WARNING: Contains minor-to-moderate spoilers for Endgame below the fold! Please go watch this movie first!
2012 was an odd year, and stranger still is it to look back on it as a “happier” time, or at least a more hopeful one. There was an apocalypse looming, but we all ignored it (save for a few particularly devoted loonies and disaster movie directors), we had a clown vying for the White House, but the worst thing he ever said about women was having “binders full” of them, and findings from the terrifying death machine smashing atoms together (or whatever that thing was supposed to do) finally came to light, but it was no world-ending Batman villain plan. (I mean, probably)
And lo and behold, in the midst of all the chaos and drama and apocalyptic prophecies, we finally, truly had a superhero movie that didn’t suck. It was my freshman year of college, a warm, breezy night when my friends and I pulled into the local theater not far from campus just as the clock was about to chime 12, our midnight release tickets in hand. We spotted people we knew – it seemed like everyone who was a nerdy someone at our school was crammed into that one IMAX theater – and collapsed into our seats, hopeful but unsure of the cinematic experience that was to unfold before us. What we least expected was a sound error over the first few minutes that made everyone’s voices all high-pitched and squeaky, with the first mousey lines coming from Samuel L. himself.
We exited the theater on a high note, our hearts soaring with hope and optimism, our mouths salivating with dreams of schwarma in the morning.
It was an action-packed film, it was clever, it was witty, it was funny. The writing was snappy, the fights were well-coordinated, and just about every character got their time to shine. Sure, we lost some good men along the way, but they were remembered and they were Avenged. The sacrifice of Phil Coulson may have wrenched at hearts, but it didn’t jerk any tears, and while the heroes got beaten up and bruised, they lived to fight another day as a team, as a family, and as the protectors of the planet. They weren’t subjected to visceral beatdowns and in-your-face brutality. They fell down, but they stood up again. They lost hope, but it was found. They were not broken. They did not bleed.
And the monsters back then were faceless nogoodniks with mean alien mugs, and no name beside their collective species of unchained “evil”. But now, the monsters are even more frightening. Now the monsters are people, people who look like us and talk like us and understand exactly what they’re doing besides just breaking things because they’re there. Our monsters have complex emotions, premeditated thoughts and plans, with goals and dreams and lives and loved ones. Our monsters have a face and have names. It was long before disturbing allegations were flung at our real-life heroes and before the worst of them turned out to be true. We had yet to paste together the collage of hurt and pain under the banner #MeToo and before we realized our monsters were real.
Color has drained from our screens year after year as the humor becomes more biting and caustic. Sacrifices come at higher and higher costs, and the heroes aren’t always the good guys. And the good guys don’t always win.
It seems like over the past seven years, we’ve come up against crisis after endless crisis, losing more of ourselves with every step and the coming days and decades are hard to imagine much brighter.
But no matter what, there’s one thing that seems to be certain: