#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.

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.

On the Matter of Spoilers

Not a long one today.

As I prepare to see Disney®©™’s Marvel®™©’s #AvengersEndgame for the first time, I’m struck by the seemingly difficult task of staying “spoiler free.” I’ve discussed that matter with a number of friends, as I’m sure everyone else has.

To be clear, I’m somewhat “militant” about my desire to be “spoiler free.” I don’t even want to know what someone thinks of an event movie before I go to see it. It’s why I’ve even removed the Letterboxd app from my phone temporarily; I can’t prevent the feed from showing me star ratings from the occasional friend for these event movies.

I want my experience to be my own.

Giving up social media for Lent prepared me, fortunately, for missing all the talk there, too. My friends know how I want to be for these things.

And yet, I’ve still been challenged to stay spoiler free. Someone at work read something on line and started recounting it, to share with everyone what was spoiled for them. A friend blurted out a question about “do you remember [not spoiling it for you by naming the movie here]?” So now I know something from that has something to do with this. I don’t know what, but I will be waiting through the whole movie for the thing that reminds me of it.

It doesn’t even serve any purpose to share that information. Even if I don’t remember it, if the movie is done well…it doesn’t matter. I should be able to enjoy it even if I didn’t see [not spoiling it for you by naming the movie here]. All that’s happened is that I’ve noodled through something that I’m pretty sure I’m right about, and the movie has to work harder to  keep me distracted from “waiting” for that thing to be a thing.

Avengers Endgame is spoiled meat with Avengers Endgame.
Spoiled meat is still meat. But I’m not looking forward to it as much.

But Why Do You Care, kesseljunkie?

I think a lot of it has to do with “peer pressure” affecting reviews. I know that everyone likes to think themselves immune to it, but one has only to look at the tidal wave of opinion on popular movies to wonder how much we are. The vociferous response to the admittedly-underwhelming Batman v Superman: Dawn of as Many Words as Marketing Can Fit in Here fed on itself, to the point where DC movie fans were able to wear a victim shield online.

I think the thunderous applause for Thor Ragnarok was also something where momentum carried the day; I’ve even spoken with friends who raved about it at first, only to see them “come down” on their second viewing. (For the record, I like Thor Ragnarok just fine. I just didn’t get the fervor behind a lot of the positive reactions. I also got dragged for not being effusively positive about it.)

And that’s fine! But it’s why I don’t even want to know if people liked/loved an event movie until I’ve seen it. Because if you find yourself standing athwart that tsunami of opinion, you can spend more time during the movie wondering why you don’t love/hate it, as you do watching the film.

To emphasize again, I think this is unique to event movies. Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t fill me with the urge to silence people. I didn’t mind being one of the souls who loved Bad Times at the El Royale. I have a Ph.D. in GFY thanks to years of getting hammered for loving the Star Wars prequels.

Event movies are crafted like culinary experiences. They’re best enjoyed with a clean palate and readiness for the experience.

I just wish everyone falls all over themselves to be the first ones to tell you what they think, or what they heard. Let everyone have a shot at the clean experience.

Could #Sybok Have Stopped #Thanos? #AvengersInfinityWar #AvengersEndgame

This is one of those posts that I know, in my heart of hearts, only I could have written.

One of the few properties Disney®©™ doesn’t own – yet – is Star Trek™©®. However, I have a terrific idea for how they could bring this property over to interact with Marvel©™®’s Avengers. Even if only as a part of the upcoming What If television series, there’s an incredible multi-franchise crossover opportunity here!

Look, humor me on this one. It’s worth it. Just refer to my previous post asking whether Sybok could have saved Darth Vader for proof!

Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok in Star Trek V which is a Star Trek movie featuring Sybok in Star Trek V The Final Frontier a Star Trek Movie with Sybok this actually works.
Sybok arrives with his cohort to deliver Thanos from his pain.

