POPCORN (whispering): Dude, I’m startin’ to think something happened to Iron Man.

CINEMA: (laughs) Yeah. I like what they’re doing with the post-Thanos world here, though.

POPCORN: Calling all that snap stuff the blip.

CINEMA: I’d hoped that they might address the return of half the population with more detail than they did in the last film. Granted, there was so much to tell in Endgame, that some nuance had to be left on the cutting-room floor. Besides, Marvel has been telling everyone that this is technically the last film in Phase Three.

POPCORN: Whole new universe startin’ now, man.

(From behind, a voice shushes them.)

CINEMA (whispering quieter): A multiverse, even, as Peter Parker himself just said.

POPCORN: Wherever this Mysterio dude comes from, though, he seems real sketchy. Like, maybe he’s just trying to trick everybody.

CINEMA: Well, if you’re even passingly familiar with the comic books, you’ll know that he is one of Spider-Man’s earliest foes. I don’t think the filmmakers are attempting to fool the audience so much as the cinematic world isn’t supposed to be aware of him yet –

POPCORN: – kinda seein’ everything through Peter’s eyes –

CINEMA: Exactly. After everything that’s happened, the world is more in need of the reassurance of its champions than ever. That goes for Peter as well. It’s not surprising that everyone, including him, would embrace this mysterious person’s apparent heroics. Even though Spider-Man is considered one of Earth’s mightiest heroes, this film is reminding us that – under all that fancy Stark tech – he’s still just a sixteen-year old kid.

POPCORN: Tryin’ to get with a sixteen-year old girl.

CINEMA: Even more than in the first film, the subplot with Peter and MJ is really endearing.

POPCORN: Yeah, dude. That Zenyatta Mondatta chick is pretty cool.

CINEMA: You mean Zendaya?

POPCORN: Uh-huh, her. Dude, you sure do know a lot about teenage girls.

CINEMA: Because I have a child, dumbass.

(More shushing.)

CINEMA (quieter): Zendaya . . . she’s like a real-life Disney princess, from her role on their series Shake It Up, then on Dancing with the Stars . . . she’s put out her own music . . . though you might not guess it from her portrayal of MJ, she’s actually about 23 years old.

POPCORN: Damn, really? So is Tom Holland. But I’m totally buyin’ them as high school kids.

CINEMA: I believe it’s called acting.

POPCORN: Whatever, dude. Not sure what I think about Aunt May and that Happy dude, though.

CINEMA: Happy Hogan, one of Tony Stark’s closest friends and his personal chauffeur. He’s become the Tony surrogate in this film, something like the connective tissue between the pre- and post-Thanos universe. I’m not in love with the idea either, but it’s kind of thematically necessary.

POPCORN: It might be all that, but Tony’s gonna kick his ass.

CINEMA: Are you serious?

POPCORN: Seriously, dude. Yeah, he’s got Pepper and all that, but still. Guess they just couldn’t afford what’s-his-face for this flick, huh?

CINEMA: Are you serious??? Haven’t you seen Endgame?

POPCORN: Naw, man. We weren’t hangin’ out that much for a while there, so I wasn’t going to that many movies. Figured I’d catch up on everything after we saw this one.

(Even louder shushing behind them.)

CINEMA: (to the strangers behind them) Can you believe this fool hasn’t seen Endgame?

VOICE FROM THE DARK: What a fool.

CINEMA: How have you not seen Endgame, but you’re here??

POPCORN: Dude, I like Spider-Man. He was, like, one-a my favorites.

CINEMA: I can’t even believe you.

VOICE FROM THE DARK: I can’t believe you assholes are never gonna shut up.

POPCORN: (to the strangers behind them) Sorry, dude. Cinema, man, let’s just check Spider-man out.

CINEMA: Okay, okay. But they’ve re-released Endgame with a few minutes of extra footage. When this is done, we’re going to see that next . . .

(Four hours later.)

CINEMA: Oh, come on now. Please . . . stop crying. You’re a grown man, and it’s kind of embarrassing.

POPCORN: But dude, Iron Man . . .

CINEMA: Yes, I know. It was very moving, which is what helped to propel the film toward the top of the highest-grossing films ever . . . though, apparently, still not as much as Avatar . . . yes, I know.

POPCORN: He just . . . (snaps his fingers, then starts to sob)

CINEMA: I know, I know. It was a beautiful character arc, I know.

POPCORN: So now all that stuff in the Spider-Man movie –

CINEMA: – the monuments, the murals –

POPCORN: – that Afterschool Special-looking movie called Heart of Iron

CINEMA: – the awkward high school production commemorating the lost heroes –

POPCORN: – dude, all that stuff . . .

CINEMA: It’s very affecting now, right?

POPCORN: . . . I am Iron Man . . . that kid from the third one . . . Thor with the rabbit-dude . . . and that look on Peter’s face when he, like, sees what kinda hero Tony is . . . (words obscured by blatant sobbing)

CINEMA: Well, then I’ve got another movie for you. This one stars Jake Gyllenhaal, too, and it also involves time travel and a rabbit. It’s called Donnie Darko . . .

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