Avengers Dissembled


(Tortuously spoiler free)

Let’s assume for the sake of this article that Avengers: Endgame is terrific entertainment and take it from there, shall we? Normal likes/ dislikes can be resumed after.

You either know the stats by now or don’t care. ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is over 3 hours long, cost $400,000,000 to make and covered its cost in the first day of release. It has characters that date back around 70 years and is the closing chapter of a 22-film storyline that started in the sixties, featuring dozens of superheroes and sidekicks. About half of all recognisable Hollywood faces are in it, and its locations are different planets rather than cities.

These planets generally fall into two types; Las Vegas / Cheddar Gorge. Of the superheroes, only Dr Bruce Banner is allowed relaxed clothing. Everyone else lives in blue, silver, purple or black condoms. Their powers usually consist of a. being able to survive having a skyscraper thrown on top of them, b. firing different coloured beams from their hands that push things back, the way magnets work. Many characters’ powers are unguessable; these ones I put down to general ‘superness’.

So, going to the movies the other night with my neighbour, who had never seen a single frame of any of the films, might have been a mistake. He says he enjoyed it despite not having a clue about what was going on, so that when Pegasus and a talking tree arrived he could simply shrug. So I guess it was a bit like going in cold to a Bollywood musical. At least he stayed awake.

‘Avengers Endgame’ reaches the ne plus ultra of a certain kind of fantasy, representing the culmination of creator Stan Lee’s vision. The comic books maven hit his peak in the 1960s and found his natural fit as a Hollywood producer with old-school smarts, a world-builder with two brilliant artists, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. His cataclysmic global approach to superhero storytelling peaked with the Fantastic Four, characters owned by Fox, who ruined that franchise. As a result Marvel made do with the B-team leftovers (minus characters like Submariner) yet turned them into something interesting. DC knows to its cost that the principal character in a drama is often the most boring, so Marvel concentrates on the fun also-rans.

The trick with the MCU is to make everything appear baroque and complex while actually being very simple. The plot could have been written on a fag packet (every other person in the world, including half the Avengers, has been turned into leaf mulch, and the remnants must restore balance) but the sheer overwhelming number of performers trading emotions, action set pieces and quickfire dialogue, grind most criticism into dust. Let no-one dare raise their head and say it’s all, well, very silly, because so are Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland.

Despite sporting a villain, the talkative Thanos, with a genuinely philosophical reason for destroying the universe, what the film doesn’t really have is any depth. This ain’t Shakespeare (and neither is GoT). A stroll through the oceans of these souls wouldn’t get your feet wet.

There’s a book to be written about the Avengers’ hair, though. Perhaps the Sunday Times’s Camilla Long could write it, as she seems to review all films from a hair perspective. Thor’s do moved from Asgardian (lanky, dry) to Manhattan (cropped, gelled) to thug (razor lines, high ‘n’ tight) to slob (lanky and greasy) while Captain America appears to have borrowed one of Nic Cage’s wigs, strange creatures that live independently from their wearers.

The MCU is unique in that it acknowledges our surrounding pop culture. When Iron Many elaborates on quantum universes in order to explain why the concept  of time travel is flawed he is met with the response; ‘So Back To The Future is a bunch of shit, then.’ The humour works because it taps into our own cynical approach. While DC’s universe is busy being lofty, aloof and largely patrician (not to mention offensive, cf. Wonder Woman’s plot about wartime gassing) Marvel is cheekily irreverent and self-aware.

The plot hook, nonsense about a giant oven-glove inset with jewels that control the universe, is there to hang emotional beats on, in this case a surprising amount of mourning and loss that strives for gravitas. The pleasures come from many different quarters; the set-pieces that perfectly recreate comic book frames, the on-the-nose dialogue that dares you to find it ridiculous, the bizarre clash of characters and performances. Does it seem odd that the god of thunder is arguing with a talking raccoon, or that a floating cloak should follow a conversation between a world-eater and a superhero? If so, maybe fantasy is not for you. I grew up with the Ray Harryhausen films and we bought into everything from cave girls fighting dinosaurs to clockwork owls, just as Harry Potter’s fans believe in posh British boarding schools for wizards.

But the absence of any appetite for real news has led the press to employ an insane number of pundits to pontificate on what it all means, as if a very expensive children’s film was a story of international importance.

