in some of these – plot is a pretty good through line, it just wobbles on the others.
Avengers Endgame incredibly works as a film, and it ties up the plot of lots of the other films. This to be fair is a pretty major achievement. I don’t think it really ends each characters story that well, except probably Tony, and I have no idea what it means/is saying overall, apart from $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
The film itself is as Joel says, pretty fun – solid heist movie structure with everyone coping with intense grief (ahem, Widows, ahem) and a big fight at the end. They have time travel plots which are well executed and neatly link to the choices of one of the main characters. The fight at the end is great, and Tony Stark gets a good ending. Good balance of emotion vs fun. Tonally cool, some nice callbacks.
It’s when we get into the characters and what the characters endings means it gets super muddled. Let’s review the characters endings:
Tony Stark: His story ends with him choosing to make a sacrifice, knowing the stakes and the cost (his family). It’s pretty great. I wish I’d known the glove would kill him when I saw him pick it up though. He’s the star of the first film, so this is elegant.
Captain America: The most interesting parts of his story end off-screen which is a very strange choice. He gets to wield Thor’s hammer but that wasn’t really ever set up as a problem. The character is defined by his steadfastness and we don’t get to see him really get good things. He fights himself at one point, which is not a dramatisation of him in the slightest. It’s cool, but its’ not needed.
Thor: decides he doesn’t want to be King after all. Which is, er, I guess, good? I really liked the self-pity the film explores with him, but it’s irrelevant to the story as a whole – the arc is right for him, is played really well, psychologically accurate, but his unworthiness doesn’t really feed any bigger story.
Hulk: gets some awesome off-screen character development. It’s be a wicked film that culminated in him being well-adjusted. Maybe he could use that time to court Natasha. At the end of the film, he is fine. Sad about Nat but y’know, doing science, ticking on.
Natasha: gets suicidal depression and then gets fridged. She chooses it but my god, is that her ending? She sacrifices herself for others. Maybe she should have had a family like everyone else instead of murdering possibly hundreds of people.
Hawkeye: gets his family back having murdered possibly hundreds of people over the space of five years. He and Nat’s stories are entwined and kinda mirror each other, so I’m not sure what the point is that he lives and she dies. I respect his haircut choice though.
Nebula: kills her pre-change self. I don’t completely understand what this is a dramatisation of, but her story at least neatly interacts with the time travel plot and drives the story in a well-executed way. She then goes off travelling with the GotG, her found family.
Ant-man: gets his family back!
All the people who died otherwise: back in it!
I guess Tony, Cap’s and Ant-Man stories end in a way that works with the characterisation. Everyone else seems to like families. Or science.
So based on those endings, the Marvel films are about families, and resetting the status quo.
Aside – the entire story of Thanos is about not accepting change. Which is why all the stages of grief stuff at the start is a bit tricky – basically, the bargaining stage of grief works. Which is a comforting fantasy but sadly not real. It’s a bit weird to go very psychologically grounded and then veer off into power fantasy.
It’s difficult to see how the characters endings link up to the earlier films, and what the overall effect is. I think the Marvel films up to the Avengers are about all the different ways that people become heroes. I then got a bit confused as lots more characters got introduced which was exciting, and we saw them also become heroes, but I didn’t get what Thanos was supposed to be in opposition to/what the conflict with him was a dramatisation of. And that seems a bit disconnected from the endings they got in this film, which are about, er, dying for your family or not, depending. But you should totally like live and not just be a superhero. But y’know, we would also die if the superheroes weren’t here. And you should or shouldn’t be king, depending. So in conclusion Marvel is a land of contrasts. It’s just muddled.
Endings are hard – I think by focusing on the plot/power stones as the unifying thread, it’s easier to follow but loses that really resonant meaning. But it probably maximises box office. And its got some lovely texture. And it feels nice.
And a little bit more now I’ve pondered more….. again spoil, spoil, spoil.
It’s not a neutral word, is it “spoilers” – doesn’t allow for nuance.
Thor. I think Thor has/had PTSD. Thor was the comic relief. We were encouraged to laugh at him. I get that the story needed some levity but it really seemed to punish Thor. Teaming him up with Rocket, who is unable to express compassion (again for very good reasons). The scene with his mum is very cathartic, and the dream of time travel is more time with those we lost. But I didn’t get why the film had to punish him so much, what did that add to the story? Why did he have to fail exactly? It definitely described the arc of recovering from that neatly but I didn’t understand what failure from before the Avengers needed to learn.
It’s an interesting creative choice. It’s Luke’s arc in the Last Jedi, with more shame. It’s well executed, and insightful. But y’know, does it fit?
I’m a little (how should I say?) confused by the idea that the film “punished” Thor. But I think it’s an interesting one that I’d like to try and unpack and understand.
Now. I work in a Children’s Library. Which oftentimes is a pretty sweet job. You get to do a lot of stuff in a lot of different ways which means that it keeps my mind pretty busy (as I’m sure anyone who works with children would tell you lol). And yeah – I’ll admit it – one of the parts of the job that I love the most is reading stories to the kids which is all sorts of cool in lots of ways. One of the things it makes me think of is the idea that – oh wow – this is how stories used to work before films and computer games and tv and books: it would just be one person sitting there telling the story and everyone else sitting around and listening. Except – you know – I probably use more silly voices.
(This may help to explain my fascination with stories – but tbh I think the roots of that go way back. But anyway).
One of my absolute favourite books to read to the kids is A Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis (art by Tony Ross) which oh my god has everything you could ever possibly want in any book ever. Short version: a tadpole and a caterpillar fall in love (studio audience: aaaah!). He loves everything her and she loves everything about him. (The caterpillar is the her and the tadpole is the him). The caterpillar says to the tadpole: “Promise me you’ll never change” (omg) and the tadpole says “I promise.” But (uh oh) the next time they meet the tadpole has grown legs. Caterpillar is upset and again says “Promise me you’ll never change.” Tadpole says I promise. But then he grows arms. And then he loses his tail. And finally caterpillar says – enough with this – and dumps him and crawls up the willow branch and cries herself to sleep (studio audience: oooh!). Then the caterpillar wakes up and everything has changed (cut to: caterpillar is now a butterfly) (also cut to: tadpole who is now a frog). Everything had changed – except for her love for the tadpole (studio audience: aaaah!). So she dries her wings and flutters down to look for him. She flies down to the place where they first met and sees a frog that she’s never seen before. She flies over to ask him for help “Excuse me – have you seen…” but before she can get to the end of her sentence the frog swallows her up in one great big GULP. And there he waits – thinking fondly of the caterpillar – wondering where she went.
