This post will contain NO spoilers for the recently released Avengers Endgame.
On Friday morning, April 26th, I got up at 6am… left my home by 6:30 am with my 11 year old son (awake, dressed and not at all grumpy about it)… drove an hour to the nearest IMAX theater… for an 8 am showing of Avengers Endgame. And the theater was packed.
As one collective mind we cheered at points… applauded at points… winced at points… and, yes, unashamedly… cried at points. It was long (3 hours) but we never left our seats (not even to use the bathroom, which would have meant missing something, and nothing was to be missed).
22 films into this franchise and they have absolutely captured the hearts of the audience. The question is … how? They’ve mastered emotional investment. In a way that Star Wars (everything after the original trilogy) and DC simply haven’t.
I can recall sitting in Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. The mother of Luke and Leah… Padme Amidala… was dying. Tears? No tears. I felt… nothing. I had no emotional investment. Which is pretty incredible since I saw the first Star Wars at 5 years old with my dad. Luke? I named my son Luke! I’ve actually been to light saber training school! Twice!!! I had plenty of emotional investment in the franchise but George Lucas forgot what these movies were about. It’s about emotional investment… in the characters, in the storyline… not just about special effects.
DC is another one that has failed to create emotional investment consistently. Personally, I was only a partial fan of Marvel growing up (loved the Hulk). Superman? The Justice League? These were MY kind of superheroes. I saw Christopher Reeves in Superman with my dad at 5 (just like Star Wars). These moments with my dad are some of the strongest memories of my childhood. And Superman I and II were incredible movies (III and IV? not so much) So again, the emotional investment was already in place before I walk in the door of a DC movie. And they sometimes tap into it… and other times they blow it. How? Again, you need to have emotional investment in the characters and the storyline. It’s not just about the special effects (which were fantastic in these movies!)
Marvel has the formula. They make you care about the characters. Even the bad guys! Loki has done all sorts of bad things but you still like him! These characters are flawed and funny. Marvel has done more than rock the box office records on every front, they’ve done what both DC and Star Wars have only managed to accomplish with every other film they create (ie. Superman – meh, Wonder Woman – awesome, Justice League – meh, Aquaman – awesome).
I’m hopeful. The trailer for the next Star Wars movie looks very promising. Shazam got great reviews. If DC and Star Wars can learn from the success of Marvel… we just might have a chance at redeeming fully the other two franchises. Personally, I’d like nothing more than to leave the theater with a few tear stains on my cheeks and a huge smile on my face.
Avengers Endgame… gave me both.