Spoiler Alert: Avengers Endgame Sidelines All It’s Black Characters
So I feel enough time has passed by now that anyone truly worried about spoilers will have seen the film, nonetheless if you haven’t yet seen the last instalment please stop reading now as this piece contains spoilers.
So in the final scene of the multi-billion franchise we see the aged Captain America hand over his iconic shield to Sam Wilson (aka Falcon) and this felt staged and deliberate, like Disney were recognising the common complaint about the white-centric feel of the MCU and promising to put it right in future. Coupled with the incredibly stirring earlier scene when all the female characters banded together on the battlefield for the first time, it seems like Disney have finally received the memo.
Unfortunately it’s all a little bit too late and the way that the few black characters already in the franchise have been treated is nothing short of criminal. In Endgame alone it takes some effort to document just how much injustice has been meted out to the black cast but let’s try and break it down. The first crime is simple exclusion.
In 2018 Black Panther took in $1.35 billion at the box office to become one of the highest grossing movies of all time and the most successful standalone Marvel instalment. Yet despite this commercial success and the critical acclaim heaped on the film (let’s not forget the multiple Oscar nominations), the character doesn’t make an appearance until the final climactic battle of the the film and even then just to fumble the gauntlet. Of course since Black Panther was one of the characters killed off at the end of Infinity War when Thanos snapped his fingers there is no way he could have appeared sooner, but the real question is why the script writers had him vaporised in the first place.
Some will say that it was a natural decision to focus on the original Avengers - getting the old gang back together for one last hurrah. This would make sense if it wasn’t for the presence of so many other non-core characters. Couldn’t Chadwick Boseman have featured instead of Bradley Cooper’s Rocket. Oh and let’s not forget Samuel L. Jackson getting awkwardly crowbarred in at the last minute. If he is not an original Avenger then who is?
The second major issue is that all the Black characters who did appear throughout the film had virtually no agency or plot. Okoye gets dispatched off on some errand or other by Black Widow, but wouldn’t have been intriguing to see her struggling with her new role as the de facto ruler of a broken Wakanda. Don Cheadle has a deserved presence in the film but where is his arc, his internal struggle? While Tony Stark, Thor and Captain America battle their demons and the fallout from the cataclysm, War Machine seems completely unfazed by it all. It feels that he was just there to prop up the main cast - they could have renamed his character Steady Eddie. In reality the only character of colour with any real plot was green.
And so the future does seem brighter and we can only hope for even further representation of minorities in future instalments (a trans superhero anyone?) but for now Endgame feels like and opportunity wasted.
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