I mean – I don’t know if my thumbnail retelling quite captures the amazingness of the book – but I feel like you’ve got to admit that it sounds pretty fucking amazing. It’s got love, relationship woes, gender stereotypes and a shock death that would make even George R. R. Martin go “holy shit.” And – needless to say – the kids love it. (My years of experience working in libraries has taught me nothing else it’s this: kids love stories with things eat other things and tbh I can’t say I blame them).
The parents… not so much. (The silence that greets me when I finish the book sometimes is probably like: wow).
Which well yeah – I just find kinda fascinating. And I think reflects a broader trend in how people view and think about stories which I think is reflected in this idea that Endgame is “punishing” Thor. Or to put it simple: I think that the two main ways of thinking about stories are either the idea that they should be entertaining as possible in terms of what happens and plot twists and themes and crazy stuff and funny one-liners and all the rest of it. This is the kid’s point of view. And of course the one I happen to share. Because well – it’s the most fun and the most interesting.
The opposing point of view is of course the parent’s point of view. This idea is the one that says that stories should be as – for lack of a better word – moral as possible. This is the point of view that every story should have a lesson at the end of it. This sees stories and books and films almost as role models for how we should live our lives and what our values should be and how we should think and represent ourselves and other people. And yeah obviously this is the type of thinking that (from the looks of things) is currently in the ascendance in how people think about their cultural products. etc.
I think the important thing I’ve like to stress here is that – if you take a step back – there’s no real way to decide which point of view is the “best” or the “true” one. It’s like – some people might use a knife to put butter on their toast and some people might use a knife to stab someone in the face. It’s not that one way is the “right” way to use your knife and you know – obviously you can use it in a multiple of ways. Sometimes a story can teach you things. Sometimes it can just be fun. Sometimes it can do both. Or neither. You know – it all depends.
I would say that the problem only starts to arise when it’s not possible to see outside of the paradigm that you’re in. Namely: I don’t think Endgame is taking a moral stance when it comes to “Fat Thor” and his PTSD. I just think it’s a creative choice that they choose because they thought it would be funny and interesting and be something different that you haven’t seen before and show you something you haven’t seen before. I mean: if the end of Infinity War was the story of anything it was the story of Thor failing (all together now: he should have gone for the head!). So yeah – it makes sense that after that (and doing the whole ISIS thing) that he’d want to sit around, eat ice cream and play computer games. That’s not the film punishing him. That’s just what people go through sometimes. And you know – in terms of an arc and all that – it means that when his mum does her pep talk: it’s speaking to something real.
What did he need to learn? Well you know – all the stuff his mum says about stop trying to be the person you think you are and just be the person you are and all that etc. But fuck it – as much as I liked that stuff (and think it’s a good lesson and all the rest of it): I still would have enjoyed all the Thor stuff anyway because well yeah: stating the obvious a lot: Chris Hemsworth has got comedy chops and he knows how to use them and the Marvel Universe is finally giving him those chances – you know? Hooray.
But yeah – all this aside: I actually think that the much more interesting question is how the finale of the film and that final victory actually works as a negation of the first third and Thor’s mum’s speech about learning to live with failure. I mean – not to say that I didn’t enjoy it but the physiological whiplash I experienced between the movie going “You can’t always win” and “OH FUCK YEAH WE WIN” almost made my neck snap. Not to mention the pathology behind “We have to kill Thanos twice.” But hopefully I’ll get to that soon…
Oh and also we should talk about the time travel.
I know for some people it was a step too far. But in a movie series where you’ve go Spider-Men; Magic Wizards; Power Stones; Purple, Green and Blue skinned aliens; Talking Raccoons; Talking Trees and a Captain of America being some kind of force for good… My attitude is like it’s already ice cream on top of ice cream on top of ice cream. And do you really want to be the one that says “Oh wait. Thanks but – no More Ice Cream!”???
No. That’s crazy.
And oh – question – when are we going to talk about the moment that the film basically turned into this?
(aka “The feminist bit”)
I’ll add my two cents here, because those last two bits are my only two gripes (and something is wrong with my math here, because I have an extra $.23.)
The feminist bit was just too on the nose for me. In this all out melee, every female character just happens to stage themselves in frame for a glorious girl power moment? Eh. Now, if CapM had taken the gauntlet and tried to get herself through the fracas and was then *aided* along on her path by each of the other female characters, well, alright. Something like that would have made more sense in the context to the epic battle going on, rather than the “Huddle up, ladies!” moment we got. The other element about it that gives me grief is it was so obvious, and will be such an easy target for internet trolls to call out. I would have loved an organic moment where all these badass ladies had their time to shine. Forcing it in like that might get you some cheers and will make for excellent screen caps on social media, but it didn’t do justice to the characters or the film.
As far as the time travel goes, I’m almost never a fan. You have characters who are smart enough to figure out TIME TRAVEL, but not smart enough to figure out that if you need more Pym particles to complete your mission, your first stop in your time machine should be to get more Pym particles. Even Bill and Ted figured out they could steal Mr. Logan’s keys after everything was all over. Granted, they finally get on board with the notion that once you can control time, you have unlimited time, but it was an acrid salve at that point.
But, even though I’m critical of just about every time travel story ever put to screen, I do my best to put those feelings aside and judge the movie on overall entertainment, not my own needling of the mechanics of the impossible. And Endgame does ultimately deliver and serves as a fitting end to the saga thus far.
I think it’s easy to see time travel as a cop-out from a tricky plot hole. Except there were at least 3 ways they could have resolved this without resorting to time-travel and all would have been worse.
- They could have done what they did in the first 20 minutes and just fought Thanos all over again – only this time its personal! Retrieving the gauntlet from Thanos’ equivalent of the Death Star and celebrating a job well done.
- One theory before early on was that all the snapped people were just hanging out in the Soul Stone limbo, and maybe Ant Man could use the Quantum Realm to sneak them out like people grabbing a cheeky cigarette at a wedding.
- Some as yet unmentioned McGuffin/character (everyone seems very excited by Adam Warlock) who can just undo everything.
