Those Nagging Concerns That Kept Me From Fully Enjoying Avengers: Endgame

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I liked Avengers: Endgame, a lot. It was the culmination of not only eleven years of filmmaking spanning 22 movies. It was watching the heroes of my childhood realistically come to life. I grew up reading Marvel Comics, patronizing Shinder’s Bookstore on the corner of 7th and Hennepin in Minneapolis which was fortuitously where I changed buses on my way home from school five days a week. A black youth spending much of my disposable income following the exploits of the almost all-white heroes. Then, and now, my favorite being a blonde haired Norse god who carried a hammer whose name I only realized I was mispronouncing in my head when I finally heard someone else say it aloud.

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I am unashamedly a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I learned to appreciate characters I only tolerated in the comics (Iron Man and Captain America) and was highly satisfied with the characterizations of most everyone, not minding when they varied from the comics. I may have been one of the few that liked Thor: The Dark World, which coincidentally is on in the background as I write this piece. The film that preceded Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, was near perfect in the way it blended almost all the characters of the MCU. Setting us up for the biggest movie event in the history of film. By box office receipts, Endgame didn’t disappoint. It surpassed every record for opening weekends, the only question left is will it pass Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time?

Avengers: Endgame is a long movie that didn’t feel that way, logging in at three hours and 58 seconds. Most fans even forewarned there would be no after-credits scene, waited to hear the faint clanging of metal at the end. Allegedly Tony Stark constructing the original Iron Man suit. The movie was an emotional roller-coaster. We saw what happened to the heroes that survived Infinity War over five-years. Tony Stark got married and had a baby girl Morgan. Bruce Banner permanently merged with the Hulk and became Professor Hulk. Clint Barton dedicated himself to killing bad guys. Steve Rogers was conducting a group to help people cope, reminiscent of those the late Sam Wilson (Falcon) conducted for those returning from battle. Thor… he became a drunk and got fat.

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That was my first issue with Endgame, that Thor, my favorite, was reduced to a running fat joke. That was my first source of discontent but by no means the most prominent. Thor as a character has suffered from some of the same problems as Superman from the DC Universe. He’s too powerful and suspense must be created by finding ways to make things even. In the comics, they often took away half his powers, all his powers, made him spend time as the vulnerable Don Blake, needing to tap his cane to become Thor. His primary flaws were his lack of humility and patience. He would have been far more likely to succumb to “Warrior Madness” than become a sloppy drunkard. The MCU did a disservice to the character for a few punchlines, but I’ll set that aside to discuss the bigger issues.

Women have not been treated well in the MCU. One wonders were there any women in the room when decisions were being made? Sure, Captain Marvel made a heroic return from space, destroying Thanos’s ship. There was the A-Force moment when a team of female characters (with almost no speaking parts) vowed to help get the Gauntlet to the Time Machine. I read where the directors debated whether it was “too much pandering,” but ultimately left the scene in because they liked it so much. It’s revealing that the women’s scene ended up being meaningless as the Time Machine was destroyed and Thanos ended up getting the Gauntlet anyway.

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Worse still was the treatment of Natasha Romanoff, The Black Widow. In the MCU, she was the original Avenger, there before Iron Man, she recruited the Hulk. I’d say she was the least powerful Avenger of all except that she whipped Hawkeye’s ass every time they fought. In the first Avengers, she shut down the portal to space when the “big guns” couldn’t. In Age of Ultron, they made her a “monster” because she couldn’t have children. In Endgame, she was the one that had to die so that the deranged murderous Hawkeye could go back to his family and all the boys could get back together and do their avenging thing. When Iron Man died, he got a hero’s funeral, everyone showed up from the teenage Harley that helped him out in Iron Man 3 to Nick Fury, to Thunderbolt Ross. Captain America finally got the girl and had decades of marital bliss. We last saw Natasha lying in a pool of blood on Vormir.

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When Thor’s mother dies in Darkworld, she at least got a sendoff befitting someone of her stature. Natasha got zip, zero, nada, the original Avenger ultimately not worthy of recognition. It’s worth noting that in the comics, The Wasp was one of the original Avengers, in the MCU in Endgame, she got maybe three lines.

To a lesser degree, I’m reminded of how small a role black people play in the MCU. The best thing they ever did was let a black team run with the production of the blockbuster Black Panther. If the Russo Brothers had directed that, Killmonger wouldn’t have been the unacknowledged hero of the film. Saying many things more popular with black audience members than T’Challa. It didn’t go unnoticed that the New York of the MCU was far less multi-cultural than the one I’ve visited several times. Even the much praised (by themselves) first openly gay character in the MCU wasn’t a hero, just a guy… baby steps.

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Still, I have enjoyed, even loved most of the films of the MCU. I could throw out The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton as an outlier, they still brought me back to a simpler time and helped relive the glorious adventures of my childhood. I give the Russo’s great credit for their fanservice. All the references to moments of the previous films, working in hundreds of characters without too much exposition, that they could make that movie even in three hours was amazing. I was on edge the whole time. They will go down in history along with Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios as having imagined and pulled off something never done before. If they also go down in history for maintaining a boy’s club, limited by their own maleness and whiteness. That will be true as well.

Six Things I Learned About Writing from Comic Books

 

The first things I started reading on my own were comic books. Much of how I write now stems directly from the lessons I learned reading Thor, Superman, The Avengers, Fantastic Four, Black Panther and others. I pass these along because someone else might benefit from these lessons.

