Jason recaps the events from Roll For Combat, Episode 082: Stop, Level, and Listen.
The elephant in the room this week is that the editing of this week’s episode doesn’t leave me much to work with. No fighting. We hinted at leveling to come but didn’t actually reveal our Level 8 characters. And OK, we talked about the Teleportation Puck a little bit, but I pretty much covered that in last week’s Talking.
So this week, I’m going off script. Let’s talk Endgame, aka The Defining Film Event Of My Nerdy Adult Life.
Don’t worry… I’ll try to do it in a non-spoilery way since it’s possible (however unlikely) that some of you haven’t seen it yet.
Team RFC is split on the final chapter of Robert Downey Jr.’s career resurrection. We have two “loves” (one of which… full disclosure… is me), two “it was OK but nothing special’s”, and one “actively disliked it”. I’ll leave it to your imagination who is who.
Personally, I loved it, but I will start by offering this olive branch to the naysayers. If someone’s criticism of the movie is that it works better as a bunch of fan-service set-pieces than as a standalone movie… I’m willing to concede that. Someone walking into the theater having seen none of the Marvel movies would be REALLY confused, wouldn’t get why 60-70 percent of the movie was entertaining, and on some Serious Film-Maker measure, that probably ought to matter. On the other hand, let’s be real that 99.999(add-a-few-more-nines)% of the people who bought tickets were going for the fan service moments anyway, so we knew what we were getting. Your specific moments might be different from mine, but most of us got something we wanted. And we all got Grandpa Stan’s last cameo.
In these days of internet saturation, I think one of the marks of a successful movie – and I thought the same thing about Infinity War – is that it’s a success if you KNOW the broad strokes of what’s going to happen, and it still makes you care anyway. With the Internet churning out content, it’s almost impossible to go into a movie totally cold anymore, and depending on how much gets out, you can usually piece a fair amount of the plot together before you set foot in a theater. The premise itself is rarely a surprise; it’s the execution of the premise that really matters.
Go back to the original Thanos Snap from Infinity War. The Marvel smarks know they had a Spider-Man sequel in the can, and Black Panther 2 and Guardians 3 were in production. So you KNOW on some level it’s all going to be undone eventually. But damn if Tom Holland and RDJr didn’t sell the crap out of Peter’s snap scene.
Similar thing with Endgame: from the trailers, you can kinda put together a rough skeletal plot that Ant-Man’s quantum tunnel is the MacGuffin that’s going to enable some sort of time-travel/multiverse hand-wavery, which will create some sort of do-over. They’re not exactly hiding that. Also, there were certain things that were obvious telegraphs as the movie unfolded, which I won’t reveal because that would be revealing spoilers. But then we also know that it’s the last movie for most of the Original Six cast, so there’s probably going to be a few stories coming to an end in the new final conflict. Even knowing all that, I still jumped out of my seat a few times, and there was at least one scene that made me a little misty around the edges. (Though probably not the one you think.)
Compare that to the new round of Star Wars movies. You could put together a rough plot for Force Awakens or Last Jedi just based on publicly available stuff, but aside from a few moments, I was largely indifferent to the final results on the screen. The real-life death of Carrie Fisher lent the whole thing some poignancy, and there was a little twinge at the end of Luke Skywalker’s journey, but a lot of that was rooted more in my own passage through life and Star Wars’ place in it – Star Wars was pretty much the first movie I remember seeing in a theater. The story? Hyperdrives run out of gas now. Who knew?
And don’t even get me started on nu-Trek. I liked the first one (Karl Urban’s McCoy was a pleasant surprise), but after the year of pointless bait-and-switch, I think I actually gave Benedict Cumberbatch the finger in the theater when he said MY NAME… IS… KHAAAAN.
So… yeah. To bring it back full-circle, I thought Endgame was great. 11 years, 22 movies, and they somehow managed to stick the landing in a satisfying way. I don’t know if we’ll ever see a movie project that ambitious ever again… and the more I think about it maybe we shouldn’t. As good as it was, when you look at the success of movies like Logan, Deadpool, Into The Spider-Verse… maybe there’s something to be said for NOT trying to make everything fit in the same box. Maybe we just accept that Disney caught lightning in a bottle and not try to recapture the magic that might be impossible to replicate. (And remember that even the MCU forced us to sit through Thor 2.)
Sorry if you came here to read my thoughts on this week’s episode. Instead, you get Siskel and Ebert At The Movies. I’ll be back to normal next week. Promise.
P.S. – While I’m expounding on pop culture references… put me down for “Season 8 Episode 3 of Game of Thrones was too dark”. Yes, I think it was an artistic decision, but I also think yes they screwed it up and made it too dark. (Or they did it on purpose to stretch out the CGI budget.) You shouldn’t need to calibrate your TV just to watch a single episode of a show…. that’s bullshit. There’s “capturing the chaos of battle” and there’s pausing the action for 20 seconds while you try to figure out who the hell that even is who just got stabbed.