Any of these would have involved less pipe then is required to get away with time travel. What the time travel gives us is a glorious chance to revisit the saga and look at how far the characters have come, like Hulk the renaissance man, or how they have fallen like Thor the schlubby Fortnite player.
It also means we can revel in the small moments of previous films, like Cap saying Hail Hydra in the elevator, or lifting Thor’s hammer – indeed somehow Captain America wielding the hammer felt like a triumph despite having a 2 minute set up 2 movies ago – because the whole second half of the movie is entirely made of little pay offs like that. Remember when Pepper Potts was Iron Man? You do now! At Tony’s wake there is a teenage boy standing alone at the back, and I had to check, but it was the boy from Iron Man 3! And the pen he uses earlier in the film, that was the pen from when he was trapped in the cave, probably.
The time travel also neatly resolved Tony’s unfinished business with his dad, Thor’s unfinished business with his mum, and Cap’s unfinished business with his whole life (except Bucky, who gets ditched). But the real unresolved issue is that for Tony Stark the Battle of New York never ended. Sure they beat Loki and the Chitauri but that was at best a score draw. He had already pledged to never stop refighting the last war.
“You’re missing the point. There is no throne! There is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be darn well sure we’ll avenge it.“
It’s the heart of the problem for the Avengers because whether it’s Hydra, Thanos or even the other Avengers they can never be satisfied and always have huge regrets and misgivings – see Hulk’s embarrassment at his old self’s rage, like seeing an old photo of yourself as a moody teenager.
I liked this so much I could have watched a whole movie of the middle section greatest hits album and Back-to-the-Future-part-II’d more previous scenes and would have happily traded some of the big battle. Not that I didn’t like the big battle. The mystic portals opening up with all the dusted people was definitely the Riders Of Rohan scene I asked for, especially preceded by that shot of Cap standing alone against the darkness. Take note Battle of Winterfell you gloomy bastard. But I don’t know what level of postmodern pop culture ratings itself we are on but movies watching themselves from that Cloverfield perspective away from the main action is definitely one of my favourite things. Maybe this is why I like Spider-Man Homecoming so much, because they show the aftermath of the Battle of New York and behind the scenes of Civil War’s Airport Fight and it makes the ramifications of these epic battles more meaningful if you can walk more than 10 minutes away from the action and it still means something. Sure there is a big monster stomping on some buildings but there is other shit going on, and someone is ultimately gonna have to clean up that mess.
Speaking of cleaning up messes, Endgame a weird film to write about because it deliberately exists in reference to other movies, most importantly its prequel. Infinity War does Endgame the huge favour of turning the fridging dial up to 11, so everyone, yes even Hawkeye, has an emotional arc that you are invested in, and a purpose beyond just murdering a succession of henchmen. Endgame delivers because as well as putting right what once went wrong, it lets the characters bathe in their new-found character depth just long enough so you genuinely care when everyone is hugging at the end.
We 80% agree!
I don’t think it’s fun vs moralism (which I respectfully raise is not a neutral framing). Instead, I think it’s entertainment & meaning, but I don’t think those two things are in opposition, I think they are two dials on the same dashboard.
I agree with you that people now are more critical about the meaning conveyed by all the cast being white, there being no women, gay people not existing or having actual names, the story being about how the government is great and you’re just overly critical. I like this. Some people are more militant and slam films for not matching their values, and can approach the moralism you describe – but this has always happened really. I think Top Gun’s militarism was discussed for example in the 80s. I don’t think movies or indeed any art “should” have to portray any values really (people want them too though, neutrality is really a position, I have personal opinions) but I’m a bit surprised by the idea that people just do stuff because it’s cool, or that values somehow are not communicated. So much of making art is trying to express what’s in your head in a way the audience understands – a pure cool creativity dump normally comes out as muddled. One of my favourite books talks about how the director has to have control over all aspects of the visual story or a confusing/unintentional meaning can come across. Because we live in culture, some stuff does come across unconsciously too – frequently this is awesome, sometimes less so.
Lindsay Ellis talks about this really well:
She’s talking about racial coding in fantasy, and allegory v coding and questions of authorial intent – it’s a great examination of meaning, intentional or otherwise. This discussion starts at 24:08, but I massively recommend the whole thing.
Aggressively policing meaning can go too far, I agree. These are all those “problematic” discussions that get out of hand – but again, I think the process by which you create a entertainment high, meaning low story is not by just writing stuff that’s cool. I mean, you totally write cool stuff, but weirdly, meaning tends to creep into a vacuum. Current politics absolutely tells us that nihilism gets usurped. Similarly, discussions about intention for me are less to brand someone as a moral failure or otherwise, (Woody Allen aside for now) but more to engage with the material the artist, and maybe 500 other people made. There are common forms of cinematic language/structure that convey meaning – this does not have to be political or thematic at all. Ahem.
Often with a film I’m trying to work out what was deliberate, and what wasn’t. What were they aiming for, did they achieve it? Which audiences does that work for? Why? What’s trying to be communicated and what’s accidental? What’s the net effect of that?
It absolutely doesn’t have to mean anything but there are ways to signal “this is not a theme or instrospection heavy film” to me as a viewer, which I don’t think Endgame quite manages. Mostly because the first hour of screen time is so introspective.
Let’s be clear – the tonal treatment of Thor is not a game-breaking deal, I was struck by it. The series as a whole has talked about PTSD (Iron Man 3). It’s heavily military funded. PTSD is a real thing for veterans. Many of the marvel films are about the military. Putting a real thing in your film certainly suggests you are talking about it in some way. If you are not, you allude to this in the early part of the film (you teach the audience how to watch your film). The film spends the first hour as a pretty interesting mediation on grief, trauma and loss, so I thought maybe the film was making a point about PTSD. The generally compassionate framing of all the characters but Thor was striking.
The reason I think Thor was punished – (maybe shamed is a better word) by the story is that his suffering and agony (what a beautiful line “the future has not been kind to you” while Rene Russo strokes his face) is made into comic relief (the scene where he can’t explain what happened with the gem) whereas Hawkeye’s murder spree, Tony’s withdrawl is treated as a sad but justifiable reaction to grief. The film is tonally positive towards Cap’s self-help group and Hulk’s integrated personality.
