The Event of Endgame
As you read this, assuming you’re a deeply punctual fan who clicks these the moment they go up, there’s a good chance I’m heading to a theater to watch Avengers: Endgame. Based on the broken record for pre-sale tickets, there’s a good chance that a lot of you are in the same boat, maybe a few of you lucky jerks even got in Thursday night. The point is, this is an Event, in both the financial and social meanings of the word. And I thought that was worth exploring, because these sorts of common shared experiences are becoming fewer and fewer in the new age of media.
What I mean by that is, for those who can, think back to the time before streaming, when cable ruled the land. In those days, we had a media diet that was far more shared and general, because we were all working with the same limited selection of options. As a result of that, there were the eponymous “watercooler moments” signifying major events that would have people talking during their breaks the next day. That works off the assumption that the viewing is a shared experience, however. As more channels, shows, platforms, and options appear, our choices increase exponentially.
To be clear, I am a big fan of this trend. The market fragmentation opens up room for weirder, more specific things that might not hit with as many folks, but will connect deeply to the ones who love them. As an author who plays on the weirder side, I’m definitely not against the proliferation of new choices, yet as a kid from the pre-streaming age, part of me does miss that shared experience.
There are certainly still ones that come close. Breaking Bad, GOT, the final seasons of major shows often get close to the old days of Must See TV saturation. But Avengers: Endgame is probably the largest shared media under-taking I have seen in a very long time. And they got here the hard way, too. Movie by movie, brick by brick, all doing something that wasn’t supposed to work. People skate over this a lot, but prior to the MCU superhero films were seen as wildly risky. Some made bank, sure, however plenty turned into cash fires playing out on screen. The concept of doing an entire interconnected world where all of them had to be at least partially successful, at least during the early years, was utterly bananas.
Yet here we are, holding our tickets, hurrying to our seats, almost exactly eleven years after the first Iron Man dropped. This was by no means guaranteed, one look at Marvel’s track record will show you the company has bitten off way more than it can chew before. As the MCU has gained steam and power, there’s been a sort of brushing aside of their accomplishments. “Oh sure, of course they’re latest movie was a critical and financial hit” is a crazy thing to say in general, let alone when a series is over 20 films deep. There are studios that would very literally go on killing sprees to have that many consistent hits. It’s easy to lose sight of the wonder amidst the reality of what we’re seeing, but take a moment and appreciate how much shit had to go right for us to get here. Wild, right?
As for the movie itself, I have no idea how it will go. After this long, I’ve got hopes, however I haven’t necessarily loved every choice the MCU has made. Smart money says it will be good though, because this is in the hands of a lot of people who care about it. Some for the story, some for the actors, some for the money, but all need it to succeed.
What mostly interests me today (for the purposes of this blog) isn’t actually the film itself, rather it’s the fact that however it turns out, we’ll go through it together. Folks with different ages, tastes in genre, and comic knowledge will have common ground to talk over for the next few weeks. Whatever else people might feel toward the MCU’s seemingly endless box office domination, it’s kind of cool to have that feeling again. Truthfully, I’m not sure how many more Events like this we’re going to get. They’ll always come, of course, but not nearly so frequently as when we all had the same minimal content options to choose from.
Enjoy the movie today, and also take a moment to look around and appreciate how many others are enjoying it with you. As a person who works in the creative arts, seeing a work impact that many people is both deeply humbling, and heavily inspiring. Because seeing it happen means it can be done, even if the road to get there is hard. While for me it’s a one-day dream, for Marvel they’ve managed it, and no matter what comes next, I think that’s an achievement worth celebrating.
Okay, now enough talk, and pass the popcorn. Here, you take the soda, and stop whispering for goodness’ sake. The movie’s about to start.