"Avengers: Endgame" is the Brilliant Send-off Fans Deserve



By Zoe Fanzo

“Avengers: Endgame” broke numerous box office records, making an astounding global $1.2 billion in its opening weekend. It is now the second highest grossing film in history, having surpassed James Cameron’s “Titanic.”

“Avengers: Endgame” broke numerous box office records, making an astounding global $1.2 billion in its opening weekend. It is now the second highest grossing film in history, having surpassed James Cameron’s “Titanic.”

 In 2008, Marvel Comics risked everything by launching their film studio’s cinematic universe. After selling off many of their famous character properties, such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Marvel Studios was left with only a handful of characters to work with. Robert Downey Jr., who some considered to be a liability based on his troubled personal life and past addictions, introduced the world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with his portrayal of Tony Stark in 2008’s “Iron Man.” This was a risk that ultimately paid off for the studio, and now, after 11 years and 22 movies, the acclaimed Infinity Saga has drawn to a close with “Avengers: Endgame.” The film marks the conclusion for many of the franchise’s characters and storylines, closing out the first three phases of the MCU with emotional maturity and sincerity. 

 

“Avengers: Endgame” picks up in the immediate aftermath of 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” which featured a shocking cliffhanger where antagonist Thanos successfully used the six Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers. At the start of the film, the team assembles to strike back at Thanos with urgency, but when they arrive to his sanctuary planet, they find him half crippled and without any of the stones. Enraged, Thor decapitates Thanos, the team returns to Earth, and the film then jumps ahead five years into the future. The time jump is bleak, and it sets the dark tone of the film with shocking precision. 

 

A new hope comes to the team when Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, portrayed hilariously by Paul Rudd, shows up at the Avengers Compound. For the last five years, he had been trapped in the quantum realm, a version of the universe on a subatomic scale. Tony Stark, the smartest mind on the team, is initially hesitant to help them harness quantum time travel, but the memory of his former friend and mentee, Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, finally prompts him to develop a stable method. 

 

Using the technology Tony developed, the team devises a plan to visit moments in which their past selves encountered the various stones. The time heist sequence revisits scenes from past films in the MCU, ultimately serving as a functional plot device while also paying homage to the last decade of movies. The sequence is very satisfying for fans who have invested years into memorizing the many plot lines, characters, and intricacies of the MCU. When they return to their present timeline with the six stones, chaos ensues. 

 

After the team regains their bearings, the compound is suddenly attacked by a massive alien army. The Avengers seem vastly outnumbered and out of their depth, until through a deft plot twist a massive army of the previously fallen heroes appears on the battlefield, ready to do whatever it takes. 

 

The ensuing action sequence is perhaps the highlight of the film, as it is the culmination of the entire franchise. The imagery evokes the same beautiful and chaotic energy as a full-page comic illustration, with all of the many MCU heroes together for the first time, charging at Thanos and his army. The sequence features many satisfying moments for fans, with Captain America wielding Thor’s hammer, a heart-wrenching reunion between Iron Man and Spider-Man, and the iconic battle cry which fans have waited years to hear uttered on screen, “avengers assemble.”  

 

The climax of the battle comes as Tony Stark realizes what he has to do to defeat Thanos. In a moment which feels full-circle and gratifying, the once egotistical Tony Stark wields the stones on his metal glove with purely sacrificial intentions and he declares the famous last words of the film which kicked off the franchise, “I am Iron Man.” With that, he dusts Thanos and his army, thus sacrificing his life for the greater good. As he fades into death, he is surrounded by the people he loves, and he is finally able to rest knowing that they are safe.

 

“Avengers: Endgame” is a tragic yet gratifying send-off for the character of Iron Man, and for the first three phases of films. Once self-obsessed and unwilling to work with others, Tony’s growth over the course of the films has felt natural and tangible. Tony Stark fades away with the knowledge that Thanos will never again pose a threat to his reality; his team, his wife and daughter, the world he has fought to protect for so long has been made safer with this ultimate sacrifice. 

 

This is an end which is admittedly difficult to watch for fans who have loved and grown with Tony, yet it is a moment that feels completely necessary and earned. It is difficult to imagine an ending which could offer greater finality to this world of heroes, and fans will surely remember the Infinity Saga as one of the greatest cinematic epics of this generation.

‘Captain Marvel’s’ Thematic Feminism Feels Forced

By Zoe Fanzo

“Captain Marvel” made $455 million globally in its opening weekend. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“Captain Marvel” made $455 million globally in its opening weekend. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) launched over a decade ago with 2008’s “Iron Man,” the trajectory of the film industry was forever changed. Eleven years and twenty-one films later, the MCU is a cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time. Many fans consider the franchise to be at its peak, with 2018’s “Black Panther” winning an unprecedented three Academy Awards, and “Avengers: Infinity War” shattering expectations with its standout antagonist, Thanos (Josh Brolin), and devastating cliffhanger. In this charged atmosphere, Marvel fans had been eagerly anticipating “Captain Marvel,” the latest installment of this ever-growing world. But since the film was released on March 8, International Women’s Day, it has become the subject of heated conversation and criticism amongst fans of the franchise. 