Thor’s arc is absolutely about shame – he feels worthless because of the mistake he made but I’m interested if the story and other characters shame him too, and then what are the film-makers trying to say via that choice. It’s totally the right arc for the character and I completely agree logically follows from the events of Infinity War, but as you say, it then doesn’t follow through on that – he needs to embrace temporary failure to succeed, as opposed to actually genuinely accepting failure.
So yeah, if you open your film with an hour of deep grief mediation, I’m going to flag when something jars with me, and wonder why you did that. I assume its a setup-payoff thing. (My hunch if you watched Infinity War then Endgame is that the grief/sadness aftermath bit would logically follow, emotionally follow but then not really sync with the ending, but I’d need to spend six hours on that, and I’m not really excited about watching it again. )
It might as you say just be they wanted him to be funny and it was, and the other bits are not intentional. OK. But, by Thor being the object of ridicule (in a way that Hulk was not), his story is therefore spotlit. I don’t know how we can even talk about a film if we don’t talk about the net effect of the choices a film-maker makes. I’m not interested in a choice x = therefore they are mean, but I am interested in what was the point of choice y. What narrative utility does it serve?
Speaking of unintended consequences, onto the feminism bit – after Black Widow dies, the next hour of the film is a group of men deciding what must be done to reset the status quo (which must be reset obviously, as the change was so viciously awful). Once they’ve solved everything, the women get a set piece. Does this mean anything?
Well, the set piece is definitely deliberate – composition, pretty wide shot, definitely not accidental. I don’t think the absence of women earlier was anything but the consequence of their only being one major female character for like the first 15 hours or so, who then got killed off. When placed against each other, it’s kinda funny. It shows the evolution of female representation over 11 years, and is er, funny. Well, funny to stop myself from screaming.
This was one of the issues of Avengers I think – when you only have one female character they can end up standing in for all women. The way around this is to have more female characters. This is a really good essay about that
It’s the meaning that comes from structural story choices, rather than “bad” individuals.
I’ve been thinking about endings overall, particularly for properties with a strong, vocal fan base. Lots of people have written before about how frustrated and unsatisfying the endings of Lost, and Dr Who are, particularly in their failure to address plot threads that were used to build tension/suspense, and hinted to be future payoff. This tends not to bother me, but I get that it does for others. I think the focus was on tying off the plot elements to make a satisfying ending, which from scanning reviews, most people agree Endgame delivers on. I do too – its a neat story that resolves the events of Infinity War, and it’s a solid achievement. But – I’m not excited to watch it again. Which is interesting. Film Crit Hulk (BINGO!) has a theory that the lack of thematic cohesion is linked to that – plot only resolution doesn’t last; I don’t know if this is true.
But anyway, this is all very function heavy, and analytical. Where do you think Loki went with the Tesseract? And how can we get Spiderman on a dinosaur, which I am very much here for.
Ok. I want to reply to what’s been written so far – but also there’s some stuff I wanna say about time travel first. So….
There’s a comic called Age of Ultron that came out before the second Avengers film – Age of Ultron. Not too long ago actually – 2013 was the comic (The Age of Ultron film was only 2015 so yeah – wow: those Marvel guys work fast you know?).
The interesting thing was that way back when when the film title was announced comic’s fans were shocked and aghast and all like “HUH?” / “WHA?” and “THAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING I’VE EVER HEARD” That’s because the comic Age of Ultron (and stop me if you’ve heard this one before) opens with the bad guy having already won…
Most of the big name superheroes are dead (“Thor’s gone” etc) and everyone is just running around scrambling to survive. It’s all very GRIM DARK. And then – just when you think that all hope is lost and the good guys are just … they discover a time machine (Dr Doom’s Time Platform to be exact).
This sure sounds familiar for some reason…
The thing that’s interesting tho is that The Age of Ultron comic is generally agreed to be a thing that sucks and Avengers: Endgame (at least for this rube) is something that doesn’t suck. So what gives? Well – as far as I can tell – and I feel like this is the bit when everyone reading this is going to roll their eyes in a massive way – but I think it’s all about their differences in approach to time travel (yeah yeah I know I know).
So obviously Jonathan’s already listed some of the ways that they could have made the movie and have the good guys win without doing the whole time travel thing (altho speaking personally: I would have loved it if the whole movie had gone the proper Leftover’s route and had just shown each Avenger learning to deal with a life without their friends / 50% of the population and a detailed examination of how the infrastructure of society would collapse / change in the aftermath of the snap: but I guess you can’t have everything?). But my mind tickles looking at the ways they could have done the time travel thing. Namely:
1. HARD “KILL HITLER” VERSION : They go back in time and kill Thanos before he was born. Or go back and kill Thanos before he can do his snap thing.
2. MEDIUM “BACK TO THE FUTURE II” VERSION: They go back in time and make it so that Thanos doesn’t win. They work out that Doctor Strange should never have given away the time stone or whatever. Or they make it so it only looks like Thanos has won. And then when he steps into his little worm hole everyone pops their heads out from behind a tree or whatever.
3. SOFT “ENDGAME” VERSION: This is what they do in the film where the aim isn’t really to stop Thanos or undo the thing that’s already happened – but instead they’re just out to get the Infinity Stones so that they can use them to make their own version of the snap and get all the people back (I don’t know why I’m saying this – everyone who’s reading this has already seen the film right??).
The Age of Ultron comic goes in for like the Hard Version or the Medium Version (I forget which exactly – it’s been a while since I’ve read it). But I think they go back in time to kill Hank Pym or something? Like: stuff happens – but at the end that version of New York where Ultron took over everything and was ruler of the world? They stop it from ever happening. Hooray. Good guys win. But yeah – the story feels like – a cheat you know? “That thing we said happened? Oh yeah – it didn’t happen.”
I’ve got some friends who feel the same way about Endgame. They’re like “time travel is a cheat” and it “breaks the story” and things like that. And even tho I kinda get where they’re coming from – I don’t really feel the same way: mainly because by using the Soft Version of time travel it feels like the movie is playing fair. All the things that happened happened. There’s no reset buttons or hand-waving blah-blah. Everyone has to live with the consequences – but by getting the magic stones back they can get everyone back. The simplicity of it all is actually kinda nice. Get the six things and everyone is saved! They’re not actually using the time travel stuff to alter anything that past. In fact – you could have made a version of the movie where Thanos clicked the stone to six crazy individual planets or whatever and not that much would changed in terms of the structure.
