Wednesday, May 29, 2019

My "Avengers Endgame" Project

Heads up:  There is absolutely no poker discussed in this post.  Nothing about Vegas either.  This is off topic and is (sort of) a movie review but it's actually more than just a movie review.  The last part of this post I will discuss a "project" I was tasked with by my friends—how to see, enjoy and understand AVENGERS: ENDGAME without having (initially at least) seen any of the previous MCU films.

And there will be spoilers, but don't worry, I'll give you plenty of warning before I get to the spoilers.  I'm not gonna just blurt out that there's no truth to the rumor that Rosebud is the name of Thanos's sled, so don't worry. I will give my spoiler-free thoughts first, then, there will be break for some pics, and then I will discuss the film in more detail and with plenty of spoilers. You'll get a warning.

Although, honestly, I'm wondering if it is even necessary to give the warning at this point.  The movie has been out for a month, and pretty much everyone who wants to see it already has, right?  And those of you who haven't seen it yet probably have no interest in doing so, right?  For that matter, those of who haven't seen it by now have already given up reading this post and are now Googling for the latest soccer results.  Either way, if you haven't seen it by now, you probably don't care about the possibility of this post ruining it for you.

Regardless, I'll warn you.

I do have to start off with big confession.  I was wrong.  Totally and completely wrong.  I goofed, and I'm admitting it.  Those of you with good memories will recall that a year ago I did a post after seeing AVENGERS; INFINITY WAR criticizing the ending of that film, really blasting it.  I am so embarrassed by that post now that I shouldn't link to it, in fact I should have deleted it.  But no, I'll let you all have a good laugh if you so chose, so you can find that post here.

Let me just say that in the year since I wrote that foolishness, I've had plenty of time to rethink my position and I was just wrong.  Oh, that was my reaction at the time, and it was a startling way to end a super-hero movie, but I was able to get over it.  And forgive the Marvel folks for taking that creative path.  By the time ENDGAME came out, I had totally forgiven them and was more than ready to see how they were going to get of that corner they'd painted themselves in.

Noticing that INFINITY WAR  was on Netlix, I rewatched it a week or two before the sequel came out. Being totally prepared for the ending really helped my enjoyment of it.  And of course this time I was watching it just a short time before I'd be able to see the resolution and the presumably happy ending.

And there was all the hype for ENDGAME. which I got all caught up in.  Suddenly I was looking forward to seeing the finale as much as anyone. And thus, I did indeed see it on the first weekend (even tho tickets were hard to come by).  Fortunately, everyone I follow on Twitter was good and no one spoiled it.

But I had done a bit of prep work for myself.  There were all kinds of articles on the internet talking about the movie—promising no spoilers—that gave you tips for what earlier movies in the MCU series were especially important for ENDGAME.  So I made sure I brushed up on those movies. The trouble was that every article I read recommending the 6 or 7 "must see" movies listed different films!  At a certain point I just had to go with my best instincts.

Well, the bottom line was, the movie wasn't just good….it wasn't just great.  It was freaking awesome.  I absolutely loved almost everything about it.  Really I thought all the decisions they made in telling the story were just wonderful, and all were easily justified.  Could they have done a few things differently?  Of course.  But I was totally satisfied with the way it turned out.  It is, in my opinion, the best Marvel movie ever, the best super-hero movie ever, and really one of the best film experiences I've ever had.  I left the theater humming a certain song, feeling extremely happy even though my eyes got a little watery a few times.

I spent the rest of the day and evening playing that certain song and scouring the internet for more info.  I wanted explanations/theories for stuff I didn't quite get (or stuff I had to guess about).  And I wanted to find out about all the Easter Eggs I saw and those that I may have missed, which I'd be looking for on my second viewing.  Yeah, I knew instantly I'd be back to see it again.  Hell, if it would have been possible, I would have just sat in my seat and watched it again right then and there (after a quick trip to the Mens Room).

I loved the movie.

And I was back again the very next weekend for a second viewing.

OK, so after a few pics, I'll give the uncensored review of the movie, you know, the one with spoilers.

WARNING: From here on, this post will definitely contain spoilers for AVENGERS: ENDGAME. Proceed at your own peril.

