Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Quick Thoughts: Endgame and the MCU

Finally saw Avengers: Endgame over the weekend.  My kids and I felt very much like the last people on Earth to get to the movie, but I know that’s not true.  In fact, I work with a couple of guys who’ve never seen any of the Avengers movies. I mean, I know it feels like Marvel have taken over the movie world, but it’s still a specific niche, believe it or not, and there are plenty of folks who aren’t paying attention.  It’s just a very loud kind of niche.

Lots of folks have published thoughts about Endgame.  It’s unclear that the world needs mine.  I’m gonna give them to you anyway, though, mostly because I’ve not yet had any time to grill or to think overmuch about how I’m going to write about grilling.
*big-time spoilers ahead*
Who Doesn’t Love a Road Trip?
I liked the movie a lot, but I confess to liking the first half to two-thirds more than the last third.  I mean, the ending had a few great feel-good moments, and those worked because they’d been earned.  However, we all knew the happy ending was coming.  To the extent that this particular two movie set broke new ground, it was with the way it explored issues of failure, loss, and grief.
Who was expecting that from the Avengers franchise?  
I loved the world that tried and failed to move on, and even more than that, I loved the time-heist road trip that the heroes take into their own backstory to set up the MacGuffin in this movie.  That was such an effective way to both remind us how we got here and show us how much these characters have grown and changed.  I didn’t realize that I needed Cap and Iron Man on one last mission together, and I certainly didn’t know that Nebula and War Machine make an obvious pairing.  But I did, and they do.
Let’s Talk Black Widow
Perhaps the biggest gripe I had with Endgame was the very end.  Everybody is standing around at Tony Stark’s funeral, paying homage to a man who gave his life to save the rest of us, and that’s great.  But a couple of other folks also did that, and yet, Stark’s is the only marker.  Granted, we’re at his house, and it’s clearly his funeral.  His wife and daughter are standing right there.  But still, even if you discount what happened to the Vision, the Black Widow definitely deserved a wreath in that water.  Stark can’t make the final sacrifice if she doesn’t make it first.
To be clear, I don’t think it’s sexist.  I think this was Robert Downey Jr.’s movie from the start, and that the Marvel folks were acknowledging his personal contributions to their overall success.  But it struck me a little weird.  I’ve never seen soldiers rank the sacrifices of their fallen before.
Black Widow’s arc in the Marvel movies gets a bad wrap.  On the one hand, I can see the point folks have when they say that she should have had her own solo movie long since.  I don’t disagree.  However, her story is a Hell of a downer, so it’s not exactly a surprise that Marvel went with their perticular version of Superman for their first woman-led solo project.  
Captain Marvel is uplifting.  Black Widow… not so much.
With all of that said, I particularly hate the ire Widow’s portrayal gets in Age of Ultron.  At the risk of mansplaining, it strikes me that most of the critics are misreading the scene.
Scene: Widow and Bruce Banner have developed an unlooked-for chemistry.  She likes him, I think, because 1) he’s totally unavailable, and 2) no matter what, she’s not going to hurt or break him.  He’s the freaking Hulk.  Meanwhile, their friend’s killer robot has just kicked their collective asses--twice--leading to a team-level existential crisis.  Like the rest of them, Widow is struggling with doubt, both self and team, and her worst fears come spilling out.
“You’re a monster.  Well, I’m a monster, too.”  And we get a little talk about what they did to her in the Red Room, including that she can’t have kids because they sterilized her as part of her training.
I took the moment as deliberately ironic.  Widow is saying something that she believes, that the audience knows is bullshit.  She’s obviously not a monster because she can’t have kids.  That’s dramatic irony.  It’s baggage that she should’ve jettisoned years ago, and Bruce treats it that way.  He says, essentially, “I’m a way bigger monster than you,” which is absolutely true though maybe not what she wanted to hear in that moment.
We know that Black Widow is not a monster.  This is the point.  But she thinks that she is because that’s how people work sometimes.  Especially after getting mind-whammied by the Scarlet Witch.
People hate this scene because they think Joss Whedon is being misogynistic about female reproduction, but I’ve always thought that the reverse was true.  He was trying to make a point about how women can be a lot more than just baby factories, but unfortunately, folks couldn’t read the irony.  We live in an unsubtle world, alas.  
The Black Widow is a committed badass for twenty-two movies minus one five-minute scene, and people savage her for those five minutes.  Even Captain America is allowed more self-doubt than this.
What is wrong with people?
Iron Man 2
Everyone hates Iron Man 2, but I’ve always liked it.  Perhaps because I was a fan of the Iron Man comics before they created the movie franchise.  Iron Man 2 is the only installment in the series that is at all like the comics.  
I guess that shows why the comics weren’t super-popular back in the day and also why it’s not super-important to stick close to the source material with this stuff.
Captain Marvel vs. Thanos
They did a nice job not overusing the new characters.  Endgame made a point of featuring the OG Avengers.  That worked.
I suppose they had to include Captain Marvel by way of passing the torch, but I still found it satisfying that she wasn’t much more successful against Thanos than the Old Guard had been.  Even with Carol and all the rest of the reborn heroes, the good guys were still definitely losing.  
Thanos kicked all their asses one at a time.
It’ll be interesting to see what they do with Carol Danvers next.  She’s so powerful that I’m afraid they’ll have trouble writing trouble for her the way that DC has sometimes had trouble writing for Superman.
The New Captain America
Bucky and Sam Wilson have both held the shield in recent years in the comics.  Wilson held it more recently, and he makes sense in the MCU given the baggage that Bucky’s carrying alongside his backstory.  Still, Bucky takes Sam’s getting the shield with amazing equanimity.
I thought these guys didn’t really like each other?
I’d like to see another Captain America movie with the Falcon as Captain America.  Supposedly, they’re gonna do it as a series on Disney+, but I still want an actual movie.
What’s Next?
Spider-Man: Far From Home is gonna turn the page, but after that, it might be awhile before we advance the story much.  Black Widow looks to be a flashback, and presumably The Eternals will be as well.  It amazes me that they’re seriously developing an Eternals movie, but what can you do?
Black Panther 2 has plenty of source material but no obvious next step.  Doctor Strange 2 is similar, though we know that Baron Mordo is still kicking around, and I think it’s safe to assume that he really disliked the Avengers’ misuse of time-travel and the Infinity Stones.  Personally, I’d really like to see a Defenders riff that includes the Hulk and Valkerie--and Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat, from Jessica Jones alongside her comic book husband, the Son of Satan.  Assuming that Far From Home legitimately sets up an issue with interdimensional travel and/or invasion, that’s the kind of thing that Strange and the Defenders might outta look into.  But we’ll see.
Of all the projects in the hopper, only Guardians 3 has a legitimate direction right now.  James Gunn has said he has a story to tell about a racoon, and of course, our heroes have to go find 2014 Gamora.
The next actual Marvel movie--not Sony’s Far From Home--won’t premier until May 1, 2020.  That’s a full year away.
What’s next?  No one knows.

No comments:

Post a Comment