ant-man’s stingers and the oncoming storm of cynicism

I’ve left this post on hold for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks because this post is going to be talking about post-credit scenes of the recent Ant-Man film and, for reasons that are still beyond my comprehension, people till let spoilers ruin their experience of a film.  So, to protect them, I’ve waited.  But, sometimes that isn’t enough, so I’m also not going to spoil anything until after the break and also going to spend a lotsa lotsa words meandering and padding this post out so the initial little preview bit on Facebook or wherever doesn’t include the spoilers because I’m just that great of a guy.  Beyond all of that, I’m also going to post a picture that has really nothing to do with the spoilers.

Ant-Man-7

ant-man thinks i’m great

And now for the thing.

I actually really hated the stingers at the end of Ant-Man.  So far, given my reading of the internet conversation and my own conversations with people who exist in the real world, I seem to be mostly alone in my thinking.  There seems to be mostly excitement surrounding the future of the character and the franchise inside the macro-franchise, but mostly their seems to be a lot of excitement generated about the Wasp out of a sort of yearning inspired by fatigue for lady superheroes and hey, I guess even the Wasp fits that bill.

That wasn’t a great paragraph, so allow me a moment: there are two stingers at the end of Ant-Man.  One shows us Henry Pym showing his daughter, Kate from LOST, an incomplete Wasp costume, and the other shows The Winter Soldier in some sort of clamp thing ostensibly caught by, or found by, Steve Rodgers and The Falcon.  And then Falcon is all “I KNOW A GUY WHO CAN HELP” and then he turns to the camera and winks and the movie ends with one of those black matte circles like from the Looney Tunes.

LoonPlat1-19

this isn’t what I just described, but marvin is so cute.

Both sequences came off really corny and really bizarre.  Like, Kate said “it’s about goddamn time” and there was this dramatic little shrill in the music or whatever and I’m just sitting there screaming internally because NOBODY TALKS LIKE THAT and also it’s a really thinly veiled attempt at channeling what the filmmakers/Marvel Entertainment/Kevin Feige thinks the fan community is feeling and thinking.  And, look, okay, I guess that that is mostly the sentiment and mood of the floor at the moment — audiences are very hungry for a female-led Marvel film and Captain Marvel is forever away and also we got a movie with a barely-talking tree alien in it before we got a female-led Marvel film I GET IT OKAY I understand.  But I feel like teasing us that way with the Wasp at the end of a movie that could have, you know, had the fucking Wasp in it isn’t so much acknowledging the hunger of the audience as much as its dangling a carrot over it and just out of reach from it.  Ya know what I mean?

It, to mean, isn’t a mode of writing or storytelling that led to that moment with the Wasp.  I mean, Ant-Man could basically be called “Checkhov’s Gun: The Movie” and after a viewing of the film that title would have made as much sense as Ant-Man and, to that point, the whole fucking film did a really good job of setting the Wasp up for the final act.  Like.  A really good job.  But no, let’s not do that because, I dunno, it’s more emotionally conducive to leave her out of and just leave it about the leading man rescuing his daughter without any help from the other nimrods (in the Looney Tunes sense) in the film.  But, really, let’s just ignore any writing excuses we can contrive for the films omission of the Wasp until that stinger (also, pun, very much intended, in case it wasn’t obvious from the headline.  A++ Journalism here at Henshin Media) and just be blunt about it: leaving it until the end generates conversation!

on the internet!

And that conversation, Marvel can read and dissect and then use to discern as to whether Ant-Man 2: Judgment Day feat. The Waspinator is a more viable business decision that just giving Kate from LOST an in-costume cameo in Avengers 3.  

and that annoys me and/or pisses me off.

And then it just get worse.  I don’t know what I expected from a sequence literally filmed for Captain America: The Civil War but tacked onto the end of Ant-Man because Kevin Feige thought it was a good idea.  People disagree with me about this too, but, well: I don’t think it was a good idea.  I think it was a stupid idea and it was a waste of time and following the bullshit with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet for half a second at the end of Age of Ultron I’M CALLING YOU OUT, MARVEL.

You’re flirting with that line between “creative and engaging” and “lazy and downright outright obnoxiously cynical bullshit” and I dunno maybe I’m thinking you might already have crossed it?????

Let’s forgive the shit at the end of Age of Ultron and just chalk it up to Joss Whedon being genuinely exhausted of all creativity.  S’not a good thing, but it’s a different thing, so we can shuffle that into a different basket and just move on.  Let’s just talk about The Wasp and the sequence from The Winter Soldier.  

WHY THESE THINGS ARE LAZY

It shouldn’t need to be said but let me just reiterate something.

 a sequence literally filmed for Captain America: The Civil War but tacked onto the end of Ant-Man because Kevin Feige thought it was a good idea.

