“Part of the journey is the end.”

13 May

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I saw Avengers: Endgame twice in its first two weeks in theaters, and I’m still aflutter. The first viewing was like a roller coaster: you brace for whatever the Russo brothers are going to throw at you, then you give over to the speed and twists and lack of brakes and end the three-hour ride exhilarated and exhausted.

This second time through, I let my mind wander a little more:

  • For all her fighting with, then against, Thanos, Nebula still has time to get her nails done. She also has eyelashes a Kardashian would envy.
  • Speaking of eyelashes, Chris Evans’ look like they’re made of chinchilla.
  • Natasha wore the most gorgeous lip color on her one-way trip to Vormir. Perhaps MAC will market it as “Soul Stone Sacrifice.”
  • So why didn’t Ben & Jerry’s come out with Hulk-a-Hulk-a-Burning Love – in gallon containers?
  • Speaking of Chris Evans, he is the most symmetrical human being I’ve ever seen.
  • Why would Scott Lang – a San Francisco native – eat hard shell tacos?
  • How much did William Hurt get paid to stand silently in the back of row of Tony Stark’s funeral tableau as his only appearance in the whole movie?
  • How much more did Samuel L. Jackson get paid for the same job?
  • How many Academy Award winners were in that movie? I counted seven people and eight Oscars: Michael Douglas (2), William Hurt, Brie Larson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Redford, Tilda Swinton and Marissa Tomei.
  • Speaking of Chris Evans’ symmetry, baby got back.

Over the past weeks, I’ve been obsessed. I’ve gone down every YouTube rat hole – including one hailing the mouse as the actual savior of the universe. I’ve located every Easter egg, read thought pieces in the New York Times and unsuccessfully searched for a Kevin Feige bobblehead. It’s not healthy – but that’s how I roll.

I have been a superfan many times in my life. I saw the original Star Wars 18 times in the theaters and still have four original action figures (minus the rifles, dammit). I was a stone cold X-Files freak until about halfway through Season Six, when I threw in the towel because Scully had been pregnant for fourteen months and Mulder was noticeably AWOL. The show Lost? I LOVED the final episode – don’t @ me.

Now I’ve been sucked into the MCU and never want to leave. I can only wonder why, as a grown woman who could be investing my time into more refined pursuits (writing, knitting, going down a Tom Petty YouTube rat hole like I’m supposed to), Endgame has hit me so hard.

This may be because, as much as it exists to be cool and blow stuff up, the final story of the 22-film saga centered on family bonds. Who do you choose as your family when you have none of your own due to being frozen for 66 years, or having been an assassin since childhood, or being a talking raccoon? If you could have one last conversation with a parent before they die, what would you talk about? And when death takes those you love, how can you possibly move on?

iron man marvel GIF

It’s also because of Iron Man, or more correctly, Tony Stark – or even more truthfully, Robert Downey Jr. His talent is breathtaking, funny, mercurial and heartfelt. His unique take on this role rescued his career after years of addiction and bad casting. It also set the whole MCU on the path of greatness, with subsequent films attracting amazing actors who embraced being sorcerers and African kings in vibranium cat suits and gamma-irradiated big green men without hesitation or apology.

Downey Jr. is six months older than me, and there won’t be any other central Marvel character who is my age in this universe again. At best, today’s greats might be featured in secondary roles, as everyone from Glenn Close to Annette Bening has been. I’m glad these timeless actors are getting work in such high-profile properties … but they aren’t the heroes anymore.

What does that say to me, at this point in my non-heroic life? I’m still working on that.

One of Tony Stark’s best lines from Endgame in his hologram goodbye to his four year old daughter: “Part of the journey is the end.” That’s really heavy news for me, much less a little girl mourning her dad. It bumps up against what I’ve wrestled with since I turned 50 more than three years ago, followed by the loss of my most beloved musical heroes and my novel imploding after more than a decade of work. With those parts of my life wrapped up, what now?

I am trying to frame my Endgame obsession as inspiration for my next great move forward: writing a totally different novel, balancing my personal and professional responsibilities, maybe even falling for a new favorite band. After all, in the MCU, there’s always another saga to be told.

See you on the flip side …

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6 Responses to ““Part of the journey is the end.””

  1. Jason Wendleton May 14, 2019 at 1:12 pm #

    Much like ENDGAME, there’s a lot to unpack in this post. Despite being a billion-dollar-juggernaut, I’m always surprised when I hear a grown adult person talk about how much the love the MCU. As a kid who grew up on the 90’s X-Men cartoon and a copious amount of comic books, I still can’t believe we live in a world where Iron Man is a bigger money maker than Superman.

