#AvengersEndgame’s Mixed-Up Messages on Loss & Death

This is the one obligatory “Spoiler Warning” you get. Disney®©™’s Marvel©®™’s trailer for their mildly-interesting Spider-Man™ sequel felt free to dive into Avengers®: Endgame© spoilers™ barely two weeks beyond the release of their latest Avengers® box office behemoth, so I feel free to do the same.

If you want to enjoy these thoughts, know that I’ll be discussing Avengers®: Endgame© and all the other Marvel©®™ properties relevant to the discussion.

If you proceed, it’s not on me. Also, as fair warning, you might hate what I’m about to say.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man in Avengers Endgame, which is an Avengers movie called Avengers Endgame with Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.
“This helmet is recording a ton of spoilers, though its existence isn’t supported by the way my  armor worked in Infinity War.”

Everything About This Franchise Exposes How We’re Unwilling to Let Go

One of the most important lessons that a human being can learn is to “let go.” The past is behind us, the present is fleeting, and the future is upon us.

Popular entertainment used to support this lesson. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is all about letting go of the past and embracing what we still have. Anakin’s fatal downfall in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is his inability to release his attachments and understand that, however painful it is, we have to accept that we can’t control the change.

Heck, Shmi herself imparts this lesson to Anakin as he prepares to leave Tatooine in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the saga, truth be told.

(Of course I’m setting aside religious debates about an afterlife. That’s a different conversation. What we’re discussing here has to do with how those of us left behind deal with death as it affects us.)

Have We Regressed?

A mere 20 years later, the lesson of our most popular franchise movie hit is that our ultimate goal is to undo tragedy. This seems to work against the theme at play in the earlier part of the movie. It drives me nuts, actually.

They “undid” Thor’s lost eye in Infinity War, and then they “undid” the loss of Mjolnir in Endgame. They “undid” his maturity and actually regressed him to a point where he abdicated his hard-earned growth into leadership.

They gave Hulk a fascinating inner conflict in Infinity War, and then got rid of it with a (wait for it) snap in Endgame. Captain America is able to undo not just the removal of the Infinity Stones from the timeline(s), but the entire tragic sacrifice that defined his character since Captain America: The First Avenger.

Gamorra gets replaced with an alternate version of Gamorra. This undoes the sacrifice that “couldn’t be” undone, albeit in a unique way.

I’m completely aware that the death of Iron Man and Black Widow are supposedly  irreversible per this story. The twist is that since they’ve introduced time-travel-at-whim, and shown a willingness to bring Gamorra back from the past to use her character again despite her own “irreversible” death, I’m not willing to accept it as permanent.

As Avengers®: Endgame© winds down, it seems the ultimate goal was…stasis.

This captures a seeming cultural obsession with “death denial” that drives people to all sorts of measures to undo the aging process. It’s fascinating to me.

Fans on the one hand seem to be obsessed with progress, but only so far as that’s defined as “story beats.” Avengers®: Endgame© reveals that as a story arc, the most important thing in a modern franchise is to control life to the point where pain and death not just minimized, but surmountable and erasable.

To prove I’m not just picking on Marvel, I’ll also call out the last moment in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Extended Cuts which telegraphs that Superman isn’t staying dead. The heroic sacrifice in that movie is promised to be undone before the end credits even roll. Infinity War at least had the decency to self-contain as a story.

AVENGERS-EndCraig
I admit I’d be distraught about losing that face, too, though.

Even The Transformers: The Movie Had the Courage to Wipe Out Old Characters

The Transformers: The Movie (1986) was a virtual bloodbath (oilsport?) that slaughtered so many old characters in the first half of the movie that the remaining cast was almost unrecognizable at the end. Kids were traumatized by the death of Optimus Prime (spoilers!) and disoriented by the transformation of Megatron into Galvatron. Everything was the same, but never the same again.

That is, until the outcry from kids and parents was so great they brought Optimus Prime back from the dead in the television series (spoilers!). Kids couldn’t handle the idea that their heroes were gone forever.

Naturally, terrified of losing their viewer base of children, they felt they had to bring him back. Far be it from them to teach kids that the farewell of death, as painful as it is, is something that we have to accept. Far be it from the parents to teach their kids that, as much as they cried at the death of Optimus Prime, it was a lesson to learn about treasuring life and legacy.

Optimus Prime teaches the same lesson that our elders always have. That we die is not the important part of this material world; it’s what we leave behind. Hot Rod became Rodimus Prime when he realized it wasn’t anyone’s duty but his own to accept these things and move forward.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it appears that when comparing Disney®©™’s Marvel©®™’s Avengers®: Endgame©, it seems that Transformers: The Movie had a healthier approach to the themes of death and farewell.

I remind you that I liked Disney®©™’s Marvel©®™’s Avengers®: Endgame©. I’m just pointing something out.

If you think I’m wrong, feel free to leave a comment.

‘Til all are one!

Optimus Prime dying in The Transformers The Movie a Transformers movie with Optimus Prime in 1986 that's a Transformers movie called The Transformers The Movie which was released in 1986 with Optimus Prime.
Spoilers.

2 thoughts on “#AvengersEndgame’s Mixed-Up Messages on Loss & Death

  1. To quote Professor X in an X-Factor comic “in mutant heaven, there are no pearly gates, but instead revolving doors.” So there is no permanent death or loss in the superhero world. The Flash, Green Lantern (both Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner, Batman, Batman (again), Batman (again), ok so Batman is on this list at least a dozen times. Then we have Captain America, pretty much every mutant in the X-universe, most of Alpha Flight, well, you get the point. Comics don’t have a great track record on healthy approaches to death and farewell. I mean even an arc called the Death of Superman, where DC said “no, this is for real, Superman’s gone” only lasted a little while. I guess the thing about death and loss of heroes really boils down to how much you complain about their death. Did anyone complain when X-Statix were killed off? Or did anyone notice when low-rent Thor Thunderstrike bit the dust? Nope. The only one we thought was permanent in death was Uncle Ben, but even Dr. Strange once brought him back to talk to Peter.
    Have we regressed? No. We are just now seeing the lack of dealing with death for a character in the mainstream now. Plus, nothing is irreversible now in the MCU now that they have introduced all the Infinity Gems. Wait until they introduce Cosmic Cubes, that will be fun for movie-goers to wrap their head around.

    Like

    1. “Have we regressed? No. We are just now seeing the lack of dealing with death for a character in the mainstream now. ”

      I’ll overlook the fact you walked right past the most egregious example of bringing a comic book character back Robin’s death in “A Death in the Family” was shocking and stood for years, and to have undone it was cheap. But let’s discuss your point.

      Your qualifier seems to be that the comic book nerd subculture has always been this way and it’s that it’s gone on to infect the culture as a whole from this point forward. In which case, it’s still that the *whole* is being regressed by the virus that’s rewiring the host’s systems.

      I can see that point. Perhaps it speaks even more to the idea that I’ve been “one toe in the water” with comics for years and overlooked the subculture’s tendency.

      P.S. If anyone thinks I was being too rough with this guy at the opening, I know who he is. He deserved it.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.