A Colossally Bad, and Therefore Inevitably Inescapable, Thing for Franchise Fans to Do

My recent blogging respite has refreshed me, and left me…on fire with a great idea! Let me explain.

Recently, someone spoke out in my presence about their desire to “see #AvengersEndgame one more time, to help it beat Avatar.” They wanted to see it again just to help push it over the edge, so to speak, and give it the all-time record for global box office ticket sales.

I responded with my typical sort of zinger, “You know you don’t get any of that money if they hit number one, right?” The thought was reiterated that they “just can’t stand” that “Avatar is number one” because they “hate” that movie and love #AvengersEndgame.

I can’t believe people say Fandom is broken!

As a quick aside, I also remember how desperately fans wanted Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace to “beat” Titanic. They also wanted Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens to “beat” Avatar.

I don’t know the specific beef that Star Wars fans have with James Cameron, but it’s pathological at this point. I half-expect to see voodoo dolls with miniature Kylo Ren lightsabers sticking in them, in these peoples’ houses.

As I kept thinking about the box office “championship,” and later while speaking to a friend about it, I realized that there’s an idea brewing in our times of crowdfunding and fan tribalism.

Fans should just buy tickets and not bother going to the movie. Just buy a ticket a day. Go if you can, or don’t go. The important thing is just to purchase the ticket.

I mean, think about it. If it’s that important that the movie you “love” is number one, there’s no reason not to do that. Then you get to have the bragging rights that you helped the movie in some way, and so part of that “victory” is yours!

A Glorious Victory

Imagine, if you will, a glorious day when someone remarks that [Insert Movie Title, Most Likely One Released by a Disney©®™ subsidiary] is “Number One in the World!” You’d be able to remark that they “couldn’t have done it” without you.

They’d ask, “How many times did you see it?”

You’d reply, “Oh, only three times…but I bought tickets for fifteen shows!”

To make it even more serious, the Studio Execs could set up an online pledge form for fans to promise to buy tickets for a certain number of shows. This would help with gross box office projections, and enable the studios to send emails with campaign appeals to remind people of where they are on their pledges.

People could upload photos of their tickets to prove their fulfillment of the commitment; like Rotten Tomatoes, we want to keep things “verified.”

As an added enticement, they could then send out limited edition pins to those who make the commitment. People love collectibles, and then they could walk around with a pin declaring that they “helped” the movie they enjoy “hit number 1”!

Imagine the treasure trove of exclusives possibly branching out from there. You could make it a tiered system where there’s a pin for the lowest level, a shirt for the next, and a special hat for those who pledge to buy tickets at the “premiere level.”

I mean, this isn’t really that far a step for people who buy tickets to four showings on opening weekend without even having seen the movie. They don’t even care about reviews or enjoyability. They just want to see it four times so they can…I don’t know…see it four times in three days for whatever reason.

One Last Alternative

Alternatively, you could just like what you like and not care whether a movie makes $2.6 Billion, or $2.7 Billion. Either way, you can rest assured that it’ll make it that much harder for a smaller film to get noticed as every multiplex makes sure to book every screen for Franchise Blockbuster Movie 12: The End of the Era Before the Next Era Starts.

And isn’t that the point?

#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.

In Honor of #AvengersEndgame Crossing $2 Billion in Worldwide Box Office Here’s My Art for the Home Release Cover

In honor of #AvengersEndgame crossing $2 Billion in worldwide box office, I decided that it was time to share another new image here on the blog showcasing what you can do with a funny face.

I think that if Marvel®™© really wants to give me a reason to buy #AvengersEndgame on home release, they need to work this shot into it. They could also give us a steelbook version with this on the cover.

C’mon, Russo Brothers. Your movie’s made $2 Billion and counting. Use this art on the home release packaging. It’s better than anything else you’re considering.

AVENGERS ENDGAME is a movie with the AVENGERS that needs CRAIGULA
May this silly expression haunt you as it does me.

Fine! Here’s My #AvengersEndgame Review

Everyone else is posting their reviews everywhere they can, so I’m going to go ahead and repost the one I wrote for my Letterboxd account. I also can be heard on a show chatting about it in a little more detail, but unlike this review it’s unrestrictedly spoiler-filled. You may want to stick with this first.

Avengers Endgame poster for Avengers Endgame which is an Avengers movie called Avengers Endgame featuring the Avengers in Avengers Endgame.
Why’s Thor the only Avenger with his eyes open who’s looking to the right? What are the other people missing? Okoye looks downright bummed about it.

The Official kesseljunkie Review of #AvengersEndgame That You Always Wanted

Please note: This is spoiler-free, but it does address some structural things that someone might not care to read before seeing the movie.

There’s a lot to like in Avengers: Endgame. There are some terrific character moments blended with epic action. Each character who’s been with the franchise since the beginning is given a story beat to emphasize them.

If you’re a fan of long-standing, it makes sure to thank you as explicitly as possible by including as much as it can to let you know they paid attention to what you liked. They even go out of their way to have a wink and a nod to the things you didn’t.

