The Avengers (2012)


I've been planning all sorts of other entries, and even started one or two of them, but they haven't yet happened.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend and I went to see The Avengers for her birthday. We both expected to like it. As near as I can tell, she found the ending disturbing, but otherwise thought it was okay. Me, I hated it, and said so on Twitter, and since then have been asked to elaborate. Hence this entry.

The full rant follows the jump, and is spoiler-laden. The non-spoilerish version would be that if you like big dumb movies where there's lots of violence and damage and death and destruction, and you're not much concerned with plot and characterization, then you will probably love this film. Otherwise, not so much.

Spoilers follow.

I don't like cinematic violence. I spent much of The Fellowship of the Ring cowering under my seat, and expect never to see the two sequels. Similarly, I have no plans to see Independence Day, or... well, anything by Michael Bay. Possibly the question then isn't "why didn't you like The Avengers?" but "why did you think you might? I mean, what are superheroes for, if not mindless violence?" To which I can only answer that that would be selling the superhero genre short.

I do like solid characterization, and the good superhero films take advantage of that. Granting that the first Iron Man film is far from perfect, it was, at its heart, the story of Tony Stark's personal journey. It just so happened that his personal journey included a cool suit. See also: the Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man. There are other examples. This can be done.

When you add the fact that Joss Whedon knows a bit about the effective use of ensemble casts, I expected this to be done well. Especially when I read some interviews with him, in which he stated that the point of the film was seeing how this absurdly disparate group of individuals could come together to form a coherent team. Yes! Characterization! Sure, there'd be some fighting, but surely the core of the film would be concerned with how the ultimate soldier, the ultimate wildcard playboy, a Norse god, unbridled id, and a couple of extras swept in by central casting learn to respect one another, on grounds other than the tired old "we'll get back to the fight later, but right now we have a common enemy." Sign me up!

Except that this is exactly what didn't happen in this film. It starts off well enough, lots of witty banter, a fair amount of heroes getting irritated with one another, but then they all get along because... well, because they hit the page in the script where Joss Whedon said they needed to get along, and they all said "okay." This is also the point where the Hulk becomes capable of some self-control, for the same reason. To call this a stupid plot is to give it too much credit.

(Granted, there is a fig-leaf of rationale given for Cap, Iron Man, and Thor, in that they are supposed to be moved by the obligatory Redshirt death—there are trading cards involved—but it doesn't even slightly ring true. As for the Hulk... well, it's the final act of the film. Apparently it doesn't have to make any sense.)

So, once that's been squared away, all shreds of plotting and characterization are abandoned for the final act, which is all about destroying much of Manhattan while trying to save the world. I will grant that, as a New Yorker who recognized the area in question, I had a visceral reaction to this beyond what I might have had if the film were taking place in Metropolis. And given the scale of the blocks affected, the death toll for the civilians during the film's action had to have exceeded that of 9/11, probably by a considerable margin. But, see, that's okay; you can enjoy the destruction porn because the heroes win in the end!

Fuck the heroes, and fuck Joss Whedon.

(Granted, I admire the moxie of Chris Korda's "I Like to Watch," a song about masturbating to footage of the Twin Towers falling, but that doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is.)

With all of that said, are there no good bits? There are good bits. The dialogue is fun. I love the way Black Widow's first scene sets up the one with Loki, and her technique of seeming to be intimidated to draw people out when she's actually in complete control; pity that's also the point where the film falls apart. And the film did make me realize that it's past time I saw Iron Man 2, because Tony Stark and Pepper Potts were a delight.

But were the saving graces good enough to justify seeing the film?

Heck no.


you, my friend, are a very opinionated person. i'm not going to bash you for disliking the film, but i AM curious as to whether or not you have any idea of/appreciation for the mythology of the avengers and why the individual characters acted the way they did.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Shmuel published on May 12, 2012 11:54 PM.

Time of death: circa 3:30 PM was the previous entry in this blog.

Purity Checkup is the next entry in this blog.

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