Part of the journey is the end, and what an end to the separate build up of several films with an epic pay off. Avengers Endgame could be the most profitable film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it made $859 million dollars on its opening weekend. It is the last episode of a decade’s worth of narrative. In the final leg of the Avengers series, a lot is happening. Fans have been preparing for the end from the very beginning, yet a feminist review of this film will discredit all the hype.
Considering Marvel has close to 20 films dedicated to its male superheroes and all their plots are loosely the same except for the type of superpowers, the villain and the motive. Only recently, the MCU dedicated an entire feature film to an independent story of a female superhero. The timing of Captain Marvel and its strategic release leading up to Endgame is a bit consolatory.
In my opinion, it feels like the combination of the pressure of introducing an independent film about a female superhero merged with the cool quotient of having a pager ex machina (Nick Fury leaving behind a pager for the Avengers to contact Captain Marvel). Simply put, the MCU used a last minute narrative trope to include a strong female presence.
Speaking of strong females, it is absolutely devastating to see Black Widow, a constant onscreen member of the Avengers, being killed off in the finale. Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson was an alternative icon of femininity, she was brain and brawn— so much awe-inspiring brawn. She was a highly intelligent assassin taken under the wing of Nick Fury who recruited her to be part of the Avengers.
IT IS ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATING TO SEE BLACK WIDOW, A CONSTANT ONSCREEN MEMBER OF THE AVENGERS, BEING KILLED OFF IN THE FINALE.
Other than these superficial qualities, fans who haven’t binged the comics don’t really know the deeper story beyond her addition to the team. Every time her past is brought up, her character alludes to the very basic response of, “I had a troubled past and now I have nothing, so here I am.”
She is displayed as having refreshingly stoic qualities, but I doubt it was only because Marvel didn’t want to deflect from the Endgame narrative to delve into her history. She deserved a stand alone feature film where audiences would witness her past tribulations to be able to appreciate her magnificent sacrifice in this film. Even then when her death was gravely felt by the Avengers she didn’t receive a funeral like Tony Stark, but rather was remembered with a dark realisation that they were her only family.
Besides Black Widow, the only other female presence in the main cast is Nebula played by Karen Gillan. She is quite important and is responsible for major plot twists. Because of her part android physicality, her abusive father and Marvel super villain Thanos is alerted of the Avenger’s plans.
Nebula has a strong background of Stockholm syndrome because of Thanos who repeatedly abuses her regardless of which she still wishes to serve him. This is partly because of her dysfunctional relationship with her sister, Gamora, who is their father’s favourite. Nebula is competing with her his sister for Thanos’s approval, but soon realises how wrong she is when the two sisters reconcile.
Other than a soft nod to female solidarity in the last bit of the last sequence, the film sticks to its own boys club agenda.
In a cathartic moment, the Nebula in the present shoots the Nebula from the past who refused to see that their father kept pitting Gamora and her against each other so that they would not turn on him. In a learning curve for both sisters, they finally trust each other and fight together against their shared enemy.
Moreover, Endgame reveals the most overwhelming MCU battle sequence yet. Where the entrances of female characters, be it leading or supporting, feel like a pause for applause. You know where movies do the cool entrances and audiences get excited and forget about everything else? This is what that felt like. Whether it is Scarlet Witch, Valkyrie, Okoye or Pepper effing Potts in her own effing Iron (Wo)Man suit, it all feels like a show.
The representation of women in this film is a show, a very small and patronising show that came too late. These female characters don’t get reasonable screen time or dialogues that tell us what they’re thinking. Spiderman, the gauntlet delivery boy, gets far more action and dialogues during battle even though he died and came back like the Scarlet Witch while the rest of the women were all alive!
Other than a soft nod to female solidarity in the last bit of the last sequence, the film sticks to its own boys club agenda. Narratively speaking the story of defeating Thanos was built to exclude women from the forefront, yet fan service forces writers to include them in this ‘the future is female’ era.
Featured Image Source: Women of Marvel, MCU