The Pitch: Sybok, Spock’s Half-Brother in Star Trek, Could Counsel Thanos into Finding Another Solution in #Avengers #InfinityWar

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds! After all, Avengers: Infinity War goes to terrific lengths to make Thanos seem less than absolutely bat-guano crazy. It even makes him sympathetic! The movie proposes that his goal is to be lauded, even if his methods are somewhat questionable. He’s turned into a pitiable figure who doesn’t want to murder people, but feels like he has no choice, so he may as well enjoy it.

Thanos’ psychological profile doesn’t really answer a whole lot of other questions, but we all agreed to go along for the ride. You can’t change your mind now.

Given that he’s an empathetic being, albeit a psychotic one, means that he’s dealing with pain. He admits at the end of Avengers: Infinity War that he’s haunted by the environmental devastation his own home world visited upon itself with unchecked growth and development.

Arguably, if only someone had helped him come to terms with his feelings on the matter, he may not have gone on his universal death march. He would have looked toward a more sensible approach like I suggested in a previous post, of using the stones to ensure unlimited resources and to mitigate environmental impact. After all, he had the power to do just that!

So we have to accept at a baseline that Thanos was merely misguided about how to help the world. By dealing with his pain, he could have been encouraged to find better solutions.

This is where Sybok comes in!

A Primer on Sybok

In case someone is reading this by chance and not intent, and you don’t know, Sybok is a Vulcan in Star Trek who uses his powerful mental powers to get people in touch with their emotions. He places them in a mental space where they encounter, grapple with, and theoretically release their most pronounced grief. They are placed back in that moment, to overcome whatever tragic weight they are carrying with them.

This intensively hallucinatory therapy bears the fruit of making the beings he encounters peaceful. They are open to lives of peace, love, and happiness.

That’s where we get to work with Thanos!

Sometimes Bad Guys Just Need a Hug?

If there’s any theme that’s gained traction with regards to our collective concepts of justice, it’s that sometimes people stray just because they weren’t hugged enough. Thanos sure seems a candidate for this category, considering the fact that Avengers: Infinity War leans so heavily into the idea that I laid out earlier.

Thanos is a haunted soul who’s got love to give…he just doesn’t know where to put it.

WIlliam H Macy as Quiz Kid Donny Smith in Magnolia which is a character I really laid myself out in terms of a reference in a post about Sybok and Thanos.
Quiz Kid Donny Smith would want Thanos to know it’s OK.

Sybok could put Thanos in touch with his pain, and open him to the possibility of releasing it. This weight being lifted from his shoulders would free him of the burden to save the universe by any poorly-planned and mathematically flawed means necessary. Everyone survive and, instead of taking the infinity stones to wreak mass murder, he’d lead all of reality to an unbroken existence of peace and plenty.

This even makes a certain sort of symmetrical sense in the fact that Sybok defeated a creature that pretended it was God by trying to hug it and unseal its pain. Thanos is a creature pretending to be God, and so the same tactic should work.

Even More Opportunities Open from Here

For this reason, it’s clear that Disney®©™ needs to purchase Paramount in order to join the Star Trek and Avengers franchises. As an added bonus, they could also have Sybok travel to the X-Men universe when it reboots inevitably. Sybok could help Magneto through his pain, and prevent all that loss as well.

I foresee a mighty series where Sybok traverses each franchise, acting like Sam from Quantum Leap to set things right. It could run on the Disney+ app, minimizing cost and maximizing exposure.

You know that you’d watch. I know I would, at least, in between viewings of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

William Shatner as Captain Kirk in Star Trek V which is a Star Trek movie with William Shatner as Captain Kirk.
I expect many of you have expressions like this at the end of the post.

P.S. As of the time that this publishes, I still haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame. For all I know this is exactly how it goes down. No spoilers in the comments, please, either way. Not just for my sake but for anyone else who might happen along. Be a sport.

 

A Question About How It Was Determined Who Lived and Died in #InfinityWar as I Prepare to Watch #AvengersEndgame

This post is timed to launch on the first day that normal people can see #AvengersEndgame, because I figure why not try to do something like that to ride the #Marvel wave of #Disney marketing that commands we pay attention.

