(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Avengers: Endgame
Where You Can Stream It: Disney+
The Pitch: The grand finale of the the first decade-plus of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the highest grossing film of all time probably doesn’t need an introduction. Well, except to say that it deserves all the hype and somehow manages to be a terrific movie on top of being the ultimate crossover event, delivering payoff after payoff while juggling a dozen different tones and dozens of major characters.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: A few weeks ago, a clip from Avengers: Endgame with the audio of an opening night audience went viral. It was a reminder of why the theatrical experience is still so effective and a callback to the times when we could actually leave the house and experience culture together. It was also a reminder that Endgame pretty much just rocks and earned that reaction because it’s a damn good time at the movies. But if you revisit the grand finale of the first decade of the MCU at home, it plays differently. Especially in the time of quarantine. In fact, there may be no better bowl of comfort food cinema than this movie, a gigantic blockbuster about the need to do something, anything, in the face of catastrophe.
There are a number of magic tricks at work in Avengers: Endgame. There’s the way it manages to be a Captain America, Iron Man and Thor story, advancing all of their arcs (and ending two of them) while building off the unique tones established in their solo stories. There’s the enormous action and spectacle, which manages to find new ways to let superheroes punch each other. And of course, there are the countless payoffs that feel like cheap fan service on paper but play like a deserved celebration, a climax to 10 years of generation-defining pop cinema.
So yes, Endgame is a crowdpleaser. But how does it play without that crowd? How does it feel in a mostly empty living room, where you aren’t surrounded by fans hollering as Cap lifts Mjolnir and sniffling as Tony’s closest friends say their final goodbyes? The film is just as exciting at home (directors the Russo brothers really do have a knack for framing that massive superhero action), but its melancholy notes ring more true. Especially in April of 2020.
When the Avengers watch over a decimated world, on alert but feeling entirely useless, you can’t help but think about us. The viewer. We’re in our homes, social distancing because it’s the right thing to do, because we have to do our part to maintain civilization. But our part feels so small. So inconsequential. We feel like we’re doing nothing, even as we do everything we can. When Steve and Natasha talk about whales returning to San Francisco Bay, a silver lining amidst the nightmare that is their reality, actual real-world headlines about animals reclaiming what is rightfully theirs comes to mind. We search for any bit of happiness, any sense of satisfaction, in a world torn asunder by events beyond our control. We’re angry. We’re sad. We seek comfort in our friends and family, but we have no way of seeing so many of them.
Of course, the Avengers win the day. Spoilers, I guess. But you’ve seen this movie. And it’s time to watch it again. Because perhaps we need glossy, effortlessly entertaining cinema about keeping your head down and chin up in a crisis. Because we need movies about heroes refusing to give in to their despair. Because, quite frankly, we need a story where the world is saved.
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