This blog post discusses the film Avengers: Endgame; there is no risk of spoilers, as I haven’t seen it yet…
I’ve tried explaining transtextuality here before and I don’t think that it was terribly successful. I love this concept but my enthusiasm for it can get too tangled up in jargon.
At the moment I am grappling with my methodology. This is the bit of the thesis where I have to explain why I have done my research in the way that I have done it. This is the bit where I have to explain why I have chosen transtextuality as a theory, when there are so many other possible options.
Saying, because I’m besotted with it and I don’t understand why you aren’t too, simply doesn’t cut it. I need to be able to explain why I am slightly obsessed.
As this is happening, all around me are discussions of the recently released Avengers: Endgame. This film that promises to bring to a close the multiple storylines generated across more than ten years and twenty films.
A part of the pleasure in watching these films is recognising their interrelationships. Spotting a central character from one film as a bit part in another. Recognising how actions in one film might impact another. Questioning how characters are changed from their comic book originals. This is a franchise wearing its transtextuality on the outside.
This is the fourth Avengers film; the rest of the films focus on individual characters and mostly take their titles from a central protagonist. How many people watching Endgame will have watched only the four Avengers films? Not many I would guess. Does this thread of four Avengers films act as back bone to the rest of the franchise? Or are they more like icing on a cake, the whole thing will hold together fine without them, but they sweeten the experience? Would someone watching Endgame without having seen any of the rest of the films be entertained or simply lost? Understanding how the films function in relation to one another is what transtextuality can help us to do.
I lost track of the films years ago, probably as a result of the demise of Blockbuster films. Once I had missed a few, it suddenly seemed like a lot to keep up with. If I watch Endgame now, it will be in the light of just seven of the earlier films. This will be a very different experience to a cinema-goer who has watched every film on release and different again to the dedicated fan who has watched every film multiple times.
So I might try and watch a few more Avengers films before watching Endgame or it might be the next film that I watch. Either way, I’ll be watching for elements I recognise from other Marvel films, from other films in the superhero genre, I’ll be looking out with sadness for Stan Lee’s final Avengers cameo, and I’ll be wondering how much it shares with its strangest transtextual relation, Samuel Beckett’s play of the same name. I have a feeling that any closure offered by Avengers: Endgame will be about as final as that offered by Beckett. In Marvel’s case it will only hold firm until the next opportunity is seized; these films are part of an ongoing transtextual narrative. This cycle is ending. The next one will come round soon enough.