I already said I loved everything.  What did I especially love?  Well I love time travel stories so I loved that aspect of it, and the spin they put on it.  We've seen so many time travel stories with pretty much standard rules, it was nice they had completely different rules, and took full advantage of that. I loved the fact that they mentioned so many other time travel movies and explained how they all got the rules wrong!  I loved the fact that they said (something like) BACK TO THE FUTURE was bullshit (regarding its rules).  And by the way, BACK TO THE FUTURE is one of my all time favorite movies, definitely in the top 3 or 4. That was so damn funny. And I loved the fact that they revisited so many of the earlier movies (and did great spins on them) to complete the "time heist."  Those revisits were so cool (and reminded me of BACK TO THE FUTURE 2).

Captain America fighting his past self was incredible.  Stark's 1970 encounter with his father was incredibly satisfying.  Black Widow's sacrifice was….well somewhat mystifying and of course tragic.  It shocked me because I had heard that she was going to star in a stand-alone Black Widow movie.  We'll have to see how that plays out. 

And then there is fat Thor.  OMG.  I know this is controversial. There are a lot of people who didn't like it, or even hated it.  Of course, women tended to especially hate what they did to Thor, for obvious reasons.  But I loved it and thought it totally worked in the context of the story.  I mean, when I first saw him, fat and shirtless, I think I laughed non-stop for five minutes.  Really, I could not stop giggling.  As I said to one prominent female Twitterer who said fat Thor ruined the movie for her: "That was seriously one of the very best things in the movie...both for the story's sake and for meta reasons. I mean just thinking of Hemsworth's female fan base reacting as you did had me chuckling for the rest of the film."

It must have been a hard decision, risking alienating viewers like that. But I think it totally worked for the purpose of the story.  This was the best Thor we've seen in all the Marvel movies, the richest, most complex character.  And may I just say, Chris Hemsworth is a helluva actor for pulling it off—for pulling off all the versions of the Thor character since the beginning.  He's more than just a pretty face (and chiseled physique).  Perhaps it is evil of me, but thinking of how the ladies in the audience would react somehow made it even better for me.

And of course it led to some great jokes, including his mom saying to him, "Eat a salad."  And Rhodey responding to Thor's question, "Do you know what's going through my veins?" with the answer "Cheese Whiz?"

Certainly the end of the Iron Man story was very sad, very emotional but very satisfying.  Robert Downey, Jr deserves an Oscar nomination for his work here (so does Hemsworth, if you ask me).  A great character and a great performance.  Just amazing. Was I sad to see Tony Stark die?  Of course.  But if Downey is through playing the character, what a send off he got.

But my absolute most favorite thing about the movie was the resolution they gave Captain America.  Wow.  I know this is controversial too.  I read some complaints.  Cap would never do that.  Why not Bucky instead of Sam as the new Cap?  And of course, all the time travel/time line issues it creates. 

But to me, it was perfect.  Cap finally going back and having that dance with Peggy.  As soon as I heard the first notes of "It's Been a Long, Long Time," my eyes got watery (call me a sentimental old fool).  That was the song I couldn't stop playing after seeing the film.  And it was foreshadowed in every movie Cap was in, and even in Endgame it was foreshadowed in the 1970 scene, when he saw her in her office.  Perhaps that's the moment when he decided to return to her at the end?

Anyway, it made an already epic film even better.

The three hours just whizzed by.  It was totally captivating.  Bravo.

Now here is the epilog to my review, and it is probably more important than review itself.  I was tasked by my good friends Woody and LM with "prepping" them so they could enjoy ENDGAME even though they had not seen a single one of the MCU movies previously.


When they realized that everyone on the planet was digging this movie, they asked me if they should see it.  I told them no.  I said you can't just watch ENDGAME if you haven't seen any of the movies that led up to it.  It wouldn't make any sense at all.

Now I should mention that LM read a lot of comics as a kid.  She was a fan, and knew a lot of the original Marvel heroes.  Her brother is a major comic book nerd with a huge comics collection. In fact, her brother and I were both members of the same comic book club when we were teen-agers (although I never knew or met LM at the time, just one of those weird coincidences).  She always preferred DC Comics to Marvel, but knew Marvel. And she had seen some movies based on comics (we saw the Toby McGuire Spider-Man together).  Just not any of the MCU movies.  But she knew who Thor, Iron-Man, Captain America and a few others were, at least from their comic book versions.