    Your point about Stark being the last superhero to be in your peer group reminds me of something I read on a James Bond fan page long, long, long ago: “You’re never really old until the actor playing James Bond is younger than you.” With Daniel Craig filming his final Bond movie right now, I dread the day they hire a new, younger-than-me Bond (thus completing my transition into old age).

    Since the MCU began I’ve changed jobs half a dozen times, moved across the country, bought a house, had a son, etc.It seems like every day is a bit of an endgame, with something coming to a close. Most times we don’t recognize it when it happens, but then sometimes your mentor figure steals a bunch of space stones and dies sacrificing himself for all of existence.

    Also: Fat Thor. Buddy…pal…where does he figure?I can only assume you are writing an entire separate post dedicated to what is easily the best part of ENDGAME.

    • lpon45 May 14, 2019 at 9:30 pm #

      It is so good to hear from you! (I assume you’ve left Facebook – and it’s the worse for it. I hope we can catch up somehow … ideas?)

      I’m glad this piece resonated with you. You still have a while to get to the post-middle age range (welcome to my nightmare), when endings make you wonder if you have enough time and energy for yet another major beginning. We can only keep moving on as if it’ll all work out and the great stories will continue.

      And yeah, I’ve been thinking about Thick Thor for another installment. That struck another chord: the intersection of beauty, sanity and gendered body norms … happy, happy stuff. Stay tuned!

  2. Pets to Go May 16, 2019 at 3:30 pm #

    Nice reflection on the Avengers. I am not, as a rule, particularly fond of superhero movies; fight scenes, general darkness of setting, and special effects alone do not do it for me. It can be saved by real characters, and I agree that RDJ basically turned the typical superhero–boringly good, boringly strong, boringly stoic–and infusing him with a rule-breaking arrogance tempered by humanism, created a character who was always interesting. (If I ever heard that he was inspired by Hugh Laurie’s arrogant “House” character, I would not be surprised.)
    So here’s the detail that gave me a thrill…a stuffed beaver. I only saw Endgame the one time, but early in the film, Tony Stark greets his daughter outside and is holding what appears to be a stuffed Beanie Baby Beaver. This is the same Beanie Baby (not exactly the same, but the same model) that my son received at Beaumont Hospital when he was first admitted to the NICU and started his chemo some 7 years ago. It’s name is Bucky. Over time, my son received numerous beanie baby “friends”–an Alligator named “Chompy”, a lobster named “Pinchers,” and several more–but Bucky was a favorite. As much to me as my son; if I may say so myself, I was very good at animating and dramatizing these little dudes. We took Bucky to all his treatment and hospital stays, along with several others, but Bucky was the leader. Then, sometime after treatment, we lost Bucky. Never found him. I decided that “the spirit of Bucky” lived on, that hopefully little stuffed animals everywhere are helping kids feel better. Then we see Avengers: Endgame. During that scene, I’m leaning over to my son asking, “Is that Bucky?” He’s like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Heck yeah, Bucky made the Avengers movie. I’m cool with that.”
    Maybe we’re wrong, maybe RDJ is holding a stuffed dog. But I think Iron Man is holding that badass stuffed animal.

    • lpon45 May 16, 2019 at 10:38 pm #

      That is an incredible story, Deb. (You do know Captain America’s best friend, who became the Winter Soldier, is Bucky Barnes, right?)

      That’s the thing about a lot of superhero origin stories: they start with someone who is painfully ordinary who, by accident or design, finds the ability to do extraordinary things – whether it’s a stuffed beaver or a little boy who comes through chemo to sit with his mom at the movies seven years later.

  3. marmaladefille May 30, 2019 at 12:56 pm #

    Boy, could I ever relate to this post, despite not being a superfan–or even having seen an Avengers movie (but now I will make the effort). In my circle of same-age friends and family, it seems that we are all going through a difficult time of trying to figure out what this next phase will hold for us…and it’s (at least partly) up to us, which just makes the process more challenging. How do we move on? I’m still working on that. Please keep writing your blog. What direction to take it in–I have no advice on that!

    • lpon45 May 30, 2019 at 9:57 pm #

      Thanks for taking time to read this! It’s been strange that a pop culture film is so relevant to what has been swirling around in my head lately. I’ll send you a list of my favorite Marvel movies so you don’t accidentally end up seeing Iron Man 2 or the Hulk film with Edward Norton.

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