I Finally Went and Saw Avengers, and I’m Ready to Fight About It

by on Jun.02, 2012, under Comics, Movies

What a massive letdown. I feel like everyone who’s been raving about it for the last few weeks has had their expectations of the superhero genre lowered so far that they’re willing to accept an intermittently entertaining movie as a massive triumph.

It did have funny moments. It had lots of them, actually, and I laughed at them. Those seem to be what audiences appreciated about the movie, and quite rightly, since they were the best thing in it by far.

But I felt like all those jokes were just there to get the audience through what was otherwise a tiresome bore of a story. I’ve heard plenty of people complain that it takes the Avengers too long to Assemble, and yes, it does, and that’s boring. But the final big battle—the last half-hour to 45 minutes of movie—is also boring. Again, not the jokes that leaven the action, which were funny. The action itself. It’s just a bunch of CGI things chasing each other around and knocking over CGI buildings. Yawn.

By contrast, I also just got around to seeing The Raid: Redemption, which for 0.5 percent of The Avengers’ budget delivered 100 minutes of awesome action. Part of that is because one guy trying to kill another with a machete or his bare fists is simply way more relatable than Commander Data in a goat helmet trying to destrooooy the wooorld with his magic GameCube, nyah ha ha ha. But another major part is that for all Joss Whedon’s strengths, and many are on display in The Avengers, he’s never been great at action sequences. (With the notable exception of River Tam vs. the Reavers, which kicked more ass than all the action scenes in The Avengers combined.)

What he has been good at, however, is establishing emotional stakes for his fighting, and I was really surprised to see him fall down on that job entirely. I challenge anyone reading this to explain what any of the Avengers wanted out of life or how the battle that took up the last third of the movie either got them what they wanted or changed their goals.

It’s not like this stuff is impossible. Take the example of Captain America, whose disconnection from modern society is played for a couple of laughs in The Avengers. This go-around of Avengers movies has been mostly based on Mark Millar’s The Ultimates, and in those comics Cap’s disconnection isn’t just a joke, it makes him deeply lonely. When he went off to war his fiancee was a young woman; in the blink of an eye she has grown old and married his best friend. He still hangs out with them all the time because they’re the only people he can relate to, and he struggles to meet someone new because his attitudes about women are naturally stuck in the 1940s. Cap needs the Avengers because otherwise he would be completely isolated, but they don’t understand him either.

Who is Captain America in The Avengers? Something about trading cards?

Or take Thor. In The Ultimates he’s a radical environmentalist who thoroughly mistrusts Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., and loathes working with a war profiteer like Tony Stark. He’s forced into an uneasy alliance with them when Loki manages to trick the world into seeing him as a delusional mental patient who believes he’s a Norse god.

Who is Thor in The Avengers? Something about come home with me brother, daddy misses you.

And believe me, I don’t want to be making a boring “The book was way better” complaint, because my feelings about Millar are at best mixed, while I’m a big Joss Whedon fan. But be honest, everybody: did The Avengers stir anything in you other than laughter, a few times? Did it make you feel suspense, or empathy, or excitement? If you took out the one-liners from Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, and a couple of good sight gags from the CGI Hulk, wouldn’t what remained have been completely intolerable? Wouldn’t you have laughed more at a good comedy anyway?

We can expect better, people. We have seen better, with superhero movies, many times. The first Christopher Reeve Superman, both Tim Burton Batmans, the second Sam Raimi Spiderman, X-Men: First Class, and The Dark Knight, just off the top of my head.

Maybe it’s just not possible to do better than this with superhero teams. Maybe that’s too much to ask. Though strangely I do have some hope for the Runaways movie.

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3 Comments for this entry

  • Will

    I agree with your comments, I’d rather that the avengers were assembled sooner and we’d get a chance to enjoy their banter in a more developed way – as well as to develop a sense of what is at stake for each of them.

    The character’s ironic distance from the plot failed to create an immersive expirience.

  • Will

    In otherwords the light relief was not very reliving as there wasn’t anything to be relieved from. So you are just left with the light. It is postmordernism at its worst,which is a shame as there were characters from different decades/planets which could have been a great palate to draw from.

    On the plus side, the timing for some of the jokes was impecable.

  • Joshua Malbin

    I see what you’re saying. I think it’s possible to make great postmodern movies, but I could see how this would represent postmodernism’s downside.

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