Avengers: Endgame - Not What I Expected
Standard reminder: This is a response, not a review. I don’t do reviews because I don’t know enough about filmmaking to comment on that aspect of it. But I do know about societal issues so I can and do speak to that.
All that is to say that this assumes you have seen the movie and THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! You’ve been warned.
I have made no secret that I enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). While I am a geek, I never got into comic books. I didn’t see my first one until well past childhood, but I did have a television and loved Transformers, X-Men, Jem and the Holograms. I love the idea of superheroes and I’ve enjoyed the characters I was introduced to through television and movies.
I’ve also grown up with zero expectation of ever seeing myself in any of these stories. I’d conditioned myself to find the tiniest moments of relate-ability and common experience, and humanized swaths of characters who bore no physical or psychological resemblance to me. I learned to see the least tangible aspects of myself in many places, and I learned to ignore or avoid the physical traits that shaped my lived experiences. Basically, I learned to ignore my fat, Black womanhood and that became my normal for entirely too long.
Now that I no longer do that, now that I know that these identifiers are indivisible from how I’m treated as I move through the world, I pay a lot more attention to what messages are being delivered in the content I consume. I pay attention to how the story is being told, who is telling it, and how it treats people who look like me. Because Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of a 22-movie story line, an ambitious and amazing undertaking. I will say that doing something this massive over a 12-year span, has been a culture shock, one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But there are problems and all of them reared their heads in the last chapter. And while I enjoyed Endgame, it was a bit of a disappointment for me...a FUN disappointment, but still…
Let’s start with the most egregious bullshit this movie fed us: time motherfucking travel. It has been long known that time travel is a shit trope. It almost never works and the few times it does, it’s because they NEVER come back to the future. They stay in the past and deal with whatever reality they dumped themselves in. This thing where characters travel back to a time where they already existed and interact with people who knew them? Nope. It does make for funny moments, but it creates so many plot holes that can’t be explained away. It’s a terrible story-telling device and for this 22-movie arc to end with this was highly disappointing. There are so many questions…and maybe they intend to address it in the future, but damn.
Misogynoir and Marvel
Comic books were made by white men who see the world as predominantly white men. Almost every decision they make is to ensure that white men are front and center in the story, because those are the people who matter to them. That means that when they bring these stories to the big screen, it is to cater to the audience they know the comics were written for…themselves.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Spiderman: Homecoming was the first time we saw a Black woman with a significant role as a Black woman in the MCU - movie 16 out of 22. It’s no surprise that Black Panther was the first time we saw irrefutable Black women playing significant roles in the MCU – movie 18 out of 22. It’s why there was doubt whether Black Panther would ever get made. It’s why there hasn’t been a Black Widow origin film, despite the fact that every male Avenger, except Hawkeye, had an origin film. The first woman-led superhero movie of the MCU was the 21st movie in the 22-movie franchise. There are reasons for that.
To say that the MCU doesn’t care about Black people is a slight misstatement. White people don’t care about Black people and men don’t care about women outside of our usefulness to them. As the source material reflects the attitudes and beliefs of the creators, the movies just create the live-action version of it. And the consistent party line has been, “Oh well. Get over it,” while having these franchises force-fed to you any time you engage with media in any way. So, yeah, it’s a problem.
Iron-Man is the Wolverine of the MCU
Anyone who follows me knows I have no love for the character of Iron-Man. And I LOVED the first Iron-Man movie. That movie was when the MCU won my attention. But Iron-Man became the core of every movie and he never evolved as a character. The man you met at the end of Iron-Man 1, is the man you met in Avengers:Endgame – a shallow, man-child asshole with a semi-functioning heart. He is a selfish, self-centered, know-it-all who demands to be in charge and acts like a brat when he isn’t heeded, makes reckless mistakes, and holds other people to a standard he’s actively opted to ignore like in Civil War. Civil War, which was a Captain America movie but really was a stage for Iron-Man and his daddy issues.
I was done with Iron-Man. This was honestly one of the few ways this movie was successful – it completed the story of a man who got his name, not because he wears a suit of iron, but because much like pure iron, he is useless until alloyed (allied) with others. Genius he may be, leader he is not. But he got to be heroic at times and while that mitigated his asshole ways for his fans, it didn’t do shit for me. Rest in peace, Tony.
Captain America and The Paradox
I liked the way they played out Cap’s story. I love that he got to take the shot he thought he missed and enjoy his life. Granted, it created a huge fucking paradox, but who cares if there’s two Caps during the battle of New York, as long as one of them made it there, I guess. And, as my S.O. said, I would have paid money to see Cap return the soul stone to Red Mask. How did that conversation go? That time paradox is a real head-scratcher, especially when Cap has to return the space stone because now there are not one, not two, but THREE Caps in that timeline. This is why time travel is trash and I am annoyed at the Russo brothers for their smug ass, self-congratulatory bullshit on this one.
