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Marvel’s ‘Endgame’: The critical setup in short

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OK, as of the date of this printing, it has been one month since the first showing of “Avengers: Endgame.”

For the past four weeks, I have kept my spoiler-free promise except in closed conversations where everyone had full disclosure of the conversation and had either seen the movie or didn’t care (the later group rarely survived the cajoling that followed by the former anyway, so spoilery was contained).

So, what follows is the prelude to some planned observations I made pretty much from my first viewing. Though I have seen the movie since and both caught dialogue I couldn’t during the first viewing due to crowd reactions and caught a bit more clarity of viewpoint, to be honest, I pretty much would stand with my initial reactions, even having read copious other reviews and recaps.

However, before I get what I really want to say critically, philosophically and theologically, there are a couple of mandatory preliminaries to get out of the way:

• 1. Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! (To infinity and beyond!)

• 2. General opinion: This movie was awesome! Its awesomeness is exhibited in character progression and character closure where appropriate, story content itself, but most importantly in the emotional journey and the ultimate total closure this thing had to generate after over 40-plus hours of connected storytelling for 22 movies!

There are obviously other narrative beats that could have been hit and other ways the writers could have gone, but probably not achieving any better overall end product. With so many fans to appease, there would always be parts that would leave someone unhappy.

• 3. My favorite parts are really not that peculiar, because they are the ones revolving around the two anchor characters in their final cinematic appearances. For Tony Stark, to make the leap back into the fray once he has finally achieved what looks like peace, and ultimately to make his final sacrificial act also a pronouncement, “I am Iron Man!” was the pinnacle of the hero’s journey that I’ll take up in the next week or two to some degree. And Steve Roger’s calm command that we have waited those 22 movies to hear of “Avengers, Assemble!” highlighted by his ultimate sign of worthiness in wielding Thor’s hammer were all together moments intended to swell our throats, and indeed did each time for me!

• 4. But, such commentary has been made by many, many others who are much more worthy of opinion (and a whole slew who might actually want to check out the other 21 movies before they comment). So recapping the whole movie, rehashing and praising is not what I intend to do with the things I say. I’m more interested in exploring topics that are peculiar to my point of view, and perhaps pointing out a few others who have great opinions in their critiques of other aspects.

• 5. The last thing you need to know is that I trust you, the reader. I always very much appreciated the writers of shows like Lost and Battlestar Galactica who explicitly said they did not hold the viewer’s hand because they trusted that the viewer was smart and would follow without undue exposition (the perfect example of the opposite premise being from “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” when there is a long explanation of the song “Brandy” in relation to the story — by explaining it, the connection was ruined and the writers all but said we were too stupid to figure it out). So when I write as a pastor about something from a theological point of view, I trust you know that I am not exhausting all there is to my subject. I am going to hit it by looking at it “Through a Lutheran Lens.”

So, in a nutshell, I very much liked “Avengers: Endgame!” I am particularly looking forward to its release on disc where I can freeze-frame to further dissect all the Easter eggs that are hidden within (and actually find Howard the Duck on screen that Eric continuously claims he can see!) As a simple fan, it’s great, though even from the fan standpoint, there are certain characters’ fates I’d like to see play out differently.

However, from a theologian’s viewpoint, there are some strong questions that are raised about destiny, creation, individual identity and the very necessity or possibility of a divine being generally referred to as God. Granted that you have seen the movie, you may guess that all those questions turn on the movie’s key narrative element of time travel and the implications of its understanding of the flow of time and its consequences.

Anyone who has ever had that discussion with me about what superpower Jesus would have to possess to do the things he does in the Gospels if he were just a superhero might already guess why this is a primary concern. Jesus as Time Walker and master of time has long been my answer. As such, look for less general observations next week and a more pointed look at this key issue.

In the meantime, if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the movie. And be ready for a great ride!

Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.

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