There are just over eight hours to go before I, an almost 50-year-old man, head down to my local cinema for the five minutes past midnight premiere showing of Avengers Endgame. (That’s four minutes of wasted time there, cinema owners: why are you making us wait so long?!?).
The cinema is showing it on four screens at the same time, and all four are sold out. The young woman working there when I went down and ordered my tickets (because the website was unable to handle the request apparently…), told me it is the most people they’ve ever had at one point so if I want snacks, to get there very early. That’s over 700 people who are going to be turning up for a movie. Playing at midnight. And I’m assuming at least some of those people are not of a school-age…regardless, there’s going to be some tired folks sitting at desks tomorrow, taking sickies, or strategic holidays.
The past couple of days have been a little like the classic Likely Lads episode as Bob and Terry do their best to avoid Brian Glover spoiling the football result for them before they get to see the recording on TV. And Bob and Terry didn’t even have the internet and its trolls to deal with.
So why’s a past-middle-aged man doing this? This is the culmination of a lot: 21 preceding films: dating back to Jon Favreau’s 2008 Iron Man. Now just to pause on that a second: that was the same year DC were ruling the cinema with Dark Knight. Marvel’s response? To release, as far as the general movie going public was concerned, a ‘second-tier’ character from a pretty-much untried director of action genres. Of course, Iron Man was anything but second-tier to actual comic fans, but for Joe Public at that time…the dropped trailer at Comic-Con probably didn’t have the same effect on them as it did for some of us.
As another ‘of course’ Iron Man was far from Marvel’s first cinematic effort: even putting the old 1977 Spiderman TV movies aside (which I remember seeing as a theatrical release here in the UK), or the Incredible Hulk or even, god forbid the earliest efforts at Captain America, we had the Fox Xmen, New Line Blade, the Raimi Spiderman, and the slumps of Daredevil (actually not nearly as bad as remembered if seeing the Director’s Cut), Ghost Rider and the Fantastic Four…but it was the MCU primer Iron Man that really started it all, and for those of us in the cinema geeky enough at the time to recognise a post-credits appearance by Nick Fury (as mainstream as that may sound today), there was an inkling that this may just be something…bigger.
So here we are some 11 years and 21 films later, and it’s the last hurrah (of this incarnation anyway). The early reviews are in and it’s sounding as if it’s something pretty special. And that’s not a surprise for anyone that’s followed the saga: the care and attention go way beyond anything ever seen before. Yes, James Bond may still have more entries (and that sounds Bondian in itself), but it’s not the same: never, in the history of cinema has there been a world building of this size. It was suggested to me by my son that this is his era’s Return of the Jedi, but I think it’s way beyond that. For all sorts of reasons, and not just the sheer number of films. It’s a different ball game now, for better or worse – by 1983 there weren’t generally the six month waits before US and UK releases (hell, UK’s even getting Endgame slightly sooner…), but it was still a week to wait. There wasn’t the intense speculation, theorisation, and spoiler searches of today, and the communities which were obsessing about it were doing it in a much more analogue way.
But there’s something that makes me both nostalgic and amazed. As a pre-teen comic geek who spent every Saturday morning rifling through stacks of imports at Blyth Market comic stand (forget your plastic bags and boards back then: they were dog-eared before you even got to read them), I would never have imagined a day like this would come. Black Widow in a movie? Would never happen (and The Champions – BW, Ghost Rider, Hercules, Angel and Iceman were my little ginger headed favourites back then).
Of course, comics have moved on. People grow up and out of them. Cartoons give way to more mature things. Real Literature. Superhero movies may get your young ones interested in film, but they’ll grow up and start appreciating ‘proper’ film: art.
Well, I read lots: and some of the stuff I read doesn’t even have pictures. I watch films that have subtitles which aren’t just the Winter Soldier’s Manchurian candidate induced prompts, but I have as much distain for those who can’t see the literary merit in comics (oh, call them graphic novels if you want) or the quality of cinema in many of the movies that just happen to have an umbrella easy genre of ‘superhero’ as they likely have for me.
We’ve seen elements of the Civil War in film – and there are some brutal deaths in that which may yet rear their head (and not ALL heroes come back…), and of course, there is an existing Infinity War in written form, but all bets are off for the last instalment…the Russo Brothers are smart cookies – and if there were any doubts that a couple of guys whose main claim to fame was working on Community tv series until entering the MCU could handle so many plates, then they’ve done a pretty good job so far.
Me? It’s Christmas Eve here, and I should probably get some sleep before a midnight showing of a 3 hour movie, but the hot milk and promises the sooner you go to sleep the sooner it’ll get here aren’t working. I’ve been reasonably good, so I’m expecting good things. And probably a few tears. And to believe…
Watch this space, for non-spoiler, post-viewing updates…