The cynical way to put this is that we all knew that it was going to be Fan Service: The Movie. It’s how it was essentially billed.

Unfortunately, it has couple of strikes against it. It uses a significant cheat in the storytelling that undercuts some of the terrific development it has at other points. It “starts” multiple times, which gets a touch tedious in the first thirty minutes.

Could these issues have have been avoided? That’s a fair question. It may simply be that something on this scale can’t escape them. You just have to live with what can’t be overcome.

The Russos are masters of getting a large cast to work well, and iron out the flow once the plot gets going. And they do that here, for the most part. This is a terribly complex movie with a lot of external demands, so these flaws seem somewhat inescapable.

Some of the effects are terrific…and some of the effects are bafflingly inadequate. I seem to be on a shrinking island of caring about that, though. And to be clear, it’s not that I’m critiquing anything that pushes an envelope. When you push an envelope, I’m willing to go along with the challenges inherent in innovation. I’m talking about things that were surmountable with a little more finesse.

The largest flaw that can’t escape criticism is the final battle scene. For all the terrific moments it has – including one that got applause from me in the theater – there is a muddiness to the action that makes it clear that those moments are all that is important. I would’ve liked to see it flow much more organically, instead of using the same cheat that Infinity War did, which is that every person is exactly where they need to be at any given moment.

I could go on about other things that didn’t work so well, but they speak again to that idea of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. It’s fine, and I can look the other way on some things. They might not work terribly well, but they’re only pieces of a very large puzzle.

But the ending is satisfying, and the Russos are careful to have the necessary denoument to let fans feel emotionally complete. These aren’t movies anymore, so much as coordinated events.

On that mark, this is a great success.

Coda

Again, this review is a bit restricted for the sake of avoiding spoiler talk. There are some very specific things about the movie that would explain why my “final rating” might even seem a bit lower than that review implies. But I’m trying to keep it as vague as possible at this point. I don’t want to spoil something the way some people did for Game of Thrones fans.

I’m happy to expand these thoughts, if you want, or if you have any questions that you want to leave in the comments section.

The Only #AvengersEndgame Review You’ll Ever Need

This week will be awash with “Explainer Videos,” podcasts, think pieces, reaction blogs, and hot takes to celebrate the release of #AvengersEndgame. Cutting through this virtual crop of digital reaction will consume more time than the movie’s actual, three-hour run time.

You will be surrounded by qualifiers like “for me,” Statements of Epic Import like “over a bajillion movies and umpteen years,” and “I’ve been there since the beginning.” These qualifying statements will let you know that each piece is to be taken with an implied thoughtful gravity.

We all didn’t just watch a movie, we were part of an experience.

Some people will argue finer points. Each critic will offer a token flaw to prove they’re not blinded by the hype. They can tell you Iron Man’s waist size, and recount the emotional import of Movie A that impacted Movie B to be paid off in Movie C, but they’re not clouded by minutiae.

I promise you something more. Follow along with me.

Avengers Endgame #Avengers #AvengersEndgame #Endgame #AvengersEndgame is an #Avengers movie with the #Avengers in #AvengersEndgame.
“Watch what you say.”

The Only #AvengersEndgame Review You’ll Ever Need

For this part, I want you to walk to the mirror. Look in it.

While looking into your own eyes, give voice to what you thought of #AvengersEndgame. Say it loudly, and say it proudly.

There you go. That’s the only #AvengersEndgame review you’ll ever need.

Have fun discussing it. Get carried away dissecting it. Allow the monumental achievement of watching 22 movies in 11 years give you pause.

Each person’s reaction is their own. It’s not anyone’s responsibility to defend the movie against those for whom it resonated less. It’s not anyone’s mandate to hack on the movie to prove their point with those who liked it more.

I’m not saying anything that anyone doesn’t know. I think I wanted to write it out because sometimes I wonder. As a veteran of the Star Wars Prequel Slap Fights, and various other movie reaction debacles over time, it seems like we’re poised for problems with every event movie that’s released.

Even after seeing #AvengersEndgame, I’m avoiding discussions of it. I’ll participate in a few. One will be recorded. There are a few friends where I’ll talk it over, one-to-one. I just don’t see anything good coming out of online participation anymore.

I just don’t ever see it going “well” anymore in the larger conversations. Every review becomes a personal battlefield. If it’s in disagreement with yours, it’s important to attack or defend as the case may be.

It becomes a battle of comparisons, where the temerity of someone who dis/liked [a Movie] to try to [praise/defend] this movie is a high crime worthy of rhetorical scorn. It’s also a joy as people say that “anyone who dis/likes X is a dope…but don’t take that personally.”

Better to let it settle, remember opinions on movies are subjective, and keep the conversations small. I can promise you a more in-depth review on Letterboxd later. After the dust settles, we’ll see what everyone thinks of it there.

I still wish I didn’t have to give a star rating. But that’s the world in which we’re livin’, amirite?

We’ll see how it goes.