Monday, May 6, 2019

AVENGERS: ENDGAME And The Idea Of Fan Service

I've seen AVENGERS: ENDGAME twice so far (don't worry, I'm not going to give out any spoilers). It's a helluva movie, and a fitting climax to a decade's worth of nearly two-dozen films.

What impressed me most about ENDGAME was the character interaction. If you've watched the majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, you know these characters very well, and your enjoyment increases when you see them react to various situations. Marvel came up with a plan and they stuck with it, instead of constantly rebooting and rewinding like so many other major movie franchises have done. Not everything in the MCU is perfect--far from it--but most of it works well enough that the audience feels that they are watching people they personally know. Marvel Studios successfully defined and depicted a large number of comic book superheroes, and if they had not done that, it wouldn't have mattered how many large-scale battles or CGI landscapes they presented on the screen.

The best part about AVENGERS: ENDGAME is how each of the characters deals with an earth-shattering cataclysm. This is a movie which starts out with the good guys having lost, which sets up all sorts of intriguing situations. Some of the character arcs here might be a bit questionable (if you've seen the movie, you'll probably figure out what I'm referring to). It will be interesting to see how ENDGAME holds up after all the hype about it has died down.

I'm really not going to get into too much detail about ENDGAME--what more can you say about a blockbuster superhero movie? I would, however, like to discuss a phrase which I read in a couple of early reviews of the film.

That phrase is "fan service". Wikipedia defines fan service as: "material in a work of fiction or in a fictional series which is intentionally added to please the audience." (Apparently the term comes from Japanese anime. All those SAILOR MOON-style cute animated young girls who prance about in skimpy clothes or lingerie? That's the most obvious example of fan service.)

That's a very generic definition. When you think about it, every piece of fiction provides some sort of fan service. When you read an Agatha Christie novel, you expect a murder mystery that is puzzling to figure out. When you watch a Fred Astaire film, you expect him to dance, and when you see a Clint Eastwood movie, you expect him to violently dispatch some bad guys.

What struck me about the use of the term fan service in the ENDGAME reviews was that it seemed the writers were disappointed by the amount of it. That made me wonder...what did these people expect?? This is the ending of a decade-long film globally popular film series--did these critics think there would actually be a downbeat ending? At this point in the game, Marvel Studios isn't going to trot out an entry that has a edgy, unexpected, indie feel to it. These are supposed to be fun, entertaining films, not art house cinema.

To me, complaining about a comic book movie having too much fan service is like being ticked off that Burger King serves too many hamburgers. There's a lot of film geeks out there who love to attack anything that is popular or makes a lot of money, and the MCU films are enticing targets. I'm not saying every movie has to provide a certain amount of fan service...but from my point of view, if a movie entertains you, or moves you, or does something to make you say, "I liked that movie"--isn't it providing enough of a service to make you a fan of it?

I guess a movie that one could say provided too much fan service was THE FORCE AWAKENS (because it was basically a remake of the original STAR WARS), and a movie that didn't have enough fan service was THE LAST JEDI. 

However you define or measure fan service, AVENGERS: ENDGAME has plenty of it. It's what a great movie blockbuster is supposed to be. 

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