As a warning, I’m attempting to hashtag everything that might be worthy of a hashtag on #Twitter in the coming days, as regards #AvengersEndgame. If you’re wondering why, it’s because I do this to entertain myself. It entertains me. Everyone else leans into hashtag culture, so I will, too.

My own growing apathy about the #Marvel franchise as a whole is well-documented. It’s been a long time, I’m tired, and I’m ready to get off this ride. It’s not them, it’s me. They’re who they’ve always been, I think that I’m just in a different place. It happens.

Yes, I admit that I’ll likely change my tune for #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy Vol. 3, but those have always been outliers in my opinion. However, I have to admit that by the time it’s released, I won’t even care about that.

movie theater screen in a movie theater which has a screen which is what movie theaters have, which is movie theater screens.
They could release an #Avengers movie that was just this blank screen for three hours, and at least 48% of #Marvel fans would tear apart the first critics.

Why Were Specifically Half the #Avengers Wiped Out at the End of #InfinityWar?

When #Thanos snapped his fingers, an event “cleverly” referred to by #Marvel fans as the #Snappening, why were specifically half of the #Avengers wiped out? Couldn’t the mathematical probabilities have impacted them disproportionately in some fashion?

To be clear, I’m not fuzzy on the storytelling decision-making that spared them. I understand the marketing reasons that certain #Avengers had to survive as well. I mean, heck, they couldn’t even fit all of them into one movie last time. They had to be expected to thin the ranks after hitting critical mass.

It just seems that #Thanos constructed a very specific mathematical formula in his brain to wipe out half of each population down to each subset affected. This is opposed to a flat half, which would have left open the potential for the #Avengers to be reduced by any variable from zero to one hundred percent.

I understand #Thanos had all six #InfinityStones at his command, and was able to see myriad possibilities. I guess above all else I’m impressed with #Thanos’ presence of mind to “tell” the stones, specifically, to wipe out the half the #Avengers, then half the remaining population of the each country on each planet on the universe.

Maybe it’s the lazy side of me, which is an admittedly dominant side, that just would have told the stones to wipe out half and leave it at that. I wouldn’t care if all the #Avengers survived, or if all of them were destroyed completely. If I’m #Thanos, “my goal” is simply a gross reduction of 50%. If one planet survives and another remains untouched…it shouldn’t really matter.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s too precise. I’m also saying that these are the sorts of reasons I’d be even more dangerous if I were #Thanos. I’m just kidding, of course. I’d be less dangerous, because I’d use the #InfinityGauntlet to ensure endless resources and mitigate damage…instead of seeing mass murder as a viable option.

Crazy me!

It’s a Reasonable Question Leading into #AvengersEndgame

This is a reasonable question about #AvengersInfinityWar. I don’t think it’s even that nerdy. It’s a little bit nerdy, but not as bad as some of the other things I’ve written.

I’m graciously setting aside the entire idea that #CaptainMarvel would be guaranteed to survive, too. I’m completely ignoring the fact that somehow #NickFury knew in his core being that there was a zero percent chance that #CaptainMarvel was going to be turned into toxic ash.

For that matter, I’m ignoring the fact that #Thanos the “environmentalist” turned half of everyone into nothing in an instant. From an environmental standpoint, this would almost guarantee cataclysmic results on industrialized planets! People working nuclear power plants would disappear, guaranteeing at least one Fukushima-style catastrophe. Airplanes would plummet from the sky, unless he further delineated that only one of any set of pilots disappear from an aircraft unless there was only one pilot, in which case an extra passenger would disappear, unless there was…

…and so forth. I mean, I’m just sayin’.

#Thanos in #InfinityWar which is a #marvel movie with the #avengers in the #mcu which is a prelude to #AvengersEndgame and filled with enough #hashtags to make the sanest man #mad.
Turns out, he’s not as good a planner as people thought.