When Hollywood Makes Conservative Movies

The other day a buddy messaged me a link to a Quillette article titled, The Conservative Manifesto Buried in ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ asking what my take was on the thesis. I didn’t even know he was reading Quillette.  Didn’t he know that’s part of the “Intellectual Dark Web” and therefore crime-think in polite society?  That this was a gateway drug to the Alt-Right?  The New York Times concern trolled the Intellectual Dark Web last year in its Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web.

Here are some things that you will hear when you sit down to dinner with the vanguard of the Intellectual Dark Web: There are fundamental biological differences between men and women. Free speech is under siege. Identity politics is a toxic ideology that is tearing American society apart. And we’re in a dangerous place if these ideas are considered “dark.”

Today, people like them who dare venture into this “There Be Dragons” territory on the intellectual map have met with outrage and derision — even, or perhaps especially, from people who pride themselves on openness.

In other words, today’s dangerous ““there Be Dragons” territory” was yesterday’s conventional wisdom.  Of course for that very reason, the IDW isn’t any sort of intellectual movement; it’s simply a catch-all term for public intellectuals who found themselves on the wrong end of the SJW guillotine simply by not changing their entire worldview every time there is a new outrage trending on Twitter.  The fact that they make such a tiny fraction of opinion makers is troubling though.  An honest intelligentsia would almost always find itself on the wrong end of Twitter madness.  I guess we don’t have one of those.

But on to Endgame and the answer to the question, is there a conservative manifesto buried in Avengers: Endgame?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Also No.  I loved Avengers: Endgame, as I wrote about here, but the author’s contention, that the MCU version of time travel is more conservative than what he calls the “standard model,” seems like nonsense. The standard model is that when you time travel, you are going back to your actual past and can influence things in your past to change your present.  This was amply demonstrated in Back to the Future among other films. Marty McFly’s changes in the past actually give him a better present.  In the MCU however, Dr. Banner/Hulk calls this nonsense.  You can’t change the past.  What’s done is done.  All you can do is go back and, by actually being in the past, create a new and distinct timeline, where your past changes will have no effect on your own past or history, only on the new timeline you’ve created.

As a theory of time travel, this actually makes more logical sense and is more up to date with Quantum Mechanics as nonscientists such as myself know it (to time travel, they go through the ‘Quantum Realm’) than the old version.  But there is nothing particularly political about it. The fact that you can’t change the past in the MCU time travel version doesn’t mean you are trapped by consequences, since in one sense, that sort of time travel frees you from consequence.  You can go back to the past, do anything you want, like kill your grandfather, and it won’t affect you, your history, or anything about your “present” since the consequences are borne by the alternate universe created by the time traveling.  As a consequence, Tony Stark gets a heart to heart talk with his father in 1970, Thor gets a heart to heart talk with his mother in pre-Ragnarok Asgard, and Captain America gets into a brawl with his own 2012 self.

So instead of conservative manifesto, I see clickbait.  You can do better Quillette.  However I do acknowledge that the villain Thanos is a Paul Ehrlich-like enviro-nut. Frankly, Endgame was such a dense movie that they barely could fit a single “you go gurrls” scene in the film.

That’s not to say that liberal Hollywood doesn’t make unintentionally conservative films.  They have to, because like it or not, they live in a world that mostly runs along conservative (small c) rules.  Juno of course is a great example.  Although screenwriter Diablo Cody seems horrified that the film as viewed seems to have a pro-life message, and has stated she regrets she wrote it in such a way, the truth is that’s what makes it a heartwarming film.  There is no version of that movie in which Juno decides to go to the clinic to get rid of a clump of cells and everyone shares the same heartwarming ending. The movie just would not have become the hit it did or even have gotten made.  If they could, Hollywood would make movies all day about women who exert their choice to abort their babies, but that doesn’t make a movie concept that sells.

During the 1970’s, when street crime was much more of a thing, and was a cause of real fear and anxiety among the general public, the Dirty Harry and Death Wish films were highly popular, because they represented a real fear of street crime among the public.  Hollywood was just as liberal then as now, but they recognized the money making appeal of the average guy getting revenge on criminals, or a cop bending the rules to provide street justice when it wasn’t available through the system.

Red Dawn was a rare exception to the rule that cold war fears were to be exploited solely by the left.  “Because…we live here” is probably the most right-wing thing said in American cinema.  Try using that as an argument for immigration restriction in your college Social Issues class and see where that gets you.

Hollywood will continue to make movies that are outwardly lefty and lose money, and movies that really do have a conservative bias (like The Dark Knight Rises) which totally slips by the Hollywood censors, but I don’t think Endgame falls in either category.  For that, you’ll have to wait for Marvel Studio’s Phase 5, The Intersectional Avengers.