Woody was a tougher case.  He had never read comics and had maybe only seen a couple of comic book movies—a few Superman movies.

But they are determined people.  They insisted that this was too big of a cultural phenomenon for them to miss.  And did they really have to see all the previous 21 films???

I think LM said they would start watching a few of the previous ones at random to give them some idea.  I said that wouldn't work.  I thought about it.  I came up with an idea, that was actually kind of dumb—at least the first part of it.  I said that they should first watch INFINITY WAR which was available on Netflix.  One of three things would happen, I predicted.  One, they would be so lost they'd give up after 15 minutes and forget the idea.  Two, they would be extremely confused but somehow enjoy and be intrigued enough to be wanna see a few more films to get some key background information before seeing ENDGAME.  Or three (and this was the least likely scenario), they would like it so much they would be ready to jump in and either see all the previous films or just run out and see ENDGAME right away.

My prediction was the first one.  But what happened was a lot closer to the second possibility.  While they were watching it, LM was texting me all sorts of questions about who the characters were and what their relationships were and whether this character or that character was a good guy or a bad guy. I tried to respond as best I could (they even took pics off their screen and sent them to me, asking "Who is this?")

Although they admitted they were confused and more than a bit lost, somehow, someway they got enough out of the experience to want to see ENDGAME.  Could I help some more?

When I suggested watching INFINITY WAR, I said in the unlikely event they still wanted to see ENDGAME, I would put together a list of a few of the movies they absolutely needed to see before seeing ENDGAME

Now they were calling my bluff.  By this time I had seen ENDGAME so I pretty much knew what I felt were the most important films leading up to it.

As I noted, there were lists all over the internet suggesting which movies were the "must-see" ones to prepare for ENDGAME.  I didn't like any of those lists.  Most of them picked movies based on key plot points that were used in ENDGAME.  For me, the character arcs, especially the character arcs of the three most important Avengers, was what was crucial to enjoying ENDGAME, not the details of where what Infinity Stone was found on what planet and taken from what villain (or hero). 

It was a character driven story, to my mind.

Of course, the list I came up with for them was based on my own prejudices, and tastes. No way around that (other than use some stranger's list off the internet, which would be based on that person's biases and tastes).

Since to me the best moment in ENDGAME was Cap's decision, I thought that all three Captain America movies were absolute musts.  Additionally, all of them were very good movies, among the best of the series.

Now there's Iron Man, perhaps the most important character in the series.  It better be emotional when he dies.  So for sure they had to see the first Iron Man movie, also the first MCU movie.  And it is a good movie too.  What about the other two Iron Man movies?  In a perfect world, yes, but no time.  The other two were not especially good movies, and I thought they could get enough Iron Man characterization from the first film and from the other films I had selected.

And of course Thor.  I wanted to limit it to one Thor movie for time sake.  The best of the three was the last one, THOR: RAGNORAK.  And it was even on Netflix.  So it was the obvious choice.  LM remembered Thor from the comics, so I didn't think she'd be lost not having seen the first two.  Another bonus:  Hulk is Thor's co-star in that film so they'd get important information into Hulk's development. BTW, LM was a big fan of the old Hulk TV show with Lou Ferrigno.

Besides, I was also going to put the first two Avengers movies on my list, which would give them more insight into Thor (as well as Iron Man).  And those two movies would give them great insight into the whole group dynamic, as well as many of the other characters.

That was it.  In order to fill in the gaps, I verbally gave them a lot of info on Guardians of the Galaxy (both the characters and the key plot point they revisit in ENDGAME), Dr. Strange (and the time stone), the Ant-man movies (Dr. Pym, Pym particles, the Quantum Realm and the importance of Scott's daughter to him), Black Panther (advanced technology) and Captain Marvel (especially the after-credit scene, which sort of explains how she was able to find Stark's disabled space ship). Since I skipped the first two stand-alone Thor movies, I also gave them background on Thor, and explained how his (ex) girlfriend Jane wound up in Asgard with the reality stone inside of her, how his mother died when she was there. Also I made sure they knew about Thor's hammer's unique properties (one must be worthy to lift it).  I actually made voice recordings on all of these topics.  I knew what was important to clue them in on, but it was a challenge to discuss these things in a way that didn't spoil anything.

