EXPERIENCING AVENGERS: ENDGAME IN SAUDI ARABIA
Going to the movies in Saudi Arabia is an experience of meeting friends and family, especially when watching a movie like the Avengers. In Saudi, there are a limited number of cinemas. Moreover, there are only two companies showing movies here: VOX and AMC.
AMC dropped the movie tickets two weeks in advance, so I managed to book my ticket to standard show early.
The cinema itself was dolled up with different posters, Funko Pop Vinyls, candies (cookies with Marvel characters’ logos), and the Avengers’ “A.” Walking into the area, I felt the excitement and made a few friends in line for the popcorn. We were all excited to see Endgame. Despite the beauty of the AMC theater, designed by the architect Zaha Hadid, it was built as an Opera House. The design isn’t conducive to cinematic sound and lighting. Opera houses and cinemas have different architectural needs, so there are some issues when watching a movie there.
Being invested in the MCU in general means, I was ready to have a breakdown before going in, knowing that many of the actors are leaving the franchise.
However, what I was unprepared for is the lack of regard to the movie many people expressed. My experience that Wednesday night (24th of April) is different from how I felt on Friday morning. Many people were talking and moving around the area. Someone close to me didn’t even know half of the characters. The tickets for the AMC showing were available way earlier than the VOX cinema, and the seats were available until the last minute. So anyone who has heard of the hype and decided to join the show could have found a seat, which was an issue because I couldn’t concentrate.
The issues with the design and people’s disregard meant that I felt like I was swimming in a void alone in my pain. I started crying in the first scene. With the low quality of the sound, I could barely understand what was happening on the screen. The noise level from the crowd did not help with my mourning. Of course, this became worse when the theater did quiet down, because people could hear my sobs. Although I am not narcissistic enough to believe I was the only one crying, the way the sound traveled made me feel like I was, especially when the people around me panicked and had no idea whether to console me or not. Their uncertainty caused them to stare at me, furthering my discomfort.
My experience on Friday at the VOX theater was different.
Getting a ticket was a nightmare as showings drop every Saturday and Wednesday. The tickets were released at least six hours later than it supposed to, and that caused a big backlash online. People were not happy. So, some expressed their very negative opinion about trying to watch Endgame on the VOX KSA Twitter. It took too much energy to grab a ticket, but I was glad I stuck to my guns. In this showing, I wasn’t crying as much, and people’s voices didn’t carry. People still talked during the movie as the cinema experience is new in Saudi and the correct behavior still isn’t instilled or reinforced yet. Still, a sense of awe was palpable, because Endgame is the last movie in the Infinity Stones Saga.
Although the facilities were better at AMC, the experience was much more epic at VOX. Plus, I watched it in IMAX the second time around, bright and early at 7:45 am. The timing of the showing expresses a level of commitment that casual fans would never commit to attending. Furthermore, people’s reactions didn’t carry as much, but there was no mistaking the cheers, the sobs, and the love experienced.
I do have two major complaints about watching Endgame in Saudi:
1: Cutting the kissing scenes. Obviously, I understand why, because PDA to any extent is not socially acceptable and is a sensitive subject. However, I wish there was more artistry to the cutting. At one point, someone’s speech was cut off. I understand that movie studios accommodate different cultural sensitivities, so they should be able to edit the scene for the region. It shouldn’t be that difficult to be accommodating.
On a related note: Thanks to the hero who posted the end speech on Tumblr: You are the REAL MVP!
2: The kids. They appear at all showings no matter how late or early. Don’t get me wrong. I understand why there are teenagers, but children make zero sense to me. The film is not meant for them. It’s meant for those of us who grew up with the original team and are ready to see the next generation take over. Moreover, these kids are coming into the movie expecting a Shazam kind of movie. It is not child-friendly since there are heavy themes that perceptive kids will want to question and non-perceptive will find boring. I’m not talking about kids who have watched the saga with their parents nor those who watch the Nicktoons. I’m talking about kids who shouldn’t be watching anything more hardcore than Nick Jr.
In terms of the movie itself:
For a spoiler-free review, click here!
*Contains spoilers in relation to the narrative and people’s reaction to Endgame in Saudi*
Other than the actual venue, I experienced a few things that felt unique to the region while watching the film. The intensity of the laughter at Thor’s body for one. After reading many articles on the subject, I see that many people worldwide didn’t understand the significance of his changed body and how it reflects on his mental state. However, as a region that still doesn’t understand the effects of mental health and the importance of seeking help, it’s no wonder that people would probably not understand the significance.
Furthermore, I was asked why MCU’s creators would treat Thor as a character so negatively. True to form, I went on a tangent on depression and grief and its physical manifestation. However, this indicated to me the need to assess how movies like this one touched upon mental health. Writers should steer away from making mental health a joke to a certain degree. Normalizing it is important; part of that is joking about mental health sensitively.
Another thing I found slightly confusing is people’s reaction post-movie.
I heard many people call the movie boring. Obviously, I understand that the Avengers are not for everyone, especially since this movie built and recreated the friendships between the characters that are usually catered to in-between the lines and movies spheres. Those who read the comics might be more familiar with these camaraderies. I understand that many don’t read American comic books in Saudi because it has been historically inaccessible compared to Asian comics. However, the scenes were created so seamlessly with the action that I did not experience any moments of ennui. However, those expecting non-stop action would be disappointed. For those who want more personal interactions, it was perfect!
The other confusing feedback was the movie is too sad. As an end to a series/saga, the experience should be sad. Endgame is the end of an era, especially for kids who grew up with Iron Man as their hero. I was 16 when the 2008 movie dropped and started my journey in the MCU. At that point, I had seen the Ed Norton Hulk, so my experience in Marvel goes back further. My love for comics started more recently. However, that does not limit my relationship with the narratives and the universe. The original characters are somewhat retiring as the actors are. The story is expectantly sad. People were sobbing. I have no idea what people watching Endgame in Saudi Arabia were expecting, but the movie did fulfill mine.
Still, these observations could be biased, because people know my interest in these movies goes beyond the realm of fandom into academic interest. I over-analyzed the movie in my head and through Tumblr posts already, and I am ready for a dissertation on the topic. However, since this is focused on Endgame in Saudi, I’m going to end this here.
So, if you are not in a western country and have an observation to share about your experience, please comment below.
Love you 3000.