Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Avengers: Endgame is here! You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it, an audience roughly one-third the size of Thanos’ human casualties has seen it. I was fine with cranking out the obligatory “I liked it, it was much better than Cats” entry, but as with a few past blockbusters, I’m in the mood to type more paragraphs about its pros, its cons, and the questions it begs that could go either way depending on how sensible or stupid the answers are.
Random thoughts in very little particular order ahead. COURTESY SPOILER WARNING FOR THE WHOLE THREE-HOUR SHEBANG.
For the record, the following bits were spoiled for me in advance: Mark Ruffalo’s hilarious adaptation of Peter David’s “Professor” Hulk (via Bleeding Cool); Valkyrie riding her winged steed Aragorn (via New York Times film critic A.O. Scott on Twitter); and…nothing else. At all. I’d totally forgotten about the furtive 1970s set photos from a while back until my son reminded me after we left the theater. I wasn’t even 100% sure time travel would be the driving plot device. That’s how spoiler-free I was. Great feeling.
SOME BUT NOT ALL OF THE MUCH-WOW PARTS:
Chris Hemsworth ruled as The Dude via Asgard, though in his cartoon alcoholism borne of grief he came dangerously close to playing him as Mego Thor from Toyfare Magazine. Hemsworth has proven his comedic chops elsewhere and didn’t disappoint, and yet pulled off true tenderness in his scene with Rene Russo, whose Frigga was gifted with a far better send-off here than Thor: The Dark World tossed her. I was surprised that his fate was open-ended, but I’ve not seen Hemsworth tout his resignation in public as Chris Evans did and as we’d assumed would be the case with the handsomely paid Robert Downey, Jr. So maybe next he costars in Guardians 3? Or Chris Pratt and friends all costar in Taika Waititi’s Thor 4: What We Do in the Stars?
Related note: Asgardians of the Galaxy must also heavily costar Karen Gillan or else. Not only was Nebula an essential and magnetic team player, but I’m a sucker for villains who redeem themselves, become good guys, and stay good guys. If Disney’s new streaming service offers Nebula her own show, I will pre-subscribe right now.
Downey and Evans maintained their vaunted MVP statuses and were given the best send-offs imaginable: the once-self-obsessed Tony sacrificing himself for the fate of his family and the world in that order; and Steve Rogers finally getting that dance with Peggy Carter and then some. Downey’s final scenes had me teared up, while Evans got the best (and possibly only) Happily Ever After the MCU has ever seen. And I’m not sure whether to credit the makeup team or the CG artists for his Old Man Steve appearance, which was so convincing that I sincerely wondered if they’d simply hired another elderly actor in his place.
Tilda Swinton needs to find excuses to play The Ancient One in as many future Marvel projects as possible, dead or not. The short speech that accompanied her conditional surrender of the Eye of Agamotto to Bruce Banner was a smart move that touched on a very rare sentiment in SF. She reconfirmed the earlier supposition that any changes that occur during their travels will indeed create alternate timelines at each breakpoint rather than alter their own present (a frequent rule in John Byrne’s classic Marvel work), but cautions that those who will live on into those alternate timelines are human lives as well, and would deeply appreciate it greatly if these meddling interlopers from the main timeline would not do something stupid (e.g., borrow the Infinity Stones but fail to return them) that might make their alternate yet very real lives tremendously worse. Time travelers tend to treat other timelines as disposable lesser worlds whose fates and casualties don’t matter. The Ancient One justly refutes that cavalier treatment. As Byrne’s Marvel Two-in-One #100 and TV’s Fringe already tried to warn us all, alt-timelines should not be treated as toys you can break and discard.
Cap with Thor’s hammer was the only WOW part I really needed, so I’m good and don’t feel the need to catalog the 49 or 59 other moments that were also The Greatest but couldn’t hold a candle to it.
Has the contrived but super-fun and too-brief All the MCU Women Poster team-up sequence angered the seedier parts of the internet underworld yet? I’m afraid to go look.
When we noticed the young stranger at Tony’s memorial service, it was a generous surprise to look him up later and learn they brought back the Iron Man 3 kid, Ty Simpkins from Jurassic World.
That touching scene with Happy Hogan and li’l Morgan Stark was a beautiful grace note for Jon Favreau, whose vision and guidance of the original Iron Man kicked off twelve years of Marvel box office success and made any of this ambitious, massive, inimitable corporate mega-project remotely possible. Too bad we didn’t get to see Happy running over aliens in one of Tony’s sports cars, but in many ways this was better.
The audience at our sold-out 11:30 a.m. showing applauded a few times, most loudly at that end-credit image of Downey’s autograph and silhouette, an apropos curtain call.
Earlier in the day my son and I had disagreed over whether or not Loki was dead-dead. I tried to be civil and not gloat too smugly with my TOLD YOU SO later. For Loki there’s always an out.