Except of course – all of the lovely “Avengers Out of Time” scenes where they basically go back and goof off in all of the other Marvel films that took place before: which is just – wow – this beautiful move that makes me just want to applaud in how it so successfully manages to integrate art and business: the magic of movies with the systemic demands of synergy (and at this point – who can tell where the one ends and the other begins?).
Because yeah obviously going back and revisiting scenes from earlier Marvel movies is a massive flex and a joy to watch (and god what other film series would even attempt such a thing? The Fast and the Furious? Star Wars? James Bond?) but also I couldn’t help the feeling that it felt like watching an advertisement in a the middle of a film – making you want to go back and watch the other films – and goddamnit: I couldn’t help but feel like that was somehow actually pretty fucking amazing just in terms of the audacity of it.
In fact the other thing it reminded me of was the last episode of Seinfeld when the whole episode was pretty much just about bringing back every character from the rest of the season. And you know – I guess it’s the same principal in terms of the chemicals it releases in the brain and the way you react. (Find and replace “Oh hey look it’s the !” with “Oh hey look it’s !”)
Also it must be said that even tho they went for the Soft Version of time travel they still made a point to underscore how difficult it was. It’s like the movie kinda knew that Time Travel was like a whole new unbelievable thing and so they spent – what? – 20 or 30 minutes building it up and saying it was “impossible” and “couldn’t be done” and it was a “fantasy” before (oh wow) (oh yeah) they actually finally just went ahead and did it (and dressed it up with lots of talk about the quantum realm and turning Ant Man into a old man / baby etc and Tony Stark having to invent thingie to go in his hand to stop the time stuff reversing the polarity or whatever). I mean this is the kinda thing you hear a lot of in screenwriting books I know – but it all felt earnt you know?
Compare and contrast with Age of Ultron which yeah ok I know none of you have actually read – but there it’s just – oh yeah: here’s a time machine: everyone get onboard. (Altho I guess for lots of very good reasons the Marvel Comics Universe is a lot more messy and chaotic than the Cinematic one…).
So yeah. I liked it.
And you know (and I mean this as a compliment): it’s definitely the most comic-book-y movie I think I’ve ever seen.
Also. I really like this thing by Sam Kriss (Avengers: Endgame, or, why this is all your fault) so just wanted to share it here.
Particularly this bit:
In the first film, a big purple villain manages to acquire all six IndecipheraBalls, and uses them to commit an act of cataclysmic evil. In the second, the bedraggled heroes band together and travel back in time to get the Sempiternal Zirconias back, and undo the damage he’s done. What kind of story would a twelve-year-old write? Probably, at a guess, one in which the narrative potential of these Chaos Crystals is actually explored. Space is spliced, cloned, distorted: the universe folds into terrifying new shapes, organic monstrosities unfurl from inorganic matter, the stars are dandruff, pebbles are planets, everything is a distortion of everything else. Time twists into loops and paradoxes; laser battles in medieval castles, Stone Age shamans hurling spears between distant suns. In the chaos, inert objects are ensouled and living creatures become mindless automatons; dreams blur with reality, unreal logics are set loose on the world, and our heroes have to battle in a universe turned to vapour. For all the inevitable high-concept manoeuvres, it would probably be quite dumb. But at least it would be fun.
This is not what we get. The stones are barely used in either film. In the first, Thanos attaches them to a big glove and snaps his fingers: half of all living creatures suddenly die. In the second, the Hulk does the exact same thing, and everyone who died comes back. That’s basically it. What a waste!
But yeah – you should go and read the whole thing…
For some reason I find the race for Endgame to become highest grossing film of all time is an interesting thing. For those of you who rightly don’t give two shits, as it stands, in just one fortnight it has become the second biggest theatrical release ever.
I don’t know anyone who would claim this as evidence of quality or even really of popularity. After all current holder of biggest selling film is Avatar is so unremarkable it’s all but disappeared without trace from popular consciousness. As journalist Stephen Bush pointed out, its mainly interesting how the whole world just stayed quiet on this front for long enough to let everyone they know see the movie, and then everyone silently agreed never to mention it again in polite conversation. That’s doesn’t seem to be stopping Disney and James Cameron from producing several sequels however.
Disney is obviously not good for the film industry, having just snapped up Fox it’s now bordering on a monopoly. Because of the IP driven nature of marketing it goes without saying this will only stifle new film-makers and artists and further divide movies into low budget dramas, blockbusters or straight-to-Netflix ephemera. As a completely non-researched piece of non-evidence I was keen to see Eighth Grade this weekend, but this critically acclaimed movie which came out a week ago is only on at weird times at my three local cinemas. At the same cinemas though I can see Endgame pretty much at a time of my choosing. Again it’s not surprising to see that the most expensive movie of all time which needs to make the most money of all time has aggressively pushed all competition out of the way, but it’s also sad to see how this is applauded. We should reserve special praise for the High Life which is also a sci-fi and bravely scheduled against Endgame with the following synopsis [extreme trailer voice]:
“Outer space. A band of Death Row inmates are offered a shot at redemption if they undertake a mission to extract energy from around a black hole. But the ship’s doctor, Dibs (Juliette Binoche), has her own agenda: to harvest the men’s semen to impregnate the women as part of her radical experiments in synthetic reproduction. But one crew member, Monte (Robert Pattinson), won’t play ball.”
I’m hoping there is a conversation happening somewhere where the partner of some long suffering Marvel fan is saying: “I quite liked that Endgame and I see there is another of your space movies on this weekend too with that guy from Twilight. We should totally go?”
But just because Endgame is both evil and has an unfortunate lack of death row inmate semen harvesting it doesn’t mean it’s not a major part of the cinema landscape. I have been scratching my head for a week about this film, because I have to say that much as I would like to secure with some sort of pointed insight I just really really like it, and will probably go and see it again soon. But ultimately this is superheroes versus aliens and so, as I’ve said before about Marvel, the magic trick is not how they did it but how they made me care.
Part of the magic trick is Kevin Feige solving the anti-life equation of how do you bring television levels of character development and back story to an (admittedly quite long) movie. It’s simple, just make a TV series worth of movies, that’s all you have to do. But this was promised waaay back in 2012 – we knew that they would slowly build to the infinity stones, we knew there would a giant battle and maybe several giant battles, and still when it came I wasn’t prepared.
