A Spoiler-Packed Review of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Highlights

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, then that probably means you’ve seen and semi-processed the three-hour superhero smorgasbord that is Avengers: Endgame. We, too, have enjoyed its wonders—and, boy, do we have thoughts. For a comic-book movie, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe flick was rich with themes, arcs, and plots. It was also quite stellar. Yet, walking out of the theater, we all had questions, things we needed to work through that may or may not include a deep love for Lebowski Thor and Carol Danvers’ Power Lesbian Haircut. We assembled WIRED writers and editors Jason Kehe, Jason Parham, Peter Rubin, and Angela Watercutter to analyze all of the biggest themes of Marvel’s franchise-defining movie.

Fan Service

Jason Kehe: The hot new thing to do to supervillains: shock beheadings! First was Snoke, but that came at the end of Last Jedi. Not to be outdone, the Avengers—specifically pre-Lebowski Thor—surprise-decapitate Thanos at the beginning of Endgame. That shut up the whole theater. Wasn’t Captain Marvel supposed to deal the death blow? What about the Infinity Stones? Who’s going to finish whatever Thanos left gently sautéing stovetop? (Thor, apparently.) Then they flash-forward five years. Cool! The whole opening sequence is basically a resounding This isn’t the movie you thought it’d be.

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I was thinking about that when I read, in certain boneheaded, poopy reviews, that Endgame was designed—by machine algorithm, these critics seemed to imply—as pure “fan service.” Huh? What do they think we’re doing here, exactly? Hoping to be undone or challenged or forced to confront the existential miseries only true art can evoke? Insofar as Endgame is a reward, by turns energizing and moving, for fans who’ve watched these movies for years, then sure, it qualifies as “fan service,” but I’m not sure that phrase was ever meant to be used pejoratively or dismissively. It’s also not entirely accurate. We didn’t ask for self-sacrificing Nat and Tony, or Pepper “Iron Woman” Potts, or Professor Hulk. (We did ask for the cat from Captain Marvel, or at least I did—where was Goose?) Also, the original idea of “fan service” involved, more often than not, anime boobies. Instead, Endgame gave us uglified Thor, fully clothed Hulk, and nary an objectified bod in sight. What am I missing? Was Endgame exactly the movie we thought it would be? Is “fan service” fair criticism?

Peter Rubin: Boneheaded and poopy? Gotta be some kind of award for pulling off that particular tonal exacta. The fan service, if you can call it that, was exactly the kind we’ve come to expect from the MCU, an outfit that prefers meta-commentary and Easter eggs over broader forms of pandering. I’d call Professor Hulk fan service for that exact reason! Endgame doesn’t have the post-credits scenes that have given us stuff like Howard the Duck and Adam Warlock teasers, so instead we got Banner’s merged personality baked into the movie. Besides, “fan service” is about as cogent as “it failed to capture the spirit of the original,” a phrase that is basically the freezer-burned Hot Pocket of critical insight.

Angela Watercutter: Thank you for that, Peter. I, too, was kind of baffled by the number of reviews calling the latest Avengers fan service. In the truest sense of the term, it’s correct—it is a film that does fans the service of giving them things that make them happy—but the phrase, as it’s used in fandom, is a tongue-in-cheek understanding of “giving the fans what they want.” It’s almost always about showing skin or turning fanfic ships into canon. To give you an example, if Endgame was Fan Service for Angela, then it would’ve ended with Carol Danvers riding off into the sunset on Valkyrie’s pegasus. (Marvel, that idea is all yours, free of charge.) Instead, it slyly tied up a lot of the plots while giving nods to the characters and moments that made audiences stick with this franchise for so long. That’s just comic-book moviemaking. Moreover, this is a Disney flick, people; making fans happy is kind of their whole deal. Scoffing at Endgame‘s quest to please people misses the point.

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