Dear fellow fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,
In a week, Avengers: Endgame will be released. It has already been declared in various outlets as the most anticipated film of 2019, and with good reason. This is the twenty-second installment in the eleven-year history of the MCU. Everything, from Iron Man to Captain Marvel, has lead to this one giant, three-hour-long film. The anticipation is unsettling.
But I cannot celebrate this massive cinematic achievement without addressing a major issue potentially surrounding the film. Spoiler alert, none of this surprisingly has anything to do with spoilers.
Avengers: Endgame and the Potential of Toxic Fandom
There has been a lot of secrecy surrounding the new film since that massive cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War one year ago. Aside from the trailers, which directors Anthony and Joe Russo have claimed only give away the first twenty minutes of the film, there is still no predicting what’s about to happen when our heroes face Thanos (Josh Brolin) once again. All over the Internet, several fan theories have been proposed and shared as to what may or may not happen. You probably have either written one yourself or strongly believe in one.
Here’s something you absolutely need to keep in mind though: What if your theory doesn’t come true? What if a different theory you believed in isn’t confirmed? What if the film goes in directions you didn’t expect? And most of all, what if you don’t like it?
I’m not saying Avengers: Endgame will fail in any way. It’s about to become a box-office event, a cultural milestone even. I listed it as my number-one most-anticipated film of the year if you don’t believe me. But suppose, after a whole year of trying to connect the dots with all the information given so far about its plot and characters, it doesn’t live up to your expectations?
If you find yourself disappointed after viewing the film, or even angry, what you need to do first is take a deep breath and try to process it all. After doing so, you may come across a friend, a peer, a coworker, or even someone random online who had the complete opposite reaction than you. Maybe they enjoyed the film, despite its flaws. What you need to not do is instigate or intimidate them by saying they are “wrong” for uttering such nonsense. Everybody will have a right to their opinion, no matter how they thought of the film or even how much of a fan they may be of the film series or original Marvel comics.
A Bad Feeling About This?
Now you’re probably wondering why this needs to be addressed. Well, let me take you back to a galaxy far, far away.
In December 2017, a little film called Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was released. Even though it did well financially and scored a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, it divided fans to near traumatization. That sounds harsh, but so were The Last Jedi viewers who harassed both fellow fans who dared to like the film, and the cast and crew, particularly writer/director Rian Johnson and actress Kelly Marie Tran. Star Wars fandom has a long history of antagonism and The Last Jedi came as no exception.
So again, why mention this? What do Star Wars and The Avengers have in common aside from being owned by the Walt Disney Company? They both are major franchises with passionate fan bases. But sometimes, people need to be reminded that no matter what the outcome of a certain film may be, hostility amongst viewers and their opinions should never be incited. Film criticism in a respectable manner, though, should most definitely be allowed. All views on film should be encouraged by fans of different walks of life. Sometimes, even reading fan theories is entertaining, mostly because they aren’t meant to be taken too seriously. It’s just a fun way to predict and discuss the results of your favorite fandom. But trolling and harassment because of taste is where the line needs to be drawn.
Hit or Miss?
You’re probably wondering “Well, The Last Jedi was made by Rian Johnson, not J.J. Abrams, so he screwed it up! At least the Russo Brothers are making both Infinity War and Endgame, so it should be good!” Well, Sam Raimi still made Spider-Man 3, my idol Mr. Steven Spielberg still made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Christopher Nolan still made The Dark Knight Rises, and Peter Jackson still made The Hobbit trilogy.
All these widely-considered lackluster films were still helmed by filmmakers who had previously directed their more superior predecessors. Fans often come to a similar agreement that said films are of lesser quality in their respective franchises. What if Endgame turns out to be the black sheep?
Look, no one can ever predict a hit in Hollywood, no matter what kind of talent at the reins. So what if a theory you read and shared online about Endgame ends up not coming true? You’d have to move on with the outcome. Just because you may have had the movie planned out in your head doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll see on screen. You cannot rely on what the story will be just because the Internet said so. What you’ll see is what you’ll get. And if you don’t like it, you have to realize that is completely okay. And if your friend or neighbor does like it, you still have to realize that is also completely okay.
Last Word on Endgame
I hope to enjoy Endgame as much as Infinity War. Personally, I have doubts it’ll be a black sheep. But if it is, this is what I plan to do after the post-credits scene: calmly process everything and draw up my own conclusions. If someone disagrees, I’ll do what I always do: politely ask why and spark up a friendly debate. It may or may not change my opinion, but at least I can still enjoy talking about something I love. After all, I believe you could learn a lot from someone by how they speak about cinema.
Because if you think lashing out at someone due to a difference of opinions is the plan… well, to quote one Tony Stark, “Not a great plan.”
A fellow Marvel Cinematic Universe fan.
This article is part of an ongoing investigation about toxic fandom. To read more of Paul’s work, check out The Misery of Fandom Parts I and II. Also, take a look at his piece on his first convention experience here: Rediscovering Fandom, or How I Survived My First Convention.