Compare and contrast to that sequence at the end of Thor: The Dark World where we got to see the Collector and his Collection and we had the film actively confirm that the cosmic cube from Captain America and The Avengers was an infinity stone and also so was that weird red shit and MAN IT WAS SO COOL it had all those neat little fan nods and it teased the next handful of movies and it moved the macro-narrative forward in ways that the stand-alone film couldn’t do during its regular runtime.  It was a really clever sequence that did a helluva lot with a very short time.

Then we have this sequence with The Winter Soldier.  Which basically spoils the next film — NO NEED TO HAVE ANY INVESTMENT IN THE STAKES SURROUNDING THE SEARCH FOR BUCKY; we already know that Steve finds him.  But that’s okay, it’s about the journey not the result, so let’s forgive it and pretend it gets us asking really interesting questions about the next film.  Questions like, “Is this film going to be about Captain America and Bucky or is it going to be about Steve and Tony?”  Or: “Is this really the first piece of information you wanted to give us about this film?”  Or even: “Might it have been cleverer to get Paul Rudd in for a reshoot where he, I dunno, gets a phone call from the Falcon asking for help???”

i guess omg how did bucky get in that giant clamp is a good question too but i dunno i don’t really care.

Because I don’t think this sequence was trying to make me care.  I think it assumed I already did.  Same with the Wasp.  The filmmakers thought they could just put these sequences in and the audience investment would be automatic.  The previous runtime did enough work on the Wasp, SO OBVIOUSLY the stinger can just bank on all of the work and succeed automatically.  And likewise everybody already cares about Bucky and Steve and their bromance, so just tack it in on the end, the audience already cares!

The sequence with the Collector at the end of Thor works because it’s almost a standalone feature.  It relies on the previous film only for the bare minimum amount of context — same with the sequence at the end of Iron Man, and Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy, and any other stinger you can think of works.  The rest of it is achieved by the sequence — the sequence builds its own beats for comedy, its own stakes for drama, or its own investment for characters.  Because these sequences need to do that, because, AND THIS MAY COME AS A SHOCK, but, because they occur after the credits have started, so, you know, after the film has ended.

As soon as the credits start, for any movie, your brain checks you out and starts debriefing you and purging any of those fancy brain chemicals that were making you feel emotional.  The illusion is snapping open and you’re processing and analysing and thinking; anything that happens on-screen after that needs to be standalone.

And think about how true that is about how we converse about it — the sequence with Thanos and the glove fails to influence the critical reception of the film; we have whole different conversations about Guardians of the Galaxy than we do about the sequence with Howard the Duck.  And the sequence about the Wasp?  It doesn’t take away from the movie and we don’t even really seem to be talking about it relative to the movie it was attached to — instead we seem to be talking about where we’ll see her next.

WHY THESE THINGS ARE CYNICAL

I have to admit that the Wasp sequence is probably successful to the whole standalone point.  I still think it’s a stupid sequence, with horrible dialogue and horrible everything, but it’s lazy for very different reasons to the Civil War sequence.  But their lazinesses both come to same point: they’re just fucking ads.

I mean, most of these sequences are ads — and that’s mostly okay — but these are the most ads out of all the ads.  And I think it’s only going to get worse.  The deeper we get into this behemoth with Marvel, the more they’re going to be concerned with ensuring audience retention.  They’ve got so much riding on so much, moving so far into the future, they literally can’t afford a movie to bomb.

And that, I feel, is the secret with Captain Marvel being ordered so late in the filmography.  It’s nothing to do with audiences wanting a female character, or not wanting, or being ready for or not being ready for or blah blah blah — the later they slate it, the fresher it’ll feel.  Adjacent to that, the longer the wait, the longer the audience’s desire for it ferments and festers and grows — so that when it finally boils over, there’ll be so many bums on seats it’s not funny.

I’m sure the movie will be good.  And I’m sure Civil War will be good, and I’m sure whatever film we see the Wasp in next will be good too.  But, well, look, I’ve just spent nearly 2,000 words trying to tell you that I don’t appreciate the way Marvel is exploiting us, or at least attempting to exploit us.  I get that good stories aren’t enough to sell to people anymore, and that sucks, but please, Marvel, offer us a little bit more respect than your peers do.  Because, for the most part, you do.  Warner DC don’t, Fox don’t (Bryan Singer notwithstanding), and Sony didn’t either.  I think tacking on a sequence from another movie for, really, no real reason, and I think teasing us with The Wasp after the movie is over instead of putting her in the final act, is borderline approaching that whole disrespect thing.

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