For example, even though I had heard before seeing ENDGAME that they used time travel to bring back the people who Thanos had snapped out of existence, I didn't tell them that.  It turned out to be a great surprise for LM, who loves time travel stories.  Another thing I pointed out, without explanation, was that Thor appeared shirtless in Ragnorak.  I knew it was unnecessary to point this out for LM but I wanted to make sure Woody noticed too.  That was to set them up for fat Thor.

To my delight, they enjoyed every one of the Marvel movies I recommended.  Some of them I had recently rewatched myself, and a couple of them I ended up rewatching the same night they were experiencing them for the first time.  It gave me a chance to point out a few things or answer their questions.

As they neared the end of the list, I recommended that they rewatch INFINITY WAR again, now that they had all the background.  They had decided to do that on their own. Now that they had all the background, it was almost a whole new movie for them (and much better).

Finally they were ready to see AVENGERS: ENDGAME.  I was nervous when they went, I felt like I would be responsible if they didn't like it—it would be my fault that I didn't prepare them well. We joked that I was their professor, and I needed my students to be approve of the course I provided. Well, it turned out to be no problem, they loved the movie.  Although I have to say, LM did absolutely hate, hate, hate fat Thor for the obvious reason.  She wanted to enjoy Hemsworth's abs. 

In fact, LM said she wanted to see it again, so a few days later she joined me for another viewing (her second, my third).  She loved it again, and I was able to point out a few more Easter Eggs and explain a few things.  We both agree that we can't wait until she has the Blu-Ray and we can watch it together on her giant 4G screen and we can stop it at will and I can point out more goodies.

I have to say, I actually had a lot of fun thinking about the movies I wanted them to see, making my voice notes for them, hearing their reactions to them, and kind of re-experiencing the whole series with them.  It was a successful project.

I leave you with the list of the movies I had them watch, in order, and a bit of a make-good for those of you who were disappointed with fat Thor. What do you think of my selections?

1. Iron-Man
2. Capt. America: The First Avenger
3. The Avengers
4. Capt. America: The Winter Soldier
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
6. Capt. America: Civil War
7. Thor: Ragnarok
8. Avengers: Infinity War.


  1. It seems you are a fan of this movie and while I am not and did not read a single word I must say you did manage to share an effing awesome cleavage shot! Well done good sir!

    1. Heh Heh. The challenge wasn't in finding a pic of ScarJo with cleavage, it was finding one where she is the character of Black Widow and showing cleavage.


  2. Well, nothing I can say would fully convey how appreciative I am for robvegaspoker’s guidance and knowledge … without his expert prep I would not have enjoyed Endgame as much as I did. In fact, I liked it so much I had to see it again, this time with robvegaspoker! What’s amazing is how he carefully deleted any spoilers for me throughout the 3-4 week period it took me to view the 8 films I had to see first. Even Thor’s FAT! And he knew that would really get me. I was shocked when I first saw him on the big screen. How could they do that anyway to such a hunk?! Of interest, in spite of Rob’s warning that I may not enjoy Thor Ragnorak due to its different nature (a bit more comical) it turns out I loved it as one of my favorites of all 8. Of course, the visual eye candy really contributed to my opinion. I viewed it on my big 4k HD TV! So, as much as your readers most likely enjoy your pic of Scarlet’s cleavage, there is plenty that women can enjoy in the Marvel characters too. Thanks again Rob for a thrilling ride into the Marvel Cinematic Universe!

    1. Thanks, LM, I am glad I helped you and Woody enjoy this awesome movie (and the series). It was a fun project. Yes it was tough not pointing you in certain directions without spoiling anything. i was afraid I would emphasize a few things so much it would be too easy to figure out what I was leading to.

      If the post hadn't been so long already would have definitely written about how badly I miscalculated on Thor Ragnorak. As I told you, its just that you seemed to be digging the other movies so much and this was so different in tone and style. But it is a fun movie, to be sure.

      Yeah, there's a lot of beefcake in super-hero movies to be sure. I still chuckle thinking of Fat Thor, sorry. But have you ever considered the possibility that Hemsworth is really fat, that he was appearing as his natural self in Endgame, and in the other movies those abs and muscles were all CGI? No?