  1. Don’t be afraid to use big words – By this I mean don’t dumb down your vocabulary for the readers. If you make them stretch and come up to you, they’ll reward you with loyalty. “Omnipotent Odin”, “Imperious Rex”, the “Ultimate Nullifier!” When I was ten and reading these words I didn’t know, I got my dictionary and figured it out, and appreciated the words more.

a omnipotence2. It’s the Character stupid – If you don’t have strong, well-developed characters. Your audience will soon grow disinterested and stop reading. They have to have a motivation. Whether it be avenging the death of Uncle Ben or the death of their parents, everybody needs a motivation. Any character deserving of a name deserves a reason for being.

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3.There must be conflict – As Samuel L. Jackson reminded us in Unbreakable, “In a comic, you know how you can tell who the archvillain’s going to be? He’s the exact opposite of the hero. And most time’s they’re friends.” Dr. Doom and Reed Richards began as friends, before taking their intelligence in different directions. The challenge for Superman and Thor and the mightiest of heroes is that we have to be able to believe they can be defeated. Put your characters in a position where they could lose.

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4.Provide a hint of what’s to come – In a fiction book, think about a possible sequel. Lay the foundation for possible plot lines that may or may not be developed in the next book. You don’t have to wrap-up every subplot, leave a couple to fester. This will bring your readers back.

a thanos infinity gauntlet5. Give yourself a timeframe – Schedule your writing and stick to it. Comics came out every 30 days without an excuse. If you outline your novel, also establish projected timeframes for completion. Give yourself goals… and meet them.

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6.Use your imagination – You have it in you to create whole universes. You are the writer and you can do anything. You can have fictional or real characters meet that never could/did in reality. Travel thru time or change history. Establish fictional countries in an otherwise real world. You are only limited by what you can conceive.

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Comics were once limited to 32 pages with a few panels each to present a chapter or perhaps tell an entire story. You have the ability to use as few or as many words as you need. Remember these lessons and you will go far as a writer.

What I Disliked About Captain America: Civil War (Mild Spoilers)

 

I write about politics, family, I write poetry and more. I have yet to write about superheroes in film, yet it is here that I am as comfortable as any other genre. I grew up on comic books. Primarily Marvel, but I have a firm grounding in the DC Universe as well. In the past few weeks, I’ve seen Batman vs. Superman and today Captain America: Civil War and find I have something to say.

Batman vs. Superman had its moments. It followed up on the aftermath of Man of Steel and it was interesting to see Batman power up to the point where he could go toe to toe with Superman. I was slightly annoyed that the Superman who watched his Earth father die when he could have saved him in the previous film, suddenly was willing to sacrifice the world to save his Earth mother. What was worse was the feeble efforts to introduce the Justice League. While Wonder Woman was arguably the best character in the film. The “introduction” of The Flash and Aquaman was terribly weak and can’t compare to the juggernaut that Marvel has created with The Avengers which was set up by multiple individual character films. I’m glad I saw Batman vs. Superman for the sake of completism and being able to hold my own in a conversation but all in all, I could have missed it and been alright!

It’s Captain America: Civil War that was disappointing in a different way. Not that it was a bad movie. Like the fawning critics have made known it had a good story, amazing fight scenes and the much-anticipated introduction of Spider-man and the Black Panther did not disappoint. Ant-Man literally played a large role and generally speaking most of the other Avengers played their part and were consistent with their previous appearances and motivations. I get the impression that Falcon and War Machine were afterthoughts in the movies as they were in the comics but that is a relatively minor complaint. What I found disappointing was that the future of the superhero hero film itself looks dim to me. I told a friend that I’ve waited all my life for these characters to come to the big screen in a realistic fashion and Captain America: Civil War and pretty much all the recent Marvel movies not produced by Fox (and the Hulk movie) have done that. The problem is that they have almost nowhere else to go.

I am reminded of a report I once did on Monster movies and their rise and fall within a relatively short period of time. After Frankenstein, the Wolf Man and Dracula had a few successful individual films. Interest started falling and the only way to fill the seats was to put multiple monsters in the same movie. This gave us “House of Frankenstein” which begat “House of Dracula” and when we knew the shark had been jumped was in “Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein”. All three featured Frankenstein, Wolf Man and Dracula along with other monsters and they finally reached the point where there was no point.

The two Avengers Movies, Captain America: Civil War (which was close to a third Avengers film) and Guardians of the Galaxy were all outstanding movies. After the introduction of Doctor Strange, another Thor movie, a Black Panther film, Captain Marvel and another Ant Man movie. We’ll see a two-part Avengers Infinity War which is rumored to contain as many as 67 characters. What saddens me is the thought there’s nowhere for them to go from there.

The concept of a stand-alone hero movie where the hero singularly battles a foe has already gone by the wayside. This the third Captain America installment had at my count 12 uniformed heroes (depending on how you count Bucky Barnes) and there is little hope in the immediate future for a story which isn’t propped up by co-superstars. Thor: Ragnarok will feature The Hulk, Spider-man will feature Iron Man, it appears the Black Panther will bring back Bucky if not Captain America as well, Ant Man will introduce the Wasp. After Infinity Wars 1 & 2 where can they go?

I’m looking forward to almost all the Marvel (not produced by Fox) movies already announced. I’ll also see X Men: Apocalypse and hope to enjoy it. The Fantastic Four was one of my favorite comics but the movies? Not so much! It might seem a little early to be sounding the alarm but for superhero movies… the end is near.