The Sunday Magazine: Avengers: Endgame

Endings are tough. They are doubly problematic when you are trying to do justice to a nearly eleven-year storyline. Avengers: Endgame manages to do a great job at fashioning an ending to volume 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two weeks after the movie has been released, I’m not going to reveal any of the major plot points but there are some things I want to discuss which require a little more revelation. Which means if you haven’t seen the movie stop reading now.

The first quarter of the movie is what the world looks like after Thanos snapped his fingers killing half of all life at the end of Infinity War. Our heroes are scarred by the loss. If we needed a reminder the first scene is Hawkeye losing his entire family. Captain Marvel arrives from the summons of Nick Fury at the end of Infinity War. Angry and sad they know where Thanos is and go after him. With two hours of movie left you can figure out they don’t succeed.

Then the movie leaps ahead five years. Things have dramatically changed. The remining heroes are all dealing with loss in their own ways. One goes to group therapy. One takes charge of coordinating the response to threats on Earth and the galaxy. One becomes a vigilante. One drowns himself in video games and beer. One finds a way to reconcile his inner and outer demons into a new whole. This is a short passage within the overall film, but it is one of my favorites. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo want to take a moment to show the cost of losing to heroes who have always saved the day. Five years later they each are still coming to terms with it.

Then a path to redemption appears. It requires the team to come together to try a long shot to fix things. They split up into teams each sent on a specific mission. As it was in Infinity War my favorite was the combination of Rocket Raccoon and Thor. I have enjoyed these two together so much over the last two movies I dearly want them to have a movie-length adventure all their own. Each mission finds an emotional resonance with the characters involved. This is where much of the groundwork laid over previous films is paid off. When characters run into other characters from their own movies it reinforces the interconnectedness of everything.

The missions succeed but the final battle remains. This is probably my least favorite part of it all. In trying to have everyone on the field for the final throwdown it got overly chaotic. There are some nice moments like when the female Avengers stand together in one passage. That our heroes win is a given.

What was nice was the epilogue where everyone takes stock of the price paid to win. There are deaths and poignant endings for many of our beloved heroes. As volume 1 comes to a close I like where this leaves the MCU as volume 2 begins.

I am ready to let Wakanda, and Black Panther, become the new center of things. Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man look like the cornerstones of this next iteration. Volume 2 starts with a wide-open universe to explore. I can’t wait.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Art of the Trailer; Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame

In the next five weeks the end of two of the greatest pop culture stories will begin their endings. On April 14 the first of the final six episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be followed two weeks later by the Marvel Studios movie Avengers: Endgame finishing the story told over the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not that either of these events require any promotion to have everyone who has been invested in them to show up they have still released short trailers over the last week or so. Both are good examples of how to build even more anticipation without giving anything away that we already didn’t know what was coming. I thought this was good opportunity to mention why I think they work so well.

The Game of Thrones trailer uses its first moments to confirm the battle we know is coming takes place. We see one of the biggest toughest characters breathing heavily with what looks like dirt, could be blood, running in a rivulet down her face. She seems to be hiding as she then runs at full speed away from something. To see Arya in this state is an ideal scene setter. They juxtapose her headlong run with words of her saying how she looks forward to the battle.

Over the next minute or so we see quick glimpses of all the characters we have been following as they gather where the story began; at Winterfell for the battle. The final shot is of our heroes lined up outside the walls. As the camera pans back and we see the undead leg of a horse for the army of the dead.

This is effective for me as a viewer because the opening piece lets me know something goes enough wrong to put Arya into that state. By showing her confidence with the voice-over pre-battle bravado as she pelts down the halls. It is all I need to know this is not going to be a clean resolution. For our heroes to win they will have to sacrifice and overcome much. I really know little more than I did at the end of last season which makes it the right amount of enticement.

Avengers: Endgame also reminds us where it all began. Instead of location the first half of the trailer are the three core Avengers Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor reflecting in voice-over about how they ended up where they are. The old footage used is in black and white except for the color red which is still there. I thought it was a nice visual cue because in between the old footage are new scenes which are in full color. Natasha says “even if there is a small chance” followed by many of the characters responding “whatever it takes”. This leads to a beauty shot as the Avengers clad in matching white suits head toward that “small chance”. Then we see the logo followed by a funny moment as Thor meets Captain Marvel for the first time.

This is another effective trailer because it does move me a little bit further on from the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. I have an idea of who will take that “small chance” without knowing what it is. I assume it is the one path Dr. Strange mentioned in Avengers: Infinity War where they had the chance to beat Thanos.

I am left at the same place the Game of Thrones trailer left me; battle lines clearly drawn a whole movie in front of me to resolve it. This is how trailers used to be. I am shown just enough to excite me without ruining any of the major plot points.

Mark Behnke