6 May 2012

THE AVENGERS (Dir. Joss Whedon, 2012, US) - Stark Compromises

The Avengers Film - Failure to Launch
Joss Whedon’s Avengers has arrived with the same overhyped fanfare that is typical of most Hollywood event movies. The Avengers was released in Europe and the UK before having its domestic release in the US. The mainstream critical response was unanimous in its glowing praise for the film, with many declaring it to be an event movie that finally lived up to the marketing hype. Either most UK film critics have been blissfully ignorant or feel they need to compassionately champion certain Hollywood blockbusters in fear of becoming blacklisted by the studio elite. I could see none of the glowing praise that was heaped on the film by a film critic such as The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. Even the blogosphere has been resoundingly celebratory of Whedon’s comic book achievements. Unfortunately I didn’t feel the same way about the film and was in many ways disappointed with the end product. It was a film I was looking forward given my faith in Whedon as an interesting writer and also being a fan of his science fiction work including the sorely underrated Firefly TV series and the witty hybrid Serenity, I was expecting a competent comic book action film. Here are some thoughts on the film:

It’s just noise. Lots of it. And its really fucking LOUD! (Don't know why Hollywood blockbusters think noise is part of the spectacle of film; it's clearly not unless you are hoping to paper over the cracks)

The dialogue may have looked good enough on paper but when spoken by the likes of Chris Evans, much of it falls flat.

It’s too long. Okay, that may seem like a trivial point but length is tied to quality, and given the lack of quality on display, the lengthy running time made it all seem spectacularly boring.

You have Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. in the cast but they are surrounded by whimpering fools. The performances are uniformly terrible and that means you rarely sympathise with any of the characters.

A great or even good comic book film is usually made significantly better than it seems by a catchy and memorable score or even theme in some cases