With grim inevitability, the Guardian employed someone called Lacey Jade Christie to have a heart attack about the film’s failure to include a trigger warning because it features a fat person. Her headline; ‘Avengers: Endgame was brilliant – but the fat shaming broke my heart’ – brought tears (of laughter) in our household. I thought, gosh, If Lacey Jade is that sensitive she’d better stay away from Barnsley.

Now that Hollywood is for kids and TV is for adults, the Avengers reaches an endpoint of juvenile excess that leaves you sugar-rushed and elated despite closing with a lachrymose and sentimental funeral. Each of the minor characters could yield their own universe of stories; such was the richness of these 1960s-bred imaginings, when everything seemed possible. This is the blockbuster as geology; the deeper you’ve dug, the more you’ll get out of the new stuff you’ve found.

After 22 films I still get Scarlet Witch and Black Widow muddled, have no idea who that woman with the antennae is, keep calling Hawkeye Green Arrow, and still feel that Guardians of the Galaxy shouldn’t really be there, but it was all great fun while it lasted. The saga might even be missed in years to come, when films just consist of cartoon characters firing guns.





24 comments on “Avengers Dissembled”

  1. snowy says:

    WARNING Tanget Ahoy!

    “Avengers: Endgame was brilliant – but the fat shaming broke my heart”

    These self-appointed ‘Thought Police’ have got to be stamped on.

    I know and value that Radio 4 allows a broad range of opinion to be aired, but my composure was very considerably disturbed* this morning, when I listened to somebody who felt oppressed by the ‘Hetro-normative design of electrical connectors’.

    Of particular concern to the speaker was the fact that pairs of connections are male and female. And that for the connection to work one has to ‘push’ the male into the female.**

    [At this point I felt in considerable danger that my blood pressure would rise to such heights that it would instantly rupture both of my Carotid arteries and deposit my entire blood supply all over the ceiling like the result of a very bad day at the Black Pudding factory.]

    In the very unlikely event that anybody reading has any sympathy for the viewpoint that the Electrical/Electronic Industries dedicate vast resources in a Global conspiracy to undermine and oppress the LGBT’ community may I bring the following points to your attention.

    There are several mechanical reasons why things are arranged as they are, the chief of which is; IT! STOPS! YOU! BEING! KILLED!***

    Both mixed gender and hermaphrodite connectors exist, but are seldom encountered by those whose who think their ‘original’ ‘thoughts’ are so perfect they could not be improved by 30 seconds of looking things up on the Internet.

    [And BREATHE!]

    [* code for very, very shouty inc. some extremely rude words.]
    [** code for extremely, extremely shouty and language that would instantly stun a man/woman/other/not-specified ‘of the Cloth’ at 200 yards.]
    [*** I will personally offer to create a non-normative male-male mains lead for anybody that wants one provided that: they agree to put one end in any bodily orifice of their choice while I plug the other end into a wall socket and turn it on!]

  2. snowy says:

    Oh… Film? Not seen it. Sorry.

  3. SimonB says:

    Snowy, I think you had better go for a lie down in a darkened room to get over that…

    No comment on the film here either as also not seen it (or any of the preceding ones) yet. Waiting for the inevitable Netflix or Amazon Prime marathon week…

  4. Peter Tromans says:

    Snowy, not just electrical! Almost any connection of one thing to another that doesn’t involve adhesive, solder, welding, magnetism or electrostatic force (most of those are too inconvenient or exotic for every day use) requires pushing one thing inside another. Could we reverse the whole argument and suggest that anatomo-biblical union has stolen from mechanical engineering? Male and female are mechanical terms borrowed by anatomists, sexologists (spelling?) and the religious extremes for their own, devious reasons.
    Yours, The Engineer
    PS The film, with Snowy on that

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Also with Snowy re the film
    Plumbing, you two. That’s where I met the male/female designations. The point is that understanding is immediate, no matter what your personal designation. Most people have a moment’s snigger the first time they meet the terms but the logic is so obvious they get over it.

  6. Brooke says:

    Holmes and Alice are not silly. And I’m still stuck on “costs 400M USD to make…” Read while listening to report on increasing percentage of children growing up in poverty. Give Avenger folks the Marie Antoinette “Let Them Eat Cake” award.

