(Note: No Spoilers for Avengers:Endgame)
(I mean this post would really work better with spoilers but…)
(No… I won’t spoil anything. Actually, I’ll spoil the end of Avengers: Infinity Wars but if you haven’t seen it yet that’s on you…)
(I mean Infinity Wars is on Netflix…)
(Ok, Spoilers on Infinity Wars… None on Endgame…)
(Trust me? Mwahahaha….)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is nearly 10 years old and the build up to Endgame took 22 movies! Tge franchise is literally older than my children but my 6 and 9 year olds have grown up swimming in the Marvel Stew. They are huge Hulk fans and Thor: Ragnorok and Black Panthers are their favorites. We saw Infinity Wars in the theatre and could not escape seeing Endgame opening weekend. I promise won’t talk about this movie except to say how creatively the writers attacked a problem that they themselves created!
I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that at the end of Infinity Wars the bad guy, Thanos, defeated the Avengers when he collected all 6 Infinity Stones and then literally snapped his fingers to kill half of all life in the universe.
My boys watched this happen in the theatre having been programmed to “know” that the good guys always win and were waiting for some miraculous victory. When it didn’t happen my oldest boy was gobsmacked and asked if Black Panther was really dead! Being the media savvy adult that I am (meaning I am on Twitter) I knew that both Black Panther and Spiderman had movies in the works so I knew that these characters were not really dead. Black Panther made Marvel (and Disney) over a billion dollars and that cash cow was still to be milked. This led to a really interesting conundrum – How would the writers figure out how to bring these characters back from the dead without ruining the last few years of plot and build up.
They had to get creative!
I promised no spoilers so I will be as vague as possible but as I watched Endgame I kept thinking about the craft that went into the story. The creators of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) gave themselves an enormous challenge. They wiped out half of the universe and promised to bring them all back. What I found most interesting was that they gave themselves this obstacle at the end of Infinity Wars and then within minutes of Endgame starting they removed the most obvious solution to the problem. (again… no spoilers). Time and Time again the most obvious path to victory was intentionally spoiled. This doesn’t even go into the limitations and boundaries that had already been built into MCU in terms of the physics of the imagined world and abilities the superheroes. The creators of the movie placed obstacles and boundaries on themselves and that led to an amazingly creative movie that really tapped into something far beyond a good ole punch ’em up.
I often see teachers and education thought leaders online suggesting that we need to remove obstacles from students so that they can be more creative. This is a common trope in the Maker Movement and a frequent justification in edtech sales pitches. When it comes to issues of equity and justice I am all in; however placing obstacles in front of students does not prevent creativity – It is the fuel for creativity. Think of this as the Superman problem (wait… that’s DC)… This Superhero has no real limitations which means the superhero doesn’t really face any challenges. This means really boring stories for the reader because there is no reason for the writers to be creative! Superman can just fly over to the bad guy and sock him/her in the face.
The writers needed to create some sort of limitation on the superpower. They needed to create an obstacle which would force them to write the characters in a more creative way – Hello Kryptonite.
When designing classroom experiences don’t be afraid to place obstacles in front of students that they will need to creatively overcome. It is the friction of rubbing up against the rules that allows the spark of creativity to become a flame.
Take it from Thanos… Creativity is a Snap!