The shot before the portal sequence, of Cap standing alone against the forces of darkness, should be painted on to the ceiling of the cistine chapel. It’s been done before of course not just in Return of the King but in the show Justice League Unlimited s03 e13 which also united the several hundred members of the JLA with the Legion of Doom, including Lex Luther, against Darkseid, recognising the existential threat of his armies was more important than their differences. If you haven’t watched it, the whole Justice League series is as good as Batman:The Animated Series, which means you should go and fucking watch it. Last time I checked it was free on Prime (speaking of evil monopolies).
But beyond the spectacle of the battle and great moments, maybe there were missed opportunities. The Sam Kriss point Joel quotes is interesting (although the thrust if the article is just template “old man yells at cloud”) because yeah the plot of both the movies is to keep the stones at arms length for as long as possible. The reality Stone looks like loads of fun and is under-explored by a movie happy to play with reality, but what does the Soul Stone even do? It would have to be good to know since it’s so coveted you have to sacrifice a loved one to get it. I’m hoping Army of the Undead, but I guess we’ll never know. But having 900 characters and about 20 McGuffins – once you include the Stones, the Pym Particles, various axes, shields, and time travelling wrist bands – it’s a lot of heavy lifting. Now the stones are out of the way I think it would be good to get away from fancy robot suits and lean more into magic. One of my favourite moments was when the Ancient One neutralised the Hulk with one move, effectively making her the Yoda of the franchise. If you look at where the story telling possibilities lie, probably the Multiverse of Doctor Strange seems to have rich potential to mess around with the genre conventions compared to the Guardians or Ant Man just goofing around doing heists. The likelihood is though that as we have seen with Antman and the Wasp and Captain Marvel is that the stakes have been raised so high that subsequent movies seem a bit flimsy.
The Amazing Frankie
I’ve been sitting out this conversation because not only have I not seen Endgame, I don’t think I’ve seen any Avengers movie. According to Wikipedia there’s like 12 of them or something? Uncertain how I’ve avoided them but thus far, it seems I have. Possibly it’s because I don’t really like movie theaters. Dark boxes full of strange humans where you have to wear pants (trousers, if you’re speaking British English) and you can’t pause when you have to pee, and they always have the sound painfully loud. I like movies a lot, but I don’t really like movie theaters.
I did finally see Avatar, about two weeks ago. Well about a third of it. It was on the telly and I was putting together some IKEA shelves. But then I finished my shelves and had to hang them on the wall, but I made a mental note to look it up and see the whole thing because while it seems fairly predictable from the first third, it doesn’t seem bad.
High Life sounds brilliant. Is this a real movie? It sounds too good to be true. Man, there really aren’t enough movies about unethical human experimentation in space. And now, what with Jeff Bezos competing with China to see who can take over the moon first, it really seems timely and relevant.
I can’t over the fact that they had to kill Thanos twice. And (whisper it) both times were both equally ineffectual.
Coming out of Infinity War I was all like: “but wait – that means he’s won. How can they reverse that exactly?” It’s like the Death Star blew up Endor or Agent Smith killed Neo. So of course – as has already been mentioned – they ambushed him in his retirement home and then (as that wasn’t enough) the movie conspired to have his past self come and attack them so that they could kill him again.
I think it’s worth commenting on as to how both of these are very strange moves tho. And it’s funny how the narrative of the movie wraps around itself in order to make it happen. Like it’s interesting to imagine an alternative version of Endgame where the pre-click Thanos doesn’t cotton on to The Avengers doing their time-travel thing and they go back in time – collect all the Infinity Stones – come back – do the click – and everyone comes back alive and everything is fine. Last 30 minutes is just everyone chatting and catching up on the last 5 years (“Oh wow – the entire infrastructure of society collapsed and the whole world is now radically different and things are organised over more socialistic lines? Cool.”)
Doctor Strange saw 14,000,605 possible futures – but there wasn’t one where that could have happened? Hmmm. That seems unlikely. Altho – maybe there’s an important difference between a world where everyone is saved and a world where everyone is saved but also WE GET TO KILL THANOS AND WIN. Which is obviously important – if not for the characters in the film: but for us – the film-watching public (which – like Jonathan kinda pointed out: is pretty much everyone in the world right now? LOL).
This is obviously obvious: but if the superhero genre is defined by anything it’s wish fulfilment. What if I could fly like Superman? Be a king like Black Panther? Shoot arrows like Hawkeye? (LOL @Hawkeye). And a big part of that is fantasy is having all the complexities of the world being reduced to just one face that you can easily just punch as hard as you like. Which you know is obviously appealing for all sorts of reasons. It just strikes me that together Infinity War and Endgame’s clever timey wimey narrative tactics ends up making the artifice more obvious. Why pre-click Thanos need to be in this movie? Because you need a bad guy to get punched in the face. You need the nightmare logic of the big bad guy being unstoppable even in death because you need to defeat his younger, better and stronger self. Because yeah for all the talk and narrative feints towards the idea that grief and setback is just something that you need to learn to deal with (and all the stuff that Thor’s mum said about learning to accept yourself) if there was a version of Endgame that was released without that big fat final battle then I’m pretty sure that there would been riots in the cinemas and picking up their chairs and throwing them at the screen (last line of the film something like Tony Stark going: “Well – I guess that’s life. And we just need to learn to try to deal with it all as best we can.”)
(Unrelated: everyone really should watch The Leftovers).
But quiet acceptance and recognition of the suffering of all living things is no match for VICTORY and MANLY SACRIFICE and THE DESTRUCTION OF ALL OUR ENEMIES – even if it means going back in time and killing the people that we’ve already already killed (hmmmm – I wonder why we’re all messed up in the heads so much?).
And that all being said: my big actual criticism of the movie is that I wish that Thanos had more of an upper hand before the cavalry came riding to the rescue through the Doctor Strange glowy portal things. I mean – yeah I know that Cap got his shield broken and all (yawn). But if it had been up to me – I would have had Steve Rogers lying down in the mud with Thanos leaning over him with his big purple hands wrapped around his throat and leering something about ultimate victory and then I would have done the “on your left” bit. But maybe that’s just me? (I want my head messed up more – obviously lol).
