Last year, Marvel had the culmination of over a decade of movies in Avengers Endgame, a landmark event that featured heroes from multiple franchises coming together to face a threat to all of reality, a monster of incredible power known as Thanos that had already managed to wipe out half of all life in the universe. After initially suffering a terrible defeat, the remaining heroes had to rally together to find the strength needed to overcome Thanos by travelling through time and ultimately defeating him. Lives are lost, a great hero dies, and a new era for the entire franchise begins.
Meanwhile, DC’s Arrowverse had the culmination of almost a decade of television in Crisis on Infinite Earths, a landmark event that featured heroes from multiple franchises coming together to face a threat to all of reality, a monster of incredible power known as The Anti-Monitor that had already begun to wipe out parts of the multiverse. After initially suffering a terrible defeat, the remaining heroes had to rally together to find the strength needed to overcome the Anti-Monitor by travelling through time and ultimately defeating him. Lives are lost, a great hero dies, and a new era for the entire franchise begins.
Okay, I had to stretch a tiny bit to make those fit, but there were some striking similarities between the two. Given that both Crisis and Endgame were following their respective comic book stories with varying degrees of fidelity (Crisis was about 90% accurate to the comics with the characters changed, Endgame was more ‘inspired’ by Infinity Gauntlet than a direct adaption), I don’t think there was any intentional copying going on.
Here’s the surprising part for me. I’m a diehard Marvel fan. I didn’t even really get into DC – outside the Animated universe – until the Arrowverse happened. I can’t stand most of DC’s films besides Wonder Woman. And, while I love the Arrowverse, it’s not the thing I talk about endlessly with friends, or one of my go-to examples for this blog of shared continuity done right. (Also, my friends watch Marvel and not the Arrowverse, but we’d probably talk about Marvel more even if they did)
And yet, of those two, I enjoyed Crisis on Infinite Earths more than Endgame.
Believe me, reader, no one is more shocked than I.
Now, I do want to start off with what Endgame did better. The cinematography, CGI and Action scenes were vastly superior – though that’s to be expected with the largest franchise on Earth with billions of dollars behind it when compared to a CW show, the dialogue was better written in Endgame, and the acting in Endgame was better, although not by a huge margin. Basically, everything you’d expect to be different due to production value being so vastly different.
Also, Thanos was a much better villain, by virtue of having a real presence in the film. The more I think about him, the more problems I have with Thanos, but that’s another post. In spite of his flaws, Thanos was a much better bad guy.
That out of the way, after seeing Endgame, I felt satisfied, like I’d had a good meal. After seeing Crisis, I immediately wanted to start a rewatch of the entire Arrowverse and started speculating about what comes next. It was a meal so good, I was already planning my next trip to the restaurant.
Why? It comes down to four main points, the last of which can’t talk about without spoilers. We’ll start with the ones I can.
How they handled Time Travel
Time travel almost always creates more problems than it solves, and the example in Endgame was particularly bad because of what happened with Steve. Yes, having Steve Rogers show up as an old man at the end of Endgame after getting his happy ending was sweet. However, after the movie had gone through great lengths to establish its time travel rules, his arrival completely violated those rules. Meanwhile, killing Thanos at the beginning of the film and then bringing in past Thanos back so the Avengers could still fight Thanos undercut any emotional connection to the final conflict. The movie even lampshaded the lack of connection. Remember?
Yeah. That…really bothered me. It was a reminder that this wasn’t the person who had killed half the universe. This was the person before he killed half the universe. The payoff to the real timeline’s conflict with the Avengers happened at the beginning of the film, where he was…basically curb stomped. It was a letdown.
On the flip side, the Arrowverse’s Anti-Monitor was defeated in part with time travel, but the show did a good job of showing the Anti-Monitor existed as part of the Anti-Matter universe and therefore, although the heroes did hop through time, there was emotional weight to the conflict that Endgame squandered. Emotional weight that existed even with the Anti-Monitor’s entire motivation being “I’m going to create an antimatter universe because fuck you, that’s why” and his entire characterization boiling down to “mwahahahahaha.”
Seriously, not a great villain there.
On top of that…the Marvel movies have never really done much with time travel, outside of Doctor Strange – where it was handled much better. Meanwhile, courtesy of The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, the Arrowverse is steeped in time travel – and they have made it very clear their rules are “Meh, just go with it.” That might sound like a problem, but most of the best time travel properties – Back to the Future, Terminator, Doctor Who have been built on “Meh, just go with it.” It also meant that, when time travel happened, it felt like a natural, organic part of the story. It wasn’t jarring.
In Endgame, it absolutely was.
Endgame, being a sendoff to the original cast, was rife with callbacks to their greatest hits. They used the time travel to take them back to some of the most iconic moments in the franchise’s history and show us a different angle on things. We got to see the aftermath of Loki’s defeat, a different way of watching the intro to Guardians of the Galaxy, what the Ancient one was up to during the battle of New York, and a reminder that Freya existed and died in one of the weakest MCU movies. We also got to see Tony have closure with his dad, and Peggy Carter returned for Steve to have a happy ending with. It was nice to see it happen.
It also created major problems. Loki escaped with the Tesseract, Thor took Mjolnir out of that timeline which dooms the universe in Thor: The Dark World, Thanos and Gamora were pulled out of their timeline which means Ego wins in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and either Steve Rogers sat on his hands through the greatest tragedies of the last fifty years or the timeline is radically altered, neither of which is good.
Even if we ignore the presence of the time travel element and treat these timelines as alternate universes, the heroes doomed one timeline to Loki absolutely unrestrained, Malketh getting the Dark Aether, and Ego finding and doing…whatever it was he wanted to do with Quill, I don’t remember Guardians 2 well.
