LESSON #1: THERE ARE CASES WHERE FAN SERVICE IS NECESSARY— Folks, with a universe and property as big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have reached a saturation point and commitment level where fan service is warranted. That’s right and here’s a paraphrase from my Avengers: Endgame review. What some have called pandering should actually be seen as one of the many objectives in an invested and vetted blockbuster like this one. It is to a point where the course of things is thematically and tonally misaligned without those inclusions. Avengers: Endgame is unabashedly a three-hour festival of celebrating all the dream fulfillment of past and present for this deep roster of beloved characters. The wow moments come often and hit both the jaw-drop and stand-up-and-cheer levels. Not every piece of fandom has earned that. Star Wars has and this one has too.
LESSON #2: PREPARATION IS KEY— Thanks need to go out to Feelin’ Film host Aaron White for spurring the one-movie-a-week #RoadtoEndgame. Those rewatches since the first week of December have been outstanding for adding to the build-up and, more importantly, refreshing us to all the ins-and-outs of the MCU at it reaches its pinnacle. If it’s too late for you to watch all 22 films before Avengers: Endgame, let our man and friend-of-the-podcast Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man’s Movie Reviews shortcut you to five must-see movies:
The movies are how you enrich your mind. Now, you need to prepare your body. Eat a good meal before Avengers: Endgame to avoid expensive concessions and the distraction to snack. Be mindful of your bladder power and your body will remember how it survived Titanic and six Tolkien films at the theater. Honestly, when your mind is engaged in the movie, you won’t need a potty break.
LESSON #3: A GOOD FRANCHISE NEEDS TO CREATE A CODA— The final spoiler-free celebration note I can post about Avengers: Endgame in this column comes from the last life lesson of five from my review and it speaks to the purpose beyond the fun of fan service. The range of the definition of “coda” can be merged into “a concluding part of a dramatic work that is formally distinct from the main structure” and “serves to round out, conclude, or summarize.” Avengers: Endgame is not a pivot point, but a grand finale eleven years in the making. True to the blueprint, it is hard to imagine a more gratifying and rewarding summit. I wish every franchise could craft something this fitting or even have the chance to crescendo with all the energy they can muster.
LESSON #4: WHAT’S NEXT FOR MARVEL REMAINS A PLEASANT MYSTERY— Normally, thanks to the constant Disney push and bragging, we normally know every little forthcoming detail possible about their dominating calendar of coming attractions. At this moment, a year of somewhat “radio silence” after Infinity War, you have to tip your hat to Kevin Feige and company for holds their cards close to the vest. Sony can’t help but admit to and tout Spider-Man: Far From Home, which is regrettable, but understandable. They have a rare blockbuster to sell. Meanwhile, Feige recently hinted at a 5-year Phase 4 MCU plan that didn’t name names, but shared the usual ambition and confidence. Naturally, the big question remains the character acquisitions from Fox. To that question, Feige has used the vague measurement of “a very long time” as to when we’ll see the likes of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four saving the day next to the established Avengers. Feige’s absolutely supreme planning and patience should not be questioned. He’s earned our trust that the slow play is the right play. They’ll be worth the wait.
LESSON #5: LITTLE FILMS NEED HELP— As much as we are here this weekend to celebrate the big stuff, smaller films need audience too. When they don’t get them, a part of the industry weakens and even dies. A spotlight example of that came through the news wires this week of the cuts happening behind the scenes after Disney’s acquisition of Fox. The Mouse House is killing off or jettisoning several unreleased Fox projects with earning potential and the bottom line in mind. It’s a creative bummer but an unfortunate reality of business. I’ve said this often in this column space: Once you start charging for tickets, this becomes a business first and an art exposition second. Like any owner targeting profit and returns on investment, Disney is making those tough decisions. Honestly, it’s likely bad business deals that made Fox vulnerable for sale. Do better and the predicament doesn’t come.
LESSON #6: HULU’S DAYS ARE NUMBERED— As you may know, one of the components of Disney’s purchase of Fox was controlling interest in Hulu. The remaining 30% of that stake is owned by Comcast who, according to reports this week, is in talks with Disney to broker a lucrative deal. No matter where that bidding ends up, a dissolution in the near-future feels inevitable. Disney, should it gain that final portion, is pushing its own brand of Disney+ as its streaming flagship. You would think they wouldn’t push or carry two. Comcast, if they stand pat, was planning on starting their own streaming shingle to add to the marketplace since they don’t own enough of Hulu to compete. Either way, it doesn’t look promising.
LESSON #7: THE ACADEMY IS STARTING TO WISE UP— In other distant news away from Infinity Stones and Corporate Greed Monsters, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actually announced a few minor changes and rulings this week that didn’t immediately make them Public Enemy #1 with the social media torches and pitchforks they were met with the last two press releases between the hosting screw-ups and the Popular Film category in 2018. First, they affirmed their eligibility rules that didn’t take an anticipated shot at streaming services like Netflix, keeping the playing field fair. Secondly, they showed modern wisdom with a redefined International Feature Film category and expanding their last three-nominee category (Best Makeup and Hair-Styling) to a proper and full five. It’s refreshing to see them get a few things right. Keep it up, AMPAS!
LESSON #8: FINALLY, IF BIG, DUMB SUPERHERO MOVIES AREN’T YOUR THING, WE STILL HAVE STUFF FOR YOU— For my parting viewing recommendations this week with all things super raining down on us, I think I have just the thing for those abstaining from heroics. Here’s a list on Ranker of the “Most Pretentious Movies Ever Made,” topped by, what else, a Stanley Kubrick film. If those are too blunt or obvious, try this nice little selection from Taste of Cinema of ten great movies meant to challenge your intelligence, topping by Richard Linklater’s Waking Life. Finally, here are the May additions to the Criterion Channel with choices galore! Call these three lists counter-programming. Enjoy!
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication. As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work. (#99)