  7. Ian Luck says:

    I won’t be bothering to watch it. I have the comics on which the movies were based, and it isn’t a story that I’m keen on. As I’m not bothered by ‘spoilers’, I already know which characters will not be returning. Although these are comic book movies, and, as the late, great Stan Lee once said: “Nobody stays dead in comic books.” Another reason that I can’t be bothered to waste three hours on something that I’m already familiar with, is that, for the last year, there have been endless youtube videos of fanboy theories on what will happen in ‘Endgame’, to the detriment of everything else. I grew weary of this B/S. fairly quickly. By Christmas, I had already decided not to bother watching the movie. If anyone asks me about it, then I just list the killed off characters. I’ve done it twice now, and it felt surprisingly good. I liked the first ‘Avengers’ movie, and ‘Age Of Ultron’, but not bothered with the last two – Thanos isn’t a very good adversary, to be honest – he was once, in the comics, defeated, very definitely, by a fun and quirky superhero called ‘Squirrel Girl’ (who is brilliant, by the way). Just think about that for a second. You cannot have a ‘Big Bad’ or be frightened of one, who can be defeated by a young female superhero who has the powers, bushy tail and agility of a squirrel. Viva Squirrel Girl!

  8. Ian Luck says:

    Snowy – People are way too quick to jump in and condemn. I was talking to somebody on’t web t’other week, about First World War tanks. Sorry, I’ll admit it here: My name is Ian, and I’m a tank bore. Having got that out of the way, I happened to mention that there was a tank used that was called the ‘Mark V ‘Hermaphrodite’.’ I should explain, that early tanks did not have turrets, but mounted guns in ‘Sponsons’ on the sides of the vehicles. Tanks were of two types: ‘Male’ and ‘Female’. Males carried 6 pound guns, and females carried four heavy machine guns. A ‘Hermaphrodite’ had a six pounder on the starboard side, and two machine guns on the port side. Anyhow, somebody immediately leapt in, to tell me that I couldn’t use the term ‘Hermaphrodite’ as some people considered it offensive. I retorted by saying that it was official 1916/17 War Department nomenclature, as it didn’t signify anything untoward if picked up by the Germans. The person then said that it was a term that could upset some people, so I then said that the term comes from Greek and Roman mythology, particularly from the ‘Metamorphoses’ by Ovid. Hermes and his sister, Aphrodite, had an incestuous dalliance, the result of which was a child who had attributes of both divine parents, but the sex and gender of neither clearly defined. That child was called ‘Hermaphroditus’. After that the complainer didn’t post again. I am well aware that the term ‘Intersex’ is used nowadays for people born whose sex and gender are not clearly defined, but was annoyed that someone found the term offensive when applied to, of all things, a tank. And Male/Female couplings on plumbing and electical items? Never even thought about it, until someone thought they’d be offended by it. I’m one of those people who will ensure to call something by it’s proper name more and more if some prick with a sense of self righteousness decides that the term used might offend someone, somewhere. There’s far too much of this sort of thing going on nowadays.

  9. Roger says:

    I haven’t seen any of its predecessors and I’m not going to see this one.
    This one https://electricliterature.com/samuel-becketts-avengers-endgame/ I would queue to see though.

  10. Roger Gray says:

    Can’t stuff just be fun any more? I mean FFS the world is a shit hole and everyone is gong to die so why not lighten up and have a bit of fun now and again.

  11. Jan says:

    I saw that film last night (nephews birthday treat) right rubbish if you ask me. I’ve a good friend who loves ALL the Marvel films and he probably thinks it’s the best picture ever. It kept referring back to earlier films and then as if to alleviate the sentimentality of it all they threw in a big fireworks of a battle in the end. Wasn’t that exciting a battle either. Then it went back to more sentimentality.

    For some reason I couldn’t figure out a young version of Michael Douglas was thrown into the mix. That’s 3 hours of my life I won’t be getting back.

    Why is Ian ranting on about tanks with male + female fittings? Like it used to say in IKEA catalogues, IKEA was obsessed with male and female fittings. Their instructions to build anything from coffee tables to medicine cabinets read like a bit like a sex manual. Being Swedish I suppose . ( That can’t be politically correct at all. ) I can’t figure that one out either.

  12. admin says:

    This is probably the only Avengers: Endgame review incorporating IKEA sex manuals and electrical plugs.

  13. Line B says:

    Ooo I do love this blog and especially the replys. From avengers to tanks in a heartbeat and then to Ikea with sexy swedes. Especially liked that one since I am swedish. I laughed so hard I had to change my small-pants. A grey swedish morning just turned brighter thanks to this. And Jan, no probably not politcally correct, but really really funny so I forgive you!