 

Let’s Talk About Avengers: Endgame (with spoilers)

Hey just remember, I said SPOILERS right in the title!

You’ve been warned.

In the movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is probably one of the greatest film creations in movie history.  With 21 interlocking movies, each adding to a larger story that culminates in Avengers: Endgame, there has really been nothing like what Marvel Studios has accomplished, and it may be a feat never to be repeated. Certainly the rival DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has faltered and not even come close to competing with its Marvel rival.

In in that spirit, I feel (at least in this moment) that Avengers: Endgame is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen.  Not as a standalone movie by itself of course.  I imagine that if you were a casual movie goer, and had dropped in on Endgame without any familiarity with the previous MCU movies, it would be almost incomprehensible.  It’s a three hour densely packed film filled with various callbacks, easter eggs, and nods to previous films. It’s the sequel to the sequel to the sequel… Not to mention it’s the last chapter of a saga that began in 2008 with Iron Man.  Without having that background, the aforementioned casual movie goer would have walked out in disgust long before hitting the halfway mark of the three hour film.

And that’s the really amazing thing about it.  There have been plenty of movies with sequels and spin offs.  Some have been successful (think Terminator 2) and others have faltered (think Smokey and the Bandit 3), but they’re usually dependent on the viewer having seen the previous movie (or being fairly familiar with) to “get it.”  Endgame on the other hand, depends on the viewer probably having seen 15 or so of the previous 20 movies to appreciate the story arc.  That is an incredible ask of a movie goer, yet Avengers: Endgame did dare to ask and it paid off as one of the most successful films of all time.

I don’t see this particular feat being repeated in my lifetime, although I didn’t expect it the first time either, so whatever magic formula that Marvel Studios has bottled, keep it going.

The movie was jam packed, which probably explains why 3 hours didn’t seem like 3 hours, but it left so much left over to think about, that I’m still mulling some of the implications.

No redo for the “snap.”  There had been rumors for a year that Endgame would involve time travel of some sort, but I admit the actual way they used time travel took me surprise, with the consequences that they couldn’t go back in time and stop the decimation from actually happening.  It happened and couldn’t be changed.  That makes the MCU Earth radically different.  They dealt with half of Earth’s population vanishing in 2018 and returning in 2023.  That’s going to radically effect every single future MCU film since they will be living in a world where half the people in the world (and of course the universe) were, for all practical purposes, dead for 5 years, then suddenly came back.  It’s hard to quantify how that would change the world, and virtually all of the characters.  Not a single person would be unscathed by that.  Since the next MCU movie coming up is Spider-Man: Far from Home, that will be our first taste on how that’s handled.

Captain America’s Happy Ending.  The MCU time travel rules are that you can’t change the past, and going in time really means you are creating an alternate time line where anything goes, leaving your own “present” unchanged.  This really opens up a lot of fun opportunities because it’s time travel with no consequences, hence the fight between Captain America and the 2012 version of…Captain America. So at the end of the movie, when Cap goes back in time to return the infinity stones, he’s set to return 5 seconds later, however he doesn’t return.  Or rather he does, but as an old man sitting on a park bench.  Steve Rogers decided to get his happy ending by going back in time to the forties and marrying his best girl Peggy Carter.  But…we’ve had two seasons of Agent Carter, in which Rogers never returned so what happened?

The Russo Brothers, directors of the film, cleared that up in post movie premiere interviews.  Captain America didn’t change the timeline, he went back and created an alternate timeline in which he married Peggy Carter and…lived his life.  So there is a timeline where Captain America returned at the end of World War II, with all of the radical changes that would go along with that, but that didn’t change the MCU past.  In the MCU Prime Timeline, Carter married someone else, raised a family, and eventually died of old age. Left unexplained is how Steve Rogers got back to the main timeline to show up as an old man, but apparently there is an entire untold story as to how that happened.

A path to add X-Men & Mutants into the MCU.  With Disney’s purchase of Fox, all of the other Marvel characters can be brought under one roof, meaning characters such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four can be brought into the MCU.  How can that be accomplished?  This is just an idea of mine, so I’ll toss it out there with no support at all, but Tony Stark, in designing his own Infinity Gauntlet into his Iron Man suit, must have given a little thought to what he might actually want to accomplish.  Some list of macro wishes might have been prepared ahead of time, such as that a tiny number of the people returned after the decimation might exhibit some powers…Mutant X-Men powers.  This isn’t the comic book version of the X-Men of course, but the MCU has been great at repurposing comic concepts and this would be version that would explain why we haven’t seen any mutants up to this point.

Tony Stark created them.

So my hat’s off to Marvel Studios for betting a lot of money on something that no movie studio had ever done before, and pulling it off.