So we survived the mad rush to get Avengers Endgame tickets and make it to screenings without being spoiled. Now was supposed to be the fun part: sharing it. Only I’ve been talking about Avengers Endgame with friends and colleagues and by Monday it was already exhausting.
This isn’t exclusive to Avengers: Endgame but Marvel is a component of the way film conversation has changed, so Freditorializing on this subject will make my editor happy. This began as a frustration with the conversation surrounding major films, but I hope giving it proper analysis will shed some constructive light on it. Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame included.
Thank You For Your Interest
I’m grateful I have friends who want to know what I think. That was my dream growing up as the movie nerd trying to tell people how cool Hudson Hawk and Last Action Hero were. If I got lucky there’d be a Pulp Fiction that people would talk about, albeit months after I’d discovered it.
But the conversations surrounding Avengers: Endgame have taken the form of questions. How did Cap return the Tesseract and Scepter when they were already in stone form? How did Tony remove the stones from Thanos’s gauntlet?
I have no answers to Avengers: Endgame questions. I just believe what they showed me on screen. They established the rules they wanted to. If you believe you found an inconsistency, by all means ask the filmmakers. They should answer for it especially if they posed it as airtight logic. It’s just those questions remove me from the conversation because I don’t know the answer either, and I didn’t even think of the question. I could speculate, but I wouldn’t want to because my speculation wouldn’t come from a place of genuine wonder.
Different people have different relationships to movies, so I’m not discouraging people from finding their brethren. I think it’s important to ask what the intentions of the film are. Is Avengers: Endgame a puzzle to be solved, and if it’s missing a piece has it failed? Maybe, but that’s not how I relate to it.
Pulp Fiction may have been a good example because I suppose some people did ask me questions about how the timeline of that movie added up. I may have had more answers for Pulp Fiction but piecing together the timeline wasn’t what interested me most about Pulp Fiction. I was interested in the dialogue and philosophical crises it explored. I certainly couldn’t tell anyone what happened to Mia after her date with Vince because it’s not in the movie.
Follow the Franchise’s Own Rules
Every franchise has its own rules and I celebrate them all. Rocky goes in chronological order. The Fast and the Furious went back and then caught back up to itself. Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre have no continuity and it’s magnificent. James Bond maintains continuity but does not exist in real time because he never ages.
The MCU follows a continuity and all the movies are connected but it’s also science fiction and super powers exist and so do Gods and now so does time travel. They get to sort of make up new rules as they go and it works because they’ve put enough creative thought into it to justify the latest plot development. I’m not sure it totally matters if Thor: The Dark World doesn’t add up to Avengers: Endgame. I accept Halloween so I can’t really be a stickler now.
I don’t remember all 22 MCU films in detail and I don’t know the comics, so that’s my own personal hurdle but even if I knew the films intimately I don’t think the logical connections would be my focus. Even if you ask me about the internal logic of Labyrinth or Back to the Future, I wouldn’t be able to answer because that’s not how I relate to movies. I accept the logic of any movie (or lack thereof, hence Hudson Hawk and Last Action Hero). In fact, if you found a logic hole in Avengers: Endgame that may just make me like it more.
Movies Should Make Less Sense
I want movies to make less sense. They’re not real. Confining them to the rules of reality eliminates an exponential amount of creative possibilities. Movies can choose to be logically sound but it shouldn’t be required. Hudson Hawk violates time and space but it’s funny and it gets Bruce Willis to the next joke faster. The magic ticket in Last Action Hero has inconsistent rules, and why does Jack Slater exist in a shared universe with Terminator 2 and Basic Instinct? Because I want to see all those movies interact. “Because it’s awesome” is a good enough reason and I think Avengers: Endgame qualifies.
I don’t mean to give movies a free pass. I’m just concerned with the notion that every aspect of a story has to check out. What if it doesn’t? Does that ruin it? Does that make it bad? If Endgame’s time travel logic doesn’t work, then what? Would you rather they go with a less ambitious story that hypothetically checks out every minutiae? I call bullshit on Timecop (you’re not the same matter as your 10 years younger self. All your molecules have changed.) but nobody seems to care about that. Can’t we at least give Avengers: Endgame the same benefit of the doubt Timecop gets?
I don’t lay this need for answers entirely at fans’ feet. Our popular storytellers are partly to blame. They’ve cultivated a culture so obsessed with answers that all viewers know how to do anymore is ask more questions. Thanks, Lost.
When fans had questions about Lost, Damon Lindelof promised he had answers to all the questions. When people asked George Lucas questions about the prequels, he promised it would all make sense by Episode III. All the Marvel filmmakers and Kevin Feige have been adept at deflecting questions with some form of “You’ll see,” implying that there will be an answer.
What all of these filmmakers really meant was, “Let me finish telling the story first.” That might have been valid, but for better or worse, their promise of eventual answers trained viewers to expect answers, and get very mad when they didn’t get all the answers. Hence, even when a film pays off 21 previous films over the past 11 years, fans are double checking every undotted I or uncrossed T. I would love to see our storytellers float the idea that you can still appreciate a story without answers, but that might be bad for business. Better to let people theorize after the fact.
So I’m the wrong person to ask for answers because I feel movies should leave some things unexplained. That way two different people can have two different experiences based on the gaps they fill in themselves. Even better, the same person can have a new experience next time they watch the film and fill in those gaps differently.
Celebrate Unanswered Questions
As I struggle to figure out how to talk about movies when I don’t have or want answers to questions, I have to ask what the questions really mean. Are you just double checking whether or not you missed something? That’s understandable. I think I can confirm that I didn’t notice anything you didn’t.
If there’s no answer to those questions, does it ruin the movie? If the logic doesn’t check out, do you like the movie less? I hope not because you should enjoy your feeling of elation at the end of Avengers: Endgame. But if you’re asking me, “Can you solve this for me so I can still like the movie?” That’s way too much pressure for me to come up with an answer that’s going to make you still like the movie. I like it even if it doesn’t all check out.
Pul Fiction is a good example again because Tarntino still hasn’t told us what’s in the briefcase 25 years later, and I hope he never does. That doesn’t seem to bother people. So if the briefcase can contain anything you want it to, why can’t the answers to Avengers: Endgame be anything you want them to be?
So What Do We Talk About
I guess it’s a matter of reading the room. Some people will go over logical minutiae for hours and I hope you find them. For other, asking someone to answer questions about a movie is more of a quiz than a conversation.
Talking about a movie shouldn’t be exhausting. It should illuminate. Share what you got from the film. Let’s talk about how much fun it was to revisit some of the previous movies and how it paid off the MCU, if you feel it did or didn’t.