“Captain Marvel” tells the origin story of U.S. Air Force pilot turned cosmic Kree warrior, Carol Danvers, played by Academy Award winner Brie Larson, as she uncovers the mysteries of her past and ultimately unleashes the full extent of her Infinity Stone-inherited abilities. Set in 1995, the film seeks to impress audiences as it introduces the most powerful hero of the franchise to date. Instead, the film falls victim to frequent and obvious cinematic traps. 

Presented in a non-linear format, the plot is jumpy and disconnected. The tension felt by Carol as she uncovers the truth about her past is lost on audiences because as she connects the fragments of her origin, the viewers have already been shown these events in flashbacks. 

One of the film’s greatest pitfalls is its tendency to be too “on the nose.” “Captain Marvel” is saturated with the theme of female power, and while that is in no way an unwanted motif, the politics of the film overshadow its ability to tell a fully realized story. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been such a hit with fans because of its robust storytelling, characterization, and world-building. “Captain Marvel,” however, suffers from cliché and lacks necessary subtext. 

In one scene, a biker demeans and cat-calls Carol, who in turn steals his motorcycle. In another, Carol battles with antagonists to the sound of No Doubt’s “Just A Girl,” a painfully obvious choice. She is constantly undermined by male antagonists, but by the end of the film, she discovers that her powers have been stifled by her male mentor and she becomes virtually invincible. Moments like this ultimately feel inauthentic and blatant and her abilities, unfortunately, feel unearned. Carol Danvers feels less like a fleshed-out character, and more like a prop for easily-marketable, watered-down feminism. Fans of the MCU have waited a decade for a female hero to star as the protagonist of her own film, but “Captain Marvel” misses the mark in a huge way. 

“Black Panther,” the 18th installment of the MCU, was similarly revolutionary because it featured the MCU’s first black protagonist to star in his own film in the franchise. However, “Black Panther” avoided the pitfalls that “Captain Marvel” fell victim to. “Black Panther” focused on emotional storytelling and deeply developed characters; it was a political statement in itself without having to sacrifice the plot’s integrity. Each character has their own political agenda, and those agendas clash, ultimately making for a durable conflict and intense cinematic climax. “Captain Marvel” lacks this intensity because its thematic feminism feels more obligatory than genuine. 

“Captain Marvel” is not an unwatchable film. It has many redemptive aspects, like Samuel L. Jackson’s “de-aged” Nick Fury, Brie Larson’s charming demeanor, and a fascinating post-credit scene which hints at what is to come for the MCU. Self-awareness ultimately weakens the plot and leaves fans yearning for what could have been a solid hero’s journey.

Bronx Success Story Ends in Tragedy

By Zoe Fanzo

Lowell Hawthorne, Golden Krust founder and CEO. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

“He was the quintessential Lehman student -- determined and dedicated to his family and community,” President José Luis Cruz said in a statement mourning the loss of Lowell Hawthorne, founder and CEO of Golden Krust Bakery & Grill, and a 2016 Lehman graduate. He also called Hawthorne “an icon of the Bronx, the borough in which he launched his extraordinarily successful company.”

Hawthorne, 57, committed suicide on Dec. 2 inside his Golden Krust Bakery and warehouse in the Bronx. The New York Post reported that Hawthorne had evaded millions of dollars in taxes and feared the implications of a federal investigation. According to a family member, in the hours before his suicide Hawthorne was exhibiting strange behavior and “talking to himself.”

Born in Jamaica, Hawthorne came to the Bronx in 1981 and studied at Bronx Community College, later working as an accountant with the New York Police Department. In 1989, he opened the first Golden Krust Bakery on Gun Hill Road, using money that his family pooled together after he was refused a bank loan.  When he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in business administration, he served as a student speaker at the commencement ceremony. Today, his fast-food empire has more than 120 locations in the U.S., selling its beef patties to more than 20,000 supermarkets, various school systems, the penal system, and the U.S. military.

The death of Hawthorne and the tragic ending to his Bronx success story has the Lehman community reeling.

“I always react when I hear about suicide, especially because of the lack of access to help. Mental illness is so important to talk about and represent, but there are so many cultural and racial stigmas that it should be repressed or remain unspoken,” said Lehman senior Mena McCarthy, an English literature major, and chemistry and biology double minor, in reaction to Hawthorne’s suicide.

