Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Children of Generation X, Part 3: How to Get Along with Your New Step-Dad

Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.

So, here we are, on the eve of Avenger: Infinity War. The culmination of the entire MCU to date. Except, it really isn’t it. It’s the first half of the culmination, right? The movie is a two-parter, with a minimum of two guaranteed cliffhangers in the middle, and potentially two or three more. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) online with any kind of media presence or any kind of click-bait site is wildly speculating about who is going to live, and who is going to die, and what it all means, and will they, and won’t they, or what they have already gotten wrong, or what they likely will get wrong, and blah blah blah blah blah. It's tempting to start clicking and reading, but please don't. Not until you hear me out. I don't know much, but I know these things to be true, and they will help you with your tossing and turning at night. Here’s what you all need to know before you get your knickers in a twist: 

The deal with Fox isn’t done, yet. They have a lot to work out and it may not all go through. It may be only partially go through. But we don’t really know (and won’t know) until 2019 when the courts decide how much of Fox’s Intellectual Property Disney gets to acquire. That will affect a lot of things, such as how much more money they can dangle in front of Downey, Jr., Evans, and Hemsworth to stay on for one more movie. Everyone has a boat payment to make. Everyone is for sale.

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. With apologies to Yogi Berra, this movie is only the first half of the film. We have to wait a whole year to really see the entire 5-hour megamovie. And while I’m very excited to see what they came up with, I also know it’s going to end just when things are at their most bleak. So, there’s no way I’m pinning all of my hopes and dreams on this movie—and neither should you.

The Infinity Gauntlet Reshapes Reality. In other words, not only does this first movie not really matter (because whatever gets done can get undone later), but whoever puts on the gauntlet gets to reset the clock and dial it all back to zero. Or not. Or somewhere in-between. We won’t know how the MCU shakes out until 2019. A year away. Why do you think they’ve been so tight-lipped about what movies come next? It’s because they don’t know.

Until the suits sit down in a boardroom with a bunch of lawyers, and all of the contracts are negotiated, there is zero point in speculating about what comes next, who lives, who dies, and how it all ends up. Anything can happen. But it’ll happen legally first, and then get handed down by the studio: “This is what you have to work with. Make it work.” And I’m sure Feige will do what he did the first time around. He’ll make lemonade out of lemons if he has to. At best, I’m betting he’s got a few contingency plans mapped out. But they don’t get to pick them until the courts sign off on Disney’s acquisition. Fan-Nattering online is just that. Just say no to the clickbait speculation sites. 

This isn’t about comics anymore. When you kvetch, write a letter, or even tweet your displeasure, you’re not talking to an editor and a creative team. You’re talking to a cavalcade of accountants and lawyers in suits, all of whom do not care about this material in the slightest beyond what its earning potential is for the company. Always remember that, and you’ll see how meaningless the online chatter really is.

As much as no one is talking about it, this franchise does not exist creatively any more. It exists as intellectual property belonging to a megalithic corporation specializing in global entertainment, brand name recognition, and the most savvy and targeted marketing strategies in the world. That’s Disney. That’s who they are. And what comes later in Phase 4 and Phase 5 and on down the road will be negotiated by lawyers in suits, with contracts, and licensing. It’s just how it is, now. I don’t want to think about it, but the best part of the MCU may well be over and done with. I hope not, but I’m not na├»ve, and you shouldn't be, either.

I’m going to watch Avengers: Infinity War for the spectacle it surely will be. I’m going to appreciate all these great actors in roles I’ve come to love interacting and bouncing off of one another. That’s going to be a lot of fun. And I’m bracing myself for when the movie goes dark, because that’s surely coming, too.

Remember: There's always
Ant-Man and the Wasp!
We cannot judge the movie on its own merits because it’s like turning Casablanca off in the middle of the film and surmising how it’s all going to end. “Oh, looks like Rick and Elsa get back together again! Awesome!” You wouldn’t do that, and you can’t do that. Certainly not to Casablanca, but also to any story. And I don’t think it’ll be possible to evaluate this film until 2019, when we can see it all together in one giant five-hour butt-numbing binge.

Going into the weekend, please take all of this into consideration. Don’t click on every negative review you read. In fact, you can skip the gushing ones, too. You can’t possibly be on the fence about the movie. You’re either going to watch it, or you’re not. Just temper your own expectations down and you’ll be fine. It’ll be worth the price of admission just to see if they can pull off something of this logistical complexity. Given Marvel’s track record, my feeling is that they will.