I got to meet and cheerfully embarrass myself in front of Thanos creator Jim Starlin at a convention last October and I’m ticked I didn’t spot him in Cap’s support group. He’s among the many bonuses I’ll have to look for on my second viewing, whenever that is.
THE LESS-WOW PARTS:
Reducing Captain Marvel’s role to deus ex machina seemed pretty unfair. Seeing Carol go back in time with Our Heroes, getting to know them and exchange repartee, would’ve gone a long way toward integrating her and maybe shutting up her more brutish detractors. Sending her in to punch the heaviest things only to withdraw with a tossed-off Poochie-style “I must go now! Other planets need me!” was much less than expected or hoped. (Honestly, I want to enjoy her parts more. I’m actively trying. Points for her new comics-accurate hairdo, I guess?)
Also unfair: two lines for the Wasp? Maybe three at most? I mean, she still had more lines than Shuri (did she have a line?), but more for them and all the Wakandans would’ve been keen.
Related note and film trivia question: has anyone before Natalie Portman ever gotten as large a film credit for a part that literally amounted to a three-second outtake and a one-line voiceover, barely audible?
How did Thanos and/or the Black Order 2014 take the small sampling size of Pym particles from Nebula 2019 (who, remember, only had enough left on her for a one-person return trip) and reverse-engineer it in enough quantities to bring forward in an entire Peter Jackson-sized alien army? I suppose the exposition could’ve been tedious if mishandled, but in my mind the film didn’t quite bridge the massive storytelling gap between harshly limited time travel and not-easy-but-not-that-hard time travel a la The CW’s The Flash. I know, I know, we all wanted The Cool Parts to happen somehow, but BECAUSE POPCORN FILM SO SHUT UP THAT’S WHY isn’t an answer to a fair question. Writing an extra line for Ebony Maw (“I can work with this, my liege. And I have all the time I need.” SINISTER LEER.) would’ve done the trick and I wouldn’t be asking.
How is Mrs. Hawkeye’s cel phone still in service five years after her demise? Has Hawkeye been paying her bill all this time in case she needed to call him from beyond the grave?
Was Ned Leeds also among the Infinity Snap victims? Is that how he and Peter Parker are still in the same grade five years later? Are all their surviving teen friends now five years older and in college? Or possibly graduated from that by now, too? And how awkward will it be for those friends to hang out with their previously dead friends who have been technically held back for five grades due to Titanic force majeure?
And will Spider-Man: Far from Home show us the ramifications of four billion ex-corpses suddenly materializing from nowhere, all faced with the daunting tasks of visiting their local health departments, having their death certificates annulled, scrubbing their names from those park memorials, finding new places to live if their empty homes weren’t held for them, and sending unemployment rates stratospheric in an economy that surely downsized years ago in the wake of their erasure? (Among the many deficiencies of major crossover events in comics: when it comes to dealing with the real-world ramifications of their outlandish plots, they’re often no better thought-out than 1950s B-movies. It’s an endearing MST3K-ish quality if such works flagrantly admit they’re not aiming for Art and if they’re dirt-cheap to buy or watch.)
Will the in-the-works Black Widow solo movie star another actress? We’ve had other Widows in the comics, so there’s precedent for recasting. Or are they going prequel with that? Ditto for Disney’s alleged Vision/Scarlet Witch streaming series, given that they haven’t yet rebuilt Paul Bettany, and his father and grandfather are both out of the picture.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. hinted we’d someday see Adam Warlock introduced to the MCU. Is that still on the table? I half-expected him to make his big entrance here and join in the Thanos-thrashing, but I think Captain Marvel took his part.
Also, my son and I would like to donate to whatever Kickstarter campaign there might be for a Thunderbolts film in which still-living villains such as Baron Zemo, the Ghost, Yon-Rogg, Trevor the Mandarin, the Leader (a few of us remain fond of Incredible Hulk) and a few more add-ons (Moonstone? Jolt?) form their own Masters of Evil who go undercover as super-heroes to scam the world, only for some of them to realize at the end that they like being good guys. Just a thought.
I’d also love to see a follow-up ten-minute short film in which we watch Captain America returning the Infinity Stones and Mjolnir to the alt-timeline, including the following scenes:
- Cap returning the Cosmic Cube to S.H.I.E.L.D. 1970 and waving hi to Neal McDonough’s Dum-Dum Dugan
- Cap on Vormir with the Soul Stone, finding himself face-to-face with the Red Skull Spectre and absolutely getting off on the wrong foot
- Cap wrestling Jane Foster’s partially-CG’d stunt double down to the ground and re-injecting the Aether into her
- Cap making a pit stop at Baby Hitler’s crib and lingering for an hour before moving on
- Cap grabbing a seat at that May 1941 Dodgers/Phillies ballgame from The First Avenger
- Cap having tea and New York pizza with the Ancient One
- Then Cap showing up on Peggy’s doorstep, dressed to the nines and with flowers and candy in hand
…and that would be The Ever-Lovin’ End.