I’ve never been into comic books, and I’m not a huge Marvel fan, although since I do tend to see huge special effect blockbusters, it turns out that I have seen all of the 19 Marvel movies. Obviously I was going to see this, billed as the culmination of all the movies we’ve had so far, and I expected it to be fine, so imagine my surprise to sit there and find myself… kind of LOVING it. And genuinely amazed.
First, we have a villain that actually is more powerful than all of the other villains we’ve seen before, so he really does seem like a threat. The other thing is that this whole thing really is on a scale much more vast than we have seen, so not only do we have incredible sights and astonishing locations, it successfully sets an adventure across several planets, of which Earth is only one. And in these ways it really seems like an expression of what people like about comic books… these incredibly larger-than-life characters on a vast canvas.
But what this movie has that no other movie has, and makes use of in inventive and powerful ways, is our history with these characters. It really rewards people who have seen all of the movies by providing them with a much more meaningful experience—and darn it, it really works! You know each character’s strengths and weaknesses, not just who has which powers, but their character flaws, which it makes use of to drive the story. Marvel movies have always snuck little character moments in there along with the action, and although they aren’t the main thing, when you’re watching this movie, you find that your accumulated knowledge adds up to create meaning in a way that would not be possible with a conventional two-hour movie.
So we know Gamora’s troubled relationship with her father, and her sister. And we know that Peter Quill is an old softie about the females in his life—which comes into play at a key moment. And we know that Tony Stark mentored Peter Parker, and has protective feelings for him. We know that Doctor Strange has these certain powers, and is a smart and moral guy. And all of these relationships and more are mined to create a emotional moments that bring the film a far greater gravity than it could have ever achieved on it’s own, make the scale bigger than any other movie, and… I was totally down with it. I’m not saying that it’s amazing for being an action movie, I’m saying it’s amazing and unprecedented as a huge exercise in accumulated meaning.
The other thing is that I found in this movie a validation of the main idea behind the series of King Arthur novels that I have started, because it is about using a bunch of smaller stories to create narrative meaning on a grand scale. So the Avengers has Iron Man and Captain America and Black Panther, I have Sir Gawain and Lancelot and Merlin and Arthur himself, and they are going to have individual adventures and tests of character, and go on to interact and face greater adventures, and grow and change across books, with the narrative meaning growing ever more resonant and rich. So it’s not about history, or swashbuckling or court romance, it’s about a huge narrative that amasses more and more resonance until it creates overwhelmingly powerful meaning on a massive scale.
By the way, any of my readers who want a free copy of one of my books, just send me your email and tell me if you want Kindle or PDF (ebooks only, sorry). If you like my thinking, and my writing, and you like entertainment, trust your old buddy Scott and know that I wouldn’t do something stupid. It’s FREE, no risk, doesn’t take up space, is super fun, and is FREE. Plus, there’s a reason this story has endured for a thousand years. Find out more about it.
I’m not sure that anyone who has not seen the majority of the previous Marvel movies would get much out of this, or what their experience would be, but that also is what makes a movie like this a special reward for those who have kept up on the series. The writing is good, the scale truly is vast and overwhelming, the action and battles are top notch, and the secret sauce is character. Because of this, there’s simply nothing like it. I can’t recommend it if you haven’t seen most of the others, but if you have, go!