Movie Review: If You Want To Keep Thinking THE AVENGERS Is Awesome, Only Watch It Once…

“As long as I’m in the front of the poster, then yeah, I’ll be in The Avengers.” RDJ

Early Friday, I ventured out into the wild, wild world(It’s just like the Wild Wild West, except not nearly as funky.) of early morning screenings. This world is not a place for everyone. It’s a world owned by the elderly. They did not accept me at first, but they soon realized they had no choice. I had bought my own ticket, and these bastards weren’t strong enough to take it away from me. Mostly, because they were weak and frail… Yeah, this going no where fast. Let’s just get down to it, shall we?

“Go ahead. Tell me to clap one more time, you son of a bitch…”

I didn’t have any expectations for The Avengers going into it. To be honest, I thought all of the prerequisite movies( Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America) were mediocre at best, and this wasn’t do to any weird “fanboy” nit picking either. They just didn’t really work as movies the way they were presented. They were unfocused and muddled in their storytelling, and their villains were either really weak(Loki), or totally under utilized(Red Skull, Whip Lash). S.H.I.E.L.D was always there to take away from the central plot and took precious time away from further character development of our heroes. Captain America was able to almost side step S.H.I.E.L.D completely, and that’s do to the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D wasn’t around when Steve Rogers first became Captain America, but even then they still had to keep hinting about it, and then the studio added the sub-title “The First Avenger“, because, you know, we’re all idiots and wouldn’t have been able to figure that Captain America was going to be part of The Avengers Initiative.. Imagine how confused we would have all been when Captain America showed up in The Avengers. Let’s all give Marvel Studios a round of applause for their dedication to clarity(Pause for clapping)…. Done. Whew, that felt good. So, going in to The Avengers, I was cautiously optimistic. The ham fisted ground work had been laid, and the road was clear to tell a story on it’s own terms.

“I have quite the erection right now. Yup, this is Captain America’s shield.”

Joss Whedon’s involvement with the movie gave me some hope. All of the things he’s done in the past have had one thing in common. They are all, to one degree or another, ensemble driven stories, and he’s always successfully been able to balance all of his characters. In my opinion, this is pretty important in a movie like this. If any of the heroes in this movie seem like they are getting short changed, or don’t get their “big moment”, I would assume that their respective fans would get pretty angry, and would quickly label the film as a failure. Unfair, but that’s the way fanboys are. Having said all that, I did have a few reservations about Whedon’s involvement. I was worried that the movie wouldn’t be cinematic enough. His career, thus far, had been in television, and movies, especially movies like this, require a much different skill set. It requires the ability to tell a story through visual means, over constant exposition dumping, which is something that is pretty common in television story telling. I think he both succeeds and fails on these terms. More on that rigamarole later…

I was so naive…

As the title of this article implies, I saw The Avengers twice yesterday, but let’s just focus on my first impressions for now. My first thoughts when walking out of the theater were, “That was pretty awesome!”.  I was really pleased with what I had just seen. Joss Whedon, had seemingly pulled off the impossible. The mediocrity of the “set up” movies was all worth it, and I was more than happy to eat crow. The film did what it should have done, and built upon the foundation of the other movies, and allowed itself to just get right into the meat of the story. The characters were all treated with respect, and all had their “big moments”. I was especially happy with the Hulk. It took three movies, but he was finally done justice, and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner was pretty spot on, in my opinion. There is a scene late on in the movie with the Hulk and Loki, that perfectly encapsulates everything that the Hulk is, and is pretty damn hilarious to boot. The established characters are also impressively handled when it comes to their characterizations. It’s clear that the actors, and Whedon, have a clear vision of who these heroes are in the context of the presented Marvel Film Universe. The character consistency is really impressive. The action set pieces are really well done. The pacing, and the sense of geography is fantastic. They are always exciting, and we have a clear understanding of where every character is during the chaos. I was really impressed with this, because more often than not, action scenes are a confusing affair and are shot and edited in a way that make it difficult to really tell what exactly is going down. I did have one small complaint with the movie after my first viewing, and that was Loki. He’s a really weak villain, in my opinion, and his “plan” is pretty small in scale. It’s based on really petty stuff, and to be honest just isn’t that interesting to some one that isn’t steeped in Marvel lore. He serves his purpose well enough, though, and Tom Hiddleston’s performance is actually a lot of fun. Another thing this movie does really well, is how it handles it’s more “fan servicey” hero vs. hero elements. These moments never feel out of place, or forced, and make sense in context to the movie and their characterizations. Now, on to the next phase… GO!

I wish I was still naive…

When my little brother and sister asked me if I would take them to see The Avengers, I was actually pretty excited. I couldn’t wait to re-experience all of the awesome moments in the movie, and was also excited just to take them so they could have as much fun as I did. We got to the theater early, and waited in line for almost an hour. Even though I had already seen the movie, I was getting caught up in that “opening night excitement” via the excitement of those in line with us. Eventually we were let in to the theater and quickly found some optimal seating. We settled in and then the movie started. Not long after the movie began, I started to realize I was repeatedly doing something. I kept looking at my watch. The movie tells you all you need to know about the plot, in literally, the first 15-20 minutes. It just lays all of it’s cards out on the table. We as the audience are never behind the curve as to what’s going to happen. Sure, our heroes don’t really know what’s going on, and it can be fun seeing them figure out what we already know, but not in this movie. For about half of this movies running time, we are led through plodding exposition scene after plodding exposition scene. The dialogue may be filled with semi humorous quips, but the information holds no weight. To be fair there is one mysterious element to the plot. Why does S.H.I.E.L.D want the tesseract energy cube, and why wasn’t anybody told about it before this crisis? Well, they answer that about 5 minutes after the question is posed. So, it doesn’t really matter. This is the stuff I was afraid of happening with Joss Whedon’s involvement. All of the expository scenes are shot in a flat and boring way. It looked like a big budget TV movie whenever two characters had to speak to each other. For everything Whedon got right with the action set pieces, he got painfully wrong with the expository scenes. They’re fun the first time and boring as hell the second. This last point is more of a rant, I guess. On my second viewing, I realized Loki’s whole “scheme” was just there to set up ANOTHER FUCKING MOVIE! I thought that’s why the other movies existed! So that The Avengers could be it’s own movie, but no, they couldn’t help themselves! This movie just serves as another “set up” for…(drum roll) another movie! Why the constant need to telegraph “what’s to come” to the audience? (Insert Belief) forbid anybody actually be surprised by one of these movies! Do they really think that nobody is going to show up for the next one if they don’t constantly tell you what the next one is going to be about? Wouldn’t it be more interesting if we had to connect the dots ourselves? Oh wait, I forgot. We’re all idiots. Sorry, my bad…

 Having said all that, The Avengers is not some abomination of a movie. It get’s as many things right as it does wrong, and the first time you watch it, I imagine that you’ll have a really good time, but that’s all you’ll have. It’s a pretty superficial and vapid experience. All brawn and no brains, if you will. If you read this and your reaction is, “Oh, he doesn’t read the comics, and he doesn’t get it.”, then that’s your prerogative. I don’t care about the source material. It’s a movie, and it has to exist on it’s own merits. As an exciting one off for comic fans, it’s a success. As a movie, it’s just okay.

REALITY! ASSEMBLE!
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