My regular reader will know I’m not a fan of comic books; I was when I was a kid, but grew out of them around the age of 11, and never imagined for a second that they’d come to dominate our screens decades later. Past-masters Scorsese, Friedkin and Coppola may not consider these films to be cinema, but they are box-office and they are loved. With this in mind, it’s with a mixture of interest and duty that, (as I began a six-hour shift of waiting for the boiler-repair man to come), I cracked open the blu-ray of what is now the biggest film ever, as provided by Disney’s tireless press department.
Not being invested enough to venture to the cinema to see this, or even take a look during a much ballyhooed home entertainment release, it’s perhaps no surprise that I wasn’t wowed by Avengers: Endgame. Firstly, it feels like half a movie because it is, planned at a brief and wayward time when splitting up movies into bits was considered the way forward. Engame’s appeal depends on memories of previous entry Avengers: Infinity War, memories which are less than vivid in my mind. A big-faced being called Thanos has snapped his fingers because he has a glove made up of magical jewels, and lots of people vanished, although who or what was missing is not described here. Those left behind, led by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) take revenge on Thanos, but then decide to go back in time to stop any of this malarkey from happening in the first place.
There’s a lot of pseudo-science in these films, and a lot of pop-culture references, and the concept of time travel attracts much discussion in both realms; ’It’s not like in Back to the Future’, someone says, but to the untrained eye, it’s exactly the same schtick, but with added quantum tunnels. If you’ve seen one interstellar vortex, you’ve seen them all, and Avengers: Endgame looks like pretty much every other movie in the genre in this respect. The climactic fight looks and feels like a day-glo wood-chopping competition, with no tension, no stakes, and endless noise, bluster and back-slapping.
On the plus side, there’s an extraordinary group of talents gathered here; whoever cast the 22 Marvel movies really did their job because pretty much every choice stuck. And there’s a welcome leavening of humour that makes all the series entries watchable, right from the get-go as Stark amusingly compares whatever that little Starfox thing is to a Build-A-Bear product. But such verbal sparring soon takes second place to the cod-Shakespearean pomp that afflicts the franchise; listening to the endless arguments of Thanos’s children, a blue-faced woman and two green-faced girls, would send anyone to sleep, if they’re not already choking on the unearned sentiment that’s ladled over proceedings.
Cinema is not a club, and Martin Scorsese is not the arbiter of taste who decides who gets in or not. Such open film-snobbery isn’t a welcome development, and Marvel movies presumably work well enough for children. But there’s a growing desire for those who consume such childish things to these same things to be taken seriously, the same people who acclaim Joker as a masterpiece without actually suggesting any reasons why anyone else should feel the same. Marvel movies belong in a long tradition, of lightweight, disposable blockbusters, and are no better or worse than their predecessors. They’re bright, they’re shiny, they’re not without wit, but there’s no reason for anyone older that 12 to fall in love with them. We live in an adult world, and if we see things only through the eyes of a child, we’re missing the light and darkness, the simplicity and the complexity, and the size and scope of the world around us.