Dear Comic Book Movies,
There isn’t any easy way to put this, so I’m just gonna put it plainly: I love you, but we need to take a break.
I know what you must be thinking: Why on Earth would I say this now, when things seem to be going so well? And you’re right — we have been having some amazing times recently. What we did with Civil War? That was some incredible shit. I hadn’t felt anything like that since the time we did the first Avengers. Remember that? Sometimes it feels like just yesterday that we pulled off that impossible feat. But then I blink and realise it’s been four years. That’s almost half a decade. Time sure does fly, right?
And The Avengers was in itself four years after our first real date. Remember Iron Man? How unsure we were of each other at the start of that? And the giddy excitement that we erupted with as all that uncertainty vanished before Jon Favreau’s fun and faithful treatment of one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes? (Didn’t hurt either that the folks at Marvel started just the most impeccable comics-to-movie casting trend with Robert Downey Jr., did it?)
I think about that feeling a lot. The way it seemed like a whole new dimension had opened up. We’d had fits and starts before — occasional drunk dances together on nights out with Singer’s X-Men series; stealing glances at each other across the park with Raimi’s Spider-Man; those charged letters we’d send back and forth with Nolan’s Batman. Or even that incipient classroom gossip years and years ago, where some kids seemed able to somehow tell our future just based on the class we took with Blade.
That all seems like such a long time ago.
I guess that’s because it was. The world has changed since we first stepped out together. Hell, we spearheaded that change! I’m proud of us. So many years together, so many fun times — do you remember when you surprised me with Guardians of the Galaxy?! God, I couldn’t believe it! Just when I thought I had you figured out, you came out with that trip! And then Deadpool fer chrissakes! And how everyone tried to copy us! The golden couple. They all saw how resplendent we were together. Over $10 billion brought in by just 13 films? And that’s just our Marvel side! Who can blame everyone else for trying to muscle in on action like that?
(Before I go any further let me just apologise (if you’re still reading this, that is): I’m sorry if this sounds like I’m just focusing on our Marvel side. I’m not in any way trying to imply that that’s all there is to us! It’s just that… Well, you know — it’s making this already difficult and emotional ordeal a little bit easier. And besides, it’s not like our other sides have really delivered enough to cover here, did they?)
We had some goddamn amazing times. Sure, we had some shitty times too — if I never have to think about our trip to Thor: The Dark World or the clusterfuck that was the time at Iron Man 2 I’ll die a happier man — but great relationships are a delicate dance between good and bad. Anything else, anything too perfect is a charade. I don’t want the unvarnished life, the scuff-free soul. I don’t want that.
But I’ve been thinking lately. And it’s funny, because it was our Civil War that actually got me thinking. Don’t get me wrong: our initial Avengers aside, Civil War is about as good as it gets between us (ignoring maybe the odd Winter Soldier weekend away). But that’s exactly it: it’s so strange how sometimes it’s the best of things that let us see the worst of things.
And, again I don’t know how to say this so I’m just gonna say it, but… after our second exhausting Civil War turn, I cheated on you. No, don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you think! It wasn’t Star Wars or another relative of yours. They didn’t look like you.
Actually maybe that’s worse.
It was a Linklater. Everybody Wants Some!!, to be specific.
I know. I’m sorry.
But listen, I’ve been trying to figure out what possessed me. I think this is important to get to the bottom of. I know it feels like this came completely out of the blue, but after some reflection I can say that the truth is: this has been building for some time. Don’t get me wrong, you treat me well. You do. On the surface of things you keep me as sated as anyone would ever need to be. Yearly installments; an embarrassingly talented cast of principal players and supporting characters; a cherry-picked roster of behind-the-camera skill… In theory cheating should be the furthest thing from my mind.
I thought so too. And then Everybody Wants Some!! happened. We just clicked. And it reminded me of something I’d long since forgotten over the years: you never actually used to be my type. But you happened, and we clicked, and then you kept coming round, and I know we said from the outset that what we’d have would be a relaxed, open thing, but I guess the older I got the less time and energy I had to expend, and because you were always right there you slowly and gradually ended up occupying a bigger space than anyone else.
I guess what I’m so clumsily trying to get at is: you’re suffocating me. Or, more accurately: you have been for some time, and I only just really noticed.
I know what you’re about to say, so let me say it before you do: why can’t we just go back to things being more open again? As you’re upset I’ll forgive you for not noticing, but that is exactly the point I just made: I only have so much time and energy to spend. My reservoir is limited. It may have been different when I was younger, but this is the way it is now, and — frankly — your hyperactive demand for constant attention has atrophied my appetite for other relationships.
Until Everybody Wants Some!! came along.
Okay. Seeing as I’m being brutally honest, I might as well add that Everybody Wants Some!! wasn’t my first infidelity. A-ha! See! That rage you’re feeling? Pause for self-reflection! Because if you had truly believed in this thing between us being as ‘open’ as you said, then this would not be coming as near as big of a shock, and you would not have that crazy look in your eyes I bet you have right now.
See, because Everybody Wants Some!! and I… We had such an amazing time. I know you don’t want to hear this, but literally all we did was wander aimlessly beneath the stars, gazing all around us at the beautiful scenes laid out before us, talking at length about everything and nothing, and occasionally stumbling across groups of others who would sometimes join us, and sometimes just pass us by.
I know that compared to our whizz-bang experiences it sounds like not much at all— like, not even one person grew to ten times their normal size in order to turn the tide of a brawl by swinging bits of airplane around — but, really, when the sun came up and our time together was over, I realised how, even though nothing had really ‘happened’, that much more had actually happened. Truths were revealed; difficult decisions with lasting consequences were made; and when it was all done, it was actually done. No do-overs.
But, listen, I don’t want to make you feel bad. It’s your nature, the way you are. I wouldn’t want you to change for me. In all honesty, I don’t think you can. Sure, you have grown and matured, but there are certain fundamental parts of you that, I think, just preclude the possibility of real change. I’m sorry if you think I’m wrong, it’s just that after all this time — and the direction that you’ve been heading in — that’s the only conclusion that I can come to.
So I’m gonna have to walk away from this for a little while. I’m perfectly fine with you carrying on seeing other people (yes, I know you’ve been doing that this whole time). And, yes, I am aware how arrogant and conceited that sounds. Why would you ever want me back after this, right? But let’s not kid ourselves. If I decide to come back, you’ll have me back. And you’ll work doubly hard to make sure I never leave again.
But — and here’s me doubling down on the arrogance — maybe use this time to really try change instead. I know what I said above about that not being a part of your nature, but deep down I love you, and I think I do believe that you could become something else; something that you have shown signs of; something more daring, more challenging, more lasting.
Till we next meet.