Al Alston, a friend of Hawthorne and owner of a Golden Krust Bakery in Queens stated that his death was “more than unexpected -- it's out of character,” according to the New York Post. Alston described Hawthorne as “an upbeat guy,” and called his passing a “tragic loss.”    

The Golden Krust company released a statement the day following his death, affirming, “Our hearts are broken, and we are struggling to process our grief over this tremendous loss. Lowell was a visionary, entrepreneur, community champion, and above all a committed father, family man, friend and man of faith.”

Return of ‘Stranger Things’ Lives Up to the Hype

By Zoe Fanzo

Logo of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Last summer’s finale of the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things” left audiences with many unanswered questions. Where did Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the Demogorgon go after their final confrontation? What happened to Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) after his return from the Upside Down? Would the simple town of Hawkins ever be the same? 

In the sequel, “Stranger Things 2,” released in its entirety on Oct. 27, these questions are answered, but greater conflicts arise. A new supernatural villain, the Mind Flayer, is introduced, and his presence tortures Will. The portal to the Upside Down, opened by Eleven in the first season, has grown immeasurably. Eleven must struggle to come to terms with the implications of her upbringing and decide how she wants to use her abilities. 

Ultimately, the return of “Stranger Things” satisfied fans who yearned for more of its captivating science fiction, synthesized soundtrack, and homage to 1980s genre films. After its first season premiered in the summer of 2016, the show quickly developed a cult following. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer, known as the Duffer Brothers, drew inspiration from Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and 1980s pop culture; their first season premiered to critical acclaim. 

In the behind-the-scenes special, “Beyond Stranger Things,” the Duffer Brothers describe the challenge of continuing the story. “It was kind of freaky figuring out, how do we make this story continue on in a way that it doesn’t feel forced? And we want to make sure that it can sustain at least a few more years,” said Ross. Matt echoed this adding, “In season one, you have the dramatic tension of Will being gone which ties it all together, so we lost that, but at the same time we had all these characters that we actually knew a lot better now.”

The strength of this season ultimately lies in the character growth, particularly Eleven’s coming-of-age story in standout episode “Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister.” The season allows for further character development and exploration, and skillfully groups characters into unlikely pairings. The emotional climax of the season finally arrives with the long-awaited reunion of Eleven and Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard).

New characters also join the award-winning cast, including Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), a sociopathic human antagonist, and Bob Newby (Sean Astin), a love interest for Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder). New addition Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), also known as Madmax, introduces conflict when she beats Dustin’s high-score on an arcade game. Tensions deepen when Max finds her way into a love triangle between friends Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). 

Though the Duffer Brothers plan to end the show after four or five seasons, fans can rest easy knowing that this trek into the Upside Down was not the last. 

Bronx Residents Disagree on Amazon HQ Bid

By Zoe Fanzo

An entrance at Amazon’s 185-acre Seattle headquarters. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“An Amazon headquarters in the Bronx will drive out native Bronxites,” Bronx resident and Hunter College freshman Andrew Shkreli told the Meridian. Shkreli opposes the call from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and several other elected officials for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to select the Bronx as the location of the company’s next headquarters. 

“If you look back at pictures of the Bronx in the 70s, it’s like war-torn Europe.” 

- Bronx resident Mary F. Smith

In an open letter published on Oct. 15, officials advocating for a Bronx headquarters boasted of the borough’s central location, noting, “We are six miles from LaGuardia Airport, [and] 20 minutes from Kennedy Airport…The Bronx is the only borough attached to the mainland United States, and we offer easy connections to Westchester, Connecticut and New Jersey by car. In addition, we are in the midst of constructing a new Metro North commuter rail spur in the East Bronx.” The letter also documents the borough’s recent economic growth, citing $3.27 billion in total development in 2016. Diaz asserts that since 2009, unemployment in the Bronx has been reduced by more than half, making it a prime location for corporate investment.  

Some Bronxites, though, dread the consequences of corporate influence, and fear that Diaz is accelerating gentrification in their communities. “I think the main issue is that Diaz cares more about people coming into the Bronx and improving the Bronx’s image rather than those who already reside here,” Shkreli said. “There is a blatant attempt to facilitate gentrification because the main people who will benefit from this are college-educated professionals, which the majority of the Bronx is not. Consequently, Diaz isn’t looking out for the Bronx now, as it is, he is looking out for what it could be. An Amazon headquarters in the Bronx will drive out native Bronxites.” 

However, Diaz’ plea has some Bronxites celebrating urban renewal and economic stimulation. “I think it would be a cool idea. It would bring more jobs to the Bronx, and also more publicity to the borough,” said Lehman sophomore Ngozi Fisher. 