Black Widow is Support Staff
“I’m always picking up after you boys.” Black Widow, The Avengers: Age of Ultron
I am not a Black Widow fan. They were always pretty open about her being a kick-ass, cheesecake character, but they really fucked with her characterization in The Avengers: Age of Ultron during her relationship with Bruce. When she said that she was a monster because she’d been sterilized during her training…a theme they maintained in Endgame when she sacrificed herself because she had no family… I don’t know. I honestly hated that moment. I felt her death was lazy in so many ways. Same music, same shot from Infinity War. I’m about to nickname Vormir “Dead Woman Drop” because that’s what they seem to like to do there. Her entire story throughout the MCU has centered men and her “choice” to sacrifice herself for the team, her family, was just ugh for me. It was sad and I felt it, but she was really given a disservice in this movie.
Remember her as the badass she was but the writers were quick as fuck to erase by watching a compilation of all the Black Widow fight scenes: https://youtu.be/-OmsnIBbjEQ
Captain Marvel is Depowered
One of the most irritating things about comics is that they make these overpowered (OP) characters and then don’t use them because there would be no story. I mean, I get it, but still. I wish there was more Captain Marvel in this movie. I would have loved to see her initial full-on conversation with the team. I’m sure it would have been a culture shock for everyone, but fun. It was weird watching someone who can stop missiles struggle with Thanos, though. I mean, I know he’s a Titan but she destroyed spaceships. HUGE vessels. But whatever. She can’t come in and save everything cuz patriarchy so instead, she’s just off in space helping others despite being part of this mission and team. They literally wrote her out of the film.
Geek Girl Pandering
I love seeing women handle the business. I really do. But that scene with all the women together felt hokey as fuck. I know people loved it. I love it until I take time to think about it. I mean, I get it, there are a LOT of people in this movie and ultimately, it’s the Tony and Steve show. Everybody couldn’t get a speaking part. Everybody couldn’t get a super fight scene. There were a lot of things going on and we had our designated heroes.
Scenes like this make it extremely obvious that all the women are second-string characters…even Captain Marvel who is the strongest Avenger and helmed her own movie. Part of the backlash we get from moments like these is because they are handled so poorly. But yeah. Women power, even sloppily done, is still better than none...I think. Damnit.
I can honestly say that Thor has had some of the best character development in the MCU and while they kept some of that development, in Endgame they reframed it as a movie-length fat-joke. That was fucking sad in its disrespect to the character. This was such a huge shift from Thor: Ragnarok, which was a fantastic commentary on imperialism and what it could look like for the oppressor to lose their power. Thor literally lost everything, and it completely changed his character. He’d lost his phallic symbol of power and learned that he was stronger than Mjolnir allowed him to be. And then Infinity War happened, and he got a new, bigger, shinier penis. Then Endgame happened, and he went back in time and grabbed his old, comfortable penis. Then he got to wield two penises during the final battle until Cap grabbed one and tossed it at Thanos for a bit which caused a collective nerdgasm in the theater.
I struggle with this development because it becomes super obvious what kind of people are at the helm when they make decisions on characters like this. You can see the difference with which the characters are treated based on whether the creators are usually punching down or being punched because many times, when the decision-makers are the ones who have been punched, you see an sensitivity and awareness of that in the narrative. When the decision-makers are the ones used to punching down, they can’t tell the difference between creating a humorous situation and taking pot-shots at vulnerable situations. The way they handled Thor repeatedly demonstrated that and was a opportunity they made into a farce...and that’s unfortunate.
A Distinct Lack of Character Development
The thing with The Avengers movies is that we are meant to come into them knowing these characters. It is frustrating to see characters consistently never change despite tremendous events. It’s not really fair to talk about character development in these huge ensemble movies, but in light of the choice they made with Thor, which was a clear opportunity for them to do so, they clearly had some opportunities and chose not to do it. They came close with Nebula and Hawkeye - I’m super curious to see if they ever address Nebula murdering her past self – and that’s ignoring the paradox that caused. Fucking time travel. I’m also wondering how they are going to address Clint’s five-year murderous rampage…cuz that does not a hero make. But then again, Marvel really loves pushing these stories where white guys get infinite chances to become better people and then can erase all their fuckery with one glorious sacrifice *cough* Iron-Man *cough* so I’m sure there’s a redemption story on the way for Hawkeye.
The More I Think About It, The Worse It Gets
I gotta mention that bullshit back-pat the Russo brothers are giving for having an openly gay character “canonically” in the MCU in a fucking blink and you’ll miss it moment. He didn’t even have a name – neither character did. But yeah, be proud of that progressive choice that isn’t actually progressive at all over 22 fucking movies. What they accomplished was amazing, but I need them to stop spinning this as a socially progressive project, because it’s not. So much of the progress was reactionary and doesn’t push any boundaries. They are slowly including the actual demographics of the country. And I’ve said repeatedly, it’s not enough.
Avengers: Endgame is Cotton Candy: Pretty, Fluffy, and Fun But Melts with Any Contact
Some people love superhero movies because of the social commentary they provide on right and wrong. Other people love them because they get to see live-action versions of stories about the characters they love. I’m in the first camp and MCU Phase 3 not only raised the bar on the types of stories they could tell, they also raised my hopes. Avengers: Endgame was made to satisfy the second camp, and much like Thanos, it sacrificed everything to cater to easter egg worshipers and fan-fantasies.
I had a great time, but I left feeling empty. I’m clearly not the audience they made this movie for, which is something I’m used to, but I don’t have to be silent about it.
Maybe this was a review after all…
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