The Story Geeks blogger Anthony Holdier responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – which movie is going to be bigger and better: “Endgame” or Episode IX. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!
We have a fortuitous pairing once again, Story Geeks! Entirely by accident, although we certainly share a strong love for both franchises, Ashley and I naturally find ourselves on opposing sides of this debate. Unlike the podcast episode, I won’t try to respond specifically to her points, but I do have three entirely different (and obviously much better!) reasons to think that Endgame should be above Episode IX on your list of movies to hype in 2019.
1. Endgame actually has the stronger story set-up.
I obviously appreciate that Star Wars is older than the MCU, but I think it’s simply false to say that Episode IX is the pay-off to forty years of build-up. Even though we’ll be seeing some of the same characters that we’ve loved since the 1970s make one last pass through the galaxy, if you had asked anyone before 2015 if they’re excited to finally find out how “the Skywalker saga” ends…I simply don’t see them even understanding the question. In truth, I’m skeptical that speaking of such a ‘saga’ prior to 1999 (when The Phantom Menace was released) would even work – it’s true that the different trilogies have indeed slowly created a fascinating story, but that’s clearly been a piecemeal operation. When we watched empire, no one was wondering about podracing – much less about the First Order and if Rey’s parentage really matters.
Contrast that with Thanos.
One of the most exciting moments I’ve ever experienced in a movie theater – as I’ve mentioned before, something that made me literally jump out of my chair – was the reveal of the Mad Titan after the credits of the first Avengers movie. Immediately, every moment of the previous run of movies had to be reconsidered in light of the revelation that a) Thanos had been pulling strings behind the scenes of b) a story that included at least one super-powerful cosmic object that looked suspiciously like an Infinity Gem.
A full decade later, we are about to see the culmination of over ten years of intentional, consistent world-building that, under the direction of Kevin Feige, been moving in a specific direction this whole time.
I love me some Star Wars, but I simply can’t see the “we don’t know what’s going to happen in it” as an argument in its favor – because what you really mean is “we can’t know what’s going to happen in it, because the writers themselves don’t really seem to have had a clear plan in mind.”
Point goes to the Planner in my book: Endgame – 1, Episode IX – 0.
2. Enigma breeds doubt; Doubt kills hype
Building off my last point, not only can’t we know what’s going to happen, but the ground is fertile for seeds of doubt to take root about the likelihood of the story’s ultimate success. I’m not going to deny that The Last Jedi was treated unfairly and I’ve even gone on record defending its merits (of which there are many), but it’s also hard to deny that the production team for the newest set of Star Wars movies has undergone several unexpected hiccups (<insert “disturbance in the Force joke here”>) in a way that casts doubt on the cohesiveness of the overall plan which, as I’ve already said, doesn’t really seem to have clearly existed in the first place.
Moreover, this instability requires almost every defender of Episode IX’s hype-priority over Endgame to qualify their excitement for the film by, in some respect, suggesting “I don’t know what’s going to happen – but I have faith that it will be great!” Hope is fine and all – and I’m indeed hopeful as well – but hope is hype.
It’s also worth saying, I think, that trying to criticize Endgame’s presumptive plot on the grounds that “we know the characters aren’t going to stay dead except for probably Iron Man” is not actually a criticism – at least no more than saying “we know that Leia’s not going to survive Episode IX but Finn and Poe probably will” is. Making broad predictions that rely on external knowledge about studio decisions or other real-world requirements (what we could call ‘cinematic metagaming’ to borrow an RPG-playing term) isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s also kind of beside the point – especially when those meta-level concerns are essentially just genre critiques. By that same logic, you could say “well, as soon as Thanos smiled in 2012, we knew half of our cast was eventually going to die and then come back” or “I bet that the characters in Episode IX will both learn and teach some important lessons about balance, honor, trust, and love.”
Predicting mythological tropes isn’t an argument against those tropes – it’s literally just how myths work: Endgame – 2, Episode IX – 0.
3. (Do I really need a third? Okay, fine) MCU debates are better than Star Wars debates – at least right now.
Is Thanos a villain? Was Killmonger wrong? Are the Sokovia Accords unjust? Should Star-Lord choose his friends over his father? What’s with all these broken father figures? Does great power really bring great responsibility? And whatever ended up happening with Scott’s giant pet ant?
These are the sorts of questions we’ve been debating for the last decade – many of them on this very podcast – through the lens of nearly two dozen MCU films. They bring up fascinating discussions of the role of government, questions of social justice, ethical definitions of ultimate goodness, and the nature of character traits like hubris, honor, charity, and pride. These are important questions that deserve exploration.
What have we debated about The Last Jedi? If Poe (a myopic hothead) or Holdo (a self-sacrificial tactician) was right? I’m exaggerating (quite) a bit for rhetorical effect here, but what if our next debate is over whether or not Luke was more important than the porgs for the plot of the newest trilogy? That’s not to say that Star Wars can’t lead to huge questions – particularly in a franchise that includes complex figures like Kylo Ren and potentially deep characters like Rey and Finn, there is great opportunity for Story Geeks to go wild (I, for one, would love to see an extended conversation about the economic implications of places like Canto Bight). To date, though, far too much of the fandom has been concerned with meta-level debates about the value of the movies-as-movies or the relative merit of one trilogy over another. That’s a critique that the MCU largely escapes.
Final Tally: Endgame – 3, Episode IX – 0!
Obviously, though, I am super-excited for both the next Avengers film and the next Star Wars flick. But if I could only see one of the two before I die, it would – without question or hesitation – be Avengers: Endgame.