Bronx resident Mary F. Smith, 63, who grew up during the era of burning buildings and urban decay, praised the potential headquarters. “I looked into it, and I found that at Amazon, even the entry-level jobs pay $12 an hour, which is more than the minimum wage. You can work your way up, and we don’t have those kinds of jobs here; they’re full-time and they’re benefit jobs. I do think the Bronx economy is transforming, there are more and more positive things happening. If you look back at pictures of the Bronx in the 70s, it’s like war-torn Europe,” said Smith. 

While Bronxites are divided about the placement of the headquarters, plans for its location remain undetermined. Some New Yorkers believe that, regardless of economic consequence, the city is not equipped for an Amazon headquarters. Veronica Vanterpool, board member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, rejected the plea to make New York the home of the next headquarters in her recent Daily News opinion piece, “Mayor, get behind progressive congestion pricing,” citing Amazon’s preference for “proximity to major highways and arterial roads,” and “access to mass transits.” The city, according to Vanterpool, “has traffic-choked streets and an imploding transit network--both of which will remain that way until we make a long-overdue fix.” 

“It will definitely inject a lot of growth into the Bronx, but it will also bring a lot of traffic,” agreed Lehman graduate student Jeldin Colberg. 

Ultimately, as many cities attempt to make a case for Amazon’s next headquarters, it remains unclear as to whether or not the Bronx will be chosen by the corporate giant, or if the borough is even in the right condition for such development. Regardless of the outcome, Ruben Diaz Jr. insists, “Amazon belongs in New York.”

From Chicago to the Bronx: Campus Socialists Raise Students’ Political Consciousness

By Zoe Fanzo

A poster seen at Socialism 2017 in Chicago. Photo by Zoe Fanzo.

Lehman’s International Socialist Organization (ISO) is promoting leftist politics on campus, with plans to hold radical discussions every other week building on a summer trip that deepened students’ political awareness. [Full disclosure: the author of this article is an ISO member.]

The weekend following Independence Day, ISO members Ellie Hamrick, a professor of anthropology, and Carlos Perez, a computer science major, arranged for five Lehman students to attend the annual Socialism Conference in Chicago, where over 2,000 people participated in discussions and plenaries given from a Marxist perspective. With 160 discussion topics to choose from over the weekend, like “The Combahee River Collective and the Black Feminist Tradition” and “Act Up, Fight Back: The AIDS Crisis and the LGBTQ Movement,” attendees were able to engage in discussions that peaked their specific interests.

“History tells us time and time again that it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House, but who’s sitting in.”

- Carlos Perez, computer science major

Students left Chicago with a better understanding of their own political identities, as well as a desire to become politically active. Lehman student Aileen Pelegrin, a theatre major, explained, “Throughout my first Socialism Conference, I learned more than I ever did throughout my entire education. I learned about all the injustice that goes on in different job markets. I learned that oppression goes so much further than just a racial issue. The entire country needs help and needs to be modified.”

Lehman student Christian Machuca, a psychology major, decided to become a member of the ISO after his experience in Chicago. He recalled, “The Chicago trip helped me in multiple ways, such as increasing my competence on certain issues and ideas. It allowed me to interact with people who share similar views or enlighten me if their perspectives were different. It was informative, but also fun.”

Lehman students wait for their flight to Chicago. From left to right: Richard Orta, Zoe Fanzo, Aileen Pelegrin, Christian Machuca, Carlos Perez. Photo courtesy of Ellie Hamrick.

ISO members are eager to see leftist politics blossom on campus. The club began on campus last fall, and given the formation of the LGBTQ+ Alliance and the Intersectional Feminist Club within the last few months, it seems leftist politics are having their moment at Lehman. Hamrick, who serves as the Lehman ISO branch coordinator, hopes to see students become politically energized this fall. “I think it is crucial that Lehman students not only understand why the world is the way it is, but how it can be changed, and that we as workers have the power to change it,” said Hamrick. “Capitalism causes untold misery all around the world. If things don’t change very, very soon, not only will human suffering continue, but we may not even have a planet to live on much longer. The left must get organized. I think that’s what students got out of this conference, and I hope they’ll be working to make that perspective a reality on campus this fall.”

ISO Member Carlos Perez echoed the sentiment that student involvement is integral to organizing the left. “Bringing a new layer of students who are politically engaged and see the necessity of an active struggle for a better world was paramount,” Perez noted. “The majority of people have been inculcated with a passive, fatalist conception of politics…which is expressed as the false choice between Democrats or Republicans…My goal with our trip to Socialism was to show students an alternative to these politics, and show them how people and social movements make history, not the custodians of power who often do their best to shut them down.”

The ISO plans to hold a public meeting every other Wednesday of the semester, with each session tackling the Marxist perspective of a relevant issue. Through such events it hopes to continue its mission of spreading political consciousness within the student body, and building solidarity amongst the campus’ leftist organizations.

“History tells us time and time again that it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House,” Perez remarked, “but who’s sitting in.”