    From Ikea to eternity in an intersex tank!
    Have a nice day.

  14. Jo W says:

    Avengers:Endgame, nobody said but did Steed and Mrs.Peel survive?
    Excuse me,I must go to insert the male plug into the female socket on the wall and switch on the kettle for my morning cuppa.

  15. Line B says:

    Come to think of it. In sweden we actually have a gender neutral description. It is nor he (han) or she (hon), it is neutral (hen). I now see this may cause some confusion – ”Stick the hen in the socket in the wall”. Ikea will never be the same again sticking poultry into tiny holes.

  16. Peter Tromans says:

    Poultry into holes: Jet engines have to survive bird ingestion. They are tested by throwing de-frosted frozen chickens into the inlet.

    Ian, I met someone in Australia who maintains the tanks of a collector there. They are mainly WWII and since, Churchill, Centurion, Chieftain. He had some amazing stories, including driving them down the highway when relocating the collection. He makes his living by repairing more mundane Rolls-Royce, Bentley etc.

    Sensitivity and political correctness. The Black Country Flag (invented for the Queen’s last Jubilee) features some links of a chain. It’s not unreasonable as chain making was a major industry in the area. They made it of every size from the most delicate to massive for every purpose, from keeping keys to turning the wheels of heavy industry. One of the most famous, though little used, was the anchor chain of the Titanic. Personally, I don’t find the aesthetics of the flag very good. The local MP finds the flag, its red, black and white colours, and especially the presence of the chain, racist and offensive, a disturbing reminder of the slave trade and the UK’s failure to reconcile its colonial past. At that level, what about wooden sailing ships and putting sugar in your tea?

  17. snowy says:

    * Reads Peter’s third para *

    There are day when you really do think that for the benefit of wider-humanity, some people should really have their Element 8 priviliges revoked until they promise faithfully to undertake a course of education.

    [Element 8 is a spectacularly dangerous non-metal that is involved in fires and explosions, toxic in high concentrations and should never be handled by people with impaired mental capacity unless supervised.]

    [Those with an interest in what really drove the European hunger for sugar and their unending thirst for tea, might wish to pick up a copy of ‘The Hungry Empire’ by Lizzie Collingham.

    It is rather good, after a everso slightly slow start, it covers the whole period of Empire, mapping how foods criss-crossed the globe, non-foodies may still find much of interest as it also describes how people from Africa, India and China, [to name but three], established new homes in the far off West. Beware though, it might shatter some illusions you have about the Evil British Empire.

    I’m currently trying to find some more of her other books!]

  18. Ian Luck says:

    Peter – some old friends of my family are scrap metal dealers. Before all the regulations came in, they used an old Chieftain tank to crush cars – they had bought it to disassemble, but liked it too much. The starter motor was exactly that – it was a modified Morris Minor engine.

  19. Peter Tromans says:

    Ian, that sounds like fun. Though I understand the driver, due to his limited view, relies heavily on the person in the turret. Without them, it’s possible to accidentally wipe out a row of parked cars and the odd house and not really notice.

  20. snowy says:

    To avoid any risk of confusion arising from my previous comment, [and me suffering Engineering Field Punishment No. 1]. My despair was directed at certain Labour MP [Wolvo SW], [and not at Peter].

    [EFP No 1 – edge of Steel rule across knuckles.]

  21. Peter Tromans says:

    Snowy, that was perfectly clear to me, so please do not worry, certainly not about the steel rule, especially now that we’re driving tanks. Very best wishes, Peter

  22. snowy says:

    I just had to make sure not to have a repeat of the time I accidentally upset Jo with an ill judged remark.

    But if we are all !DRIVING ABOUT IN TANKS!, can I have a Crocodile? Can I? Please? I would make lighting the Bar-B-Que so much easier! Brmm, Brmm Whoosh!…. Job done.

  23. snowy says:


    Apologies to our Host, it is probably my fault that his nice discussion about a film seems to have gone a bit ‘Crimson Permanent Assurance’.

  24. Ian Luck says:

    Snowy – I love the phrase: “It’s all gone a bit…” My favourite is from Charlie Brooker’s TV show ‘Nathan Barley’, and it’s very random indeed. “It’s all gone a bit Mexico.” Nathan Barley was a character from Brooker’s 1990’s faux TV listings site, ‘TVGoHome’, where he was the star of a TV show entitled simply as: ‘C*nt.’

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