OH DEAR GOD WHY Presentations
Twitter / Barbican Comic Forum
I read Age of Ultron at one point. It was during a big Marvel binge (I had their comic service) and my reaction was…well I forget. Which is probably telling. It had a fun moment with Wolverine I think and there was some good art? Which kind of sums up that period when Bendis tried to write all of Marvel. Though I stand by him as a writer, he’s done a lot of great work.
So Endgame – I suppose if you’re all the way down here, I can do spoilers?
AQUAMAN DIES COMPLAINING ABOUT THE LACK OF FISH AT HIS LOCAL LIDO (i use that joke alot and I really like it and I won’t hear otherwise.)
It’s fan service. It’s as if Marvel has a deep learning algorithm for people’s comments about their films and have taken the most popular (or least controversial) fan predictions and turned them into a movie. It’s like the internet collectively ordered a meal from Disney and we’re all really happy we’re eating it. Which is fun, chock a block with cool surprises and leaves you feeling vaguely happy and satisfied at the end.
But I watched it in the exact same cinema room I saw THE LAST JEDI and the feeling I got from that says a lot. TLJ has it’s rumples, but where Marvel is primarily “enjoyable” and “fun” and it grows on you over time with all it’s little jokes and character moments, TLJ was a joyous adrenaline rush. I just couldn’t believe that a blockbuster like that existed. It kept breaking the rules, it challenged, subverted, it had things to say and it was still funny as hell (the bit with Yoda? “Page turners they are not”.). Where TLJ is your first great cup of coffee, Endgame is a pleasant hot chocolate. It suprises, but it never subverts. Left turns are taken, but their superficial ones (like Thor’s hilarious post Avengers career) that never substantively change how we hit the core landmarks and final destination in this story’s journey.
And that’s fair. It’s called Endgame, it’s the climax of 22 blockbusters and people aren’t coming for these to be challenged, subverted or thrown around. Moments like Cap getting the hammer are rightful classics and had me cheering in the cinema. And the fandom seemed to collectively implode at TLJ, so I guess that says what we want from these – the thing we ordered, ideally a surprising envelope. We elected Disney to make our childhood great again. But I can’t think of that much to say after that? If this is a film that is designed to give us what we want and say nothing else, how much can you really talk about it? The discussion then turns to the moments, the hammer, the fat Thor, the Hail Hydra and all of this – and that’s less an interesting discussion about films and stories and the how/why we consume them (or they consume us) than it is a fun thing to high five a friend over in the pub after a screening.
I was looking at Jonathan’s thing about High Rise and I remembered I wanted to see that and other not “big” films that looked interesting. I had a choice between watching that yesterday and Diamantino, which is this weird surreal Euro-satire about a legendary footballer, who hallucinates puppies and pink mist while he plays who loses a penalty, resigns in disgrace and tries to solve the refugee crisis while the government tries to clone him. It was okay. It sounded/looked awesome. But it was okay. Which is kind of why I get why a Marvel makes so much by being so “moderately to somewhat significantly good” most of time. I still want to see High Life.
There’s no risk with a Marvel. Seriously. You pay a tenner, you get some chuckles, you get some thrills and you get some watercooler moments you can talk about with friends. Why wouldn’t you consistently choose that over a weird thing that most people aren’t going to talk to you about that there are good odds you’ll have
Maybe because on the day that cultural risk pays off – you’ll experience something that’ll make you feel something you didn’t know how to feel, or think about something you hadn’t thought about or just go “HOLY FUCK THATS COOL” in a way you hadn’t done before. Often, you walk out mumbling “well the way he had a dutch angle on the Fly’s leg for 45 minutes cut to a looping 5 second sample of Bon Iver was interesting” and you remember the effort it takes to go and experience the weird.
And then there are the Avengers, with clever quips and cool fights and familiar characters who just want to make it as easy as possible for you to smile and cheer.
But then – there really isn’t that much to talk about Endgame. Messy time travel mechanics, cool hammers, funny fat shaming, mainstream tragic sacrifice and impressive CGI that’ll look like a PS1 game in 5 years.
And on the otherside – Diamentino, which was often boring and very strange and interesting but in spite of that…I think it’ll stay with me – because it’s like nothing else.
Oh. And the Captain America ending was awesome. Fuck all of what I said – that moment was joyous. That wins.
(And listen to what Jonathan says about JLU – that show is the truth.)
Given one of the laws of science fiction franchises is that you always have to raise the stakes it’s rare that they deal with genocide in anything other than hand-wavey terms – And man am I really up for a really brutal exploration of unimaginable human suffering.
The opening scene with Hawkeye losing his family means at least you can ponder how terrifying Thanos’ crimes were, but I hope that at the beginning of the next film they start with the family of one of Thanos’ foot soldiers. One of those Leviathan’s children is probably waiting at home to see their Brood-Mother return from The War and they just wait and wait like the dog from Futurama, not knowing that Iron Man clicked their parent out of existence without so much as a second thought.
In the Tom Baker Doctor Who era series “Genesis of the Daleks” he is about to do exactly what Iron Man does, he goes back in time to prevent the deaths of billions, and then stops.
Doctor Who:But the final responsibility is mine, and mine alone. Listen, if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?
Sarah Jane Smith:We’re talking about the Daleks, the most evil creatures ever invented, you must destroy them! Youmust complete your mission for the Time Lords!
Doctor Who:Do I have the right? Simply touch one wire against the other and that’s it. The Daleks cease to exist. Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear, in peace, and never even know the word Dalek.
Sarah Jane Smith:Then why wait? If it was a disease or some sort of bacteriayou were destroying, you wouldn’t hesitate.
Doctor Who:But if I kill, wipe out a whole intelligent lifeform, then I become like them. I’d be no better than the Daleks.
And it’s an interesting (but also narratively necessary) swerve for the series to take. The Doctor fails his mission to eliminate one of the show’s most enduring antagonists, one which on the face of it should be a slam dunk. The series has already established the Daleks as uncompromising killing machines, but also perhaps in the era of mutually assured destruction, people in the mid-80s were weary of hearing how the only way to beat your enemy is to either match them for power or find some way to eradicate them from existence. Thank Christ those dark days are over and we can get back to the unrelenting arms race!