Superheroes doomed three timelines to save their own. That’s the action of sociopaths, not superheroes.
Meanwhile, in Crisis, the callbacks were not to the greatest moments in the franchise to date. They were callbacks to…pretty much all of the rest of DC’s live action properties. Smallville, Adam West era Batman, Birds of Prey, the Time Burton era Batman, Lucifer, the 1990 Flash show, and the original Superman film’s timeline – including Brandon Routh suiting up as Superman again. There was even one as a huge surprise I don’t want to spoil.
These universes all got wiped out as the heroes desperately tried to save the multiverse. Even though they weren’t their own universes, the heroes of the franchise tried to save every one. Because, you know. They’re superheroes. They didn’t make things worse in trying to save their own hides.
Seriously, this was a big problem in Endgame that no one talks about, and Crisis avoids it.
Both the Arrowverse and the MCU have similar tones. They are superhero shows that take things seriously when they need to get serious but never descend into grimdark and are not afraid to crack some jokes or have a hero be super inspirational to lighten the mood. Its probably why I love both of these franchises – they are serious and as realistic as superheroes can be, without being grimdark or depressing.
I’m not going to talk about the Arrowverse much for this part. It maintained the consistent tone these movies have had without detracting from the seriousness of what they were facing. Gold star.
Endgame came close. There were a lot of great moments that were perfectly timed. Hulk offering a taco to Ant-Man, “That is America’s ass,” “No I get the Axe. You get the little one,” Hulk getting frustrated by stairs, seeing Quill singing without us hearing the song…that was all absolutely golden. But there was one big problem, and it boils down to one major thing.
They reduced Thor to a fat joke. Not only was that not needed and definitely not appreciated, but Thor’s grief was largely played for laughs. Sure, it was funny. But by the same token, their friend was grieving and in terrible pain, and no one cared. Not only that, but the movie thought it was funny. Important briefing? Thor falls asleep, because ha ha fat people are lazy. Thor needs to share information? He’s drunk and can’t focus, because ha ha he’s in terrible pain. What’s Thor doing when they find him? Playing video games and being a slob, because only fat slobs play video games HA. HA. The rest of the Avengers undertake dangerous missions? Thor goes to cry to his mommy, because fat people are sad.
It was out of place and undercut some moments of real character depth. It was callous and just showed a total disregard for the character. It really hurt the movie as a whole.
SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT GOING FORWARD. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Do you know how many people I had to tell that Endgame wasn’t the end of the Marvel universe? Seven. And I don’t blame people for not knowing! Endgame felt like an end point of the entire franchise. The big bad throughout everything was defeated. The heroes had come together for one last battle, and the major characters had their resolutions, and the bad thing had been fixed with the only lingering consequences being the five year difference for people – and, as Spider-Man: Far From Home demonstrated, Marvel isn’t interested in using that to create any new and interesting dynamics, but rather just to say it is a thing that happened. Serious letdown there.
I didn’t leave the theater excited for what came next for the MCU. I was satisfied with them closing the door on the era, but the future…I dunno. I’m going to watch the films, and I’m interested to see what they do, but there isn’t anything that has me excited. If they had said that Endgame was the last Avengers film, I would have been sad to see the franchise end, but would have felt that it was a decent way to end it. Not perfect, but decent. It didn’t establish anything new that I’m looking forward to. Everything I am looking forward to in the MCU comes from other films – I’m excited to see more Captain Marvel and Black Panther. And…that’s it, especially after Far From Home was such a let-down. Two of their franchises are things I can’t wait to see.
Meanwhile, Crisis’ finale…oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I legit was bouncing with excitement for the future of the Arrowverse because, after 5 shows, 8 years and a cumulative 563 episodes of TV, we’re getting a Justice League. I’ve always wanted to see the Justice League in live action, and it’s a shame no one has ever attempted it before.
Not only that, but it’s a Justice League without Batman, Green Lantern, or Wonder Woman. Instead we have Supergirl, Superman, The Flash, Batwoman, Black Lightning, Martian Manhunter, and White Canary. It’s a Justice League unlike any we’ve seen before, but it still is a Justice League.
On top of that, all Arrowverse shows now take place in the same universe. Flash, Arrow, and Batwoman all took place in the same universe, but now Supergirl and Black Lightning have been brought into the fold. (Legends too, but since Legends hop around time there’s less impact there) We’ll (hopefully) get to see these characters interact more regularly, and it creates just a ton of interesting opportunities. On top of that, the Multivers now officially contains the DC Unlimited shows – Titans, Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, and the upcoming Stargirl, along with the upcoming HBO Green Lantern show – which will hopefully suck less than the 2011 movie.
And, on top of all that, there’s so many interesting plot threads opening up. Superman and Lois are getting a show that takes Superman in a new direction, being a dad – and I want to say how satisfying it is to have a male superhero have their life changed by being a parent for a change of pace. Lex Luthor has been retconned into exoneration so can be a major threat for both of the Kryptonians again. Batwoman and Supergirl are starting to form a relationship similar to their male counterparts but with some interesting twists that indicates it won’t be a repeat. Someone has to step into defend Star City. To cap it off, with the universe being rebooted, the writers have creative freedom to undo anything from earlier shows that didn’t or wasn’t working, or recast anyone who they’ve lost. Maybe even bring back some major players from Supergirl Season 1 that didn’t stick around due to the move between networks and locations? Please?
Arrowverse created a satisfying ending to a major plotline that only made me more excited for the future of these characters. It felt like the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new one.
Does this mean Endgame was bad or I hate it? Absolutely not. Endgame is still one of my favorite superhero movies of all time, and it was something I definitely want to watch again. But if I had to choose between the two, Crisis is the one I enjoyed the most.
Which did you prefer? let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to grab a free book while you’re here.