Huge shifts in power have consequences. Infinity War makes it clear that Thanos is not just another cackling bastard. Maybe his murder at the hands of Iron Man and the merciless extermination of his army will have negative effects on a galactic scale. It’s not clear what role Thanos had in the galaxy, since he doesn’t seem to have any administrative position, but maybe he was the one keeping Galactus at bay. Of course Iron Man apologists will say his counter snap was stopping a worse thing from happening, but it already sounds like defending the Hiroshima bomb. I get the feeling the writers sort of know this, because Endgame makes little hints to roll back Infinity War’s heroes journey and remind you Thanos is a real baddy: he has his little speech about how he will enjoy destroying Earth and he’s mean about the Avengers, and after decades of planning updates his half universe-destroying plan to full universe in a matter of hours. Now given the ramifications of this sudden shift in policy shouldn’t he issue a call for evidence, maybe at least review his Key Performance Indicators. No wonder we all want him dead by the end, because of audiences hate anything, it’s a poor understanding of the rudimentary principles of programme management.
The thing is that Tony Stark is as guilty of the same basic decision tree approach to wishes. Why not just wish for an effective conflict resolution strategy to rehabilitate Thanos and legions back in to society? Or add on to the wish that there will be an end to all mass murder by whoever? If anything is terrifying about the Infinity Gauntlet, it is its ability to understand your true motivations exactly. Tony Stark wanted to kill on a gigantic scale, the evidence is right there before us. The character arc is finally complete – He starts in Iron Man as a reviled arms dealer removed from the consequences of his WMDs and ends as a celebrated hero directly responsible for the deaths of millions literally by his own cold hand. Justice for the Chitauri!
HA. ” It’s like the internet collectively ordered a meal from Disney and we’re all really happy we’re eating it. Which is fun, chock a block with cool surprises and leaves you feeling vaguely happy and satisfied at the end.”
Although I don’t know how much I can buy into the “There’s no risk with a Marvel” thing seeing how in the last Avengers film before this they KILLED 50% OF THE POPULATION OF THE UNIVERSE. And yeah yeah five years they undid it and brought everyone back and they all lived happily ever after etc but even then that doesn’t erase the image of Peter Parker turning into ash in Tony Stark’s arms etc and so on. Just for that moment alone I’m like – hey you know what? Fair enough. if you want to give people fan service after that then fair enough. They’ve eaten all their greens – they’re allowed some desert.
VAGUE GAME OF THRONES SEASON 8 EPISODE 5 SPOILERS BELOW BTW
The latest episode Game of Thrones came out this week and as usual the most interesting part of it has been watching and seeing the way that people react to it in a way that’s made me think of how people have responded to Endgame.
“IT’S ALL CONNECTED!” etc.
I guess this all goes back to entertaining / moral thing. Some people want to eat something that’s sweet and some people want to eat something that’s medicine. I saw a headline somewhere that said something like “Game of Thrones is More Interested in Making WTF Moments than Actual Storytelling” and my brain was like: wait a second – a thought stories were about creating WTF moments? The moment when you thing you’re watching actually becomes something else and the way that the story was supposed to go gets flipped and turned upside down. For those of us into being entertained – those are kinda the moments that you look forward to the most (and you know: that’s why I love Lost so much seeing how it’s pretty much designed to give you as many of those types of moments as possible).
But for those people on the moral / medicine trip – that kinda stuff is almost literally traumatic. They know how the story is supposed to go. They know who they’re rooted for. They have their vision of reality that they want to see maintained and justified. And if you do something that breaks with that in a major way – if say a character you thought was a “hero” does something that makes them into a “villain” – then obviously you’re going to need to tweet some stuff about how that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
I can’t say I much I love Jonathan’s description of “One of those Leviathan’s children is probably waiting at home to see their Brood-Mother return from The War and they just wait and wait like the dog from Futurama, not knowing that Iron Man clicked their parent out of existence without so much as a second thought.” (Wish that I thought it / wrote it first). Because yeah – think of a re-cut version of Endgame where they do a reenactment of the last five minutes of Infinity War but it’s instead of all the superheroes we’ve come to know and love – it’s the faceless, indistinguishable, evil, alien hordes who cry out as they watch their friends and family and loved ones all wink out from existence. (Oh wait – that wouldn’t work would it? Because Tony doesn’t kill half of them – HE KILLS ALL OF THEM).
It’s almost as if the way you tell a story depends on which version of reality you see.
I’m holding out hope for a sequel where the last surviving members of the Thanos family build a time machine to go back and undo the horrors of Tony Stark and the Avengers and put right what once went wrong.
And yes ok so I’m mostly joking – but then there’s a line in Endgame that made my brain itch in a very interesting way. You know when Captain America and Black Widow are talking and it’s all like:
Steve Rogers : You know, I saw a pod of whales when I was coming in, over the bridge.
Natasha Romanoff : In the Hudson?
Steve Rogers : Fewer ships, cleaner water…
And so obviously you’re like: oh wait – does that mean Thanos was right?
I think only a few years ago I would probably have been a Thanos truther and very much of the: of course there’s too many people in the world. Look around you! Society is eating into the world and taking all of it’s natural resources and we need urgent measures like killing half the people on the planet and damn it why is no one else prepared to make the tough choices like I am? But rewatching Infinity War a few weeks ago before Endgame when he’s doing his big TED Talk about the importance of finger snapping I was like: oh – he’s basically a poster child for monocausality. I mean – is it strange to say that I think it would be nice if the world’s problems could be solved with one little genocide? And at the risk of sounding like I’m trolling I swear to god my brain was all like: isn’t this basically the same sort of mentality that thinks that the only issue is all the straight white men. Like: I get the appeal of it and it’s a nice easy story to wrap around yourself – it just feels a little… misguided / kinda dumb maybe?
There’s no one simple solution to save the world.
This is why Doctor Who is mostly better / more moralistic than most Hollywood blockbusters in that because it’s television and because it’s British and because it’s for kids – it’s about doing the right thing and not just killing everyone (well at least until the most recent season where – oh the irony! – the gender-swapped politically correct Doctor became a dull-eyed centrist making excuses for power and saying things like the problem is with people not systems – when the exact opposite is true: but well – that’s a whole other story….).
But then maybe that’s not the type of satisfaction people are looking for?
And well – maybe instead of superheroes they need… social workers.
This post was created by our Film Club email list.
If you’d like to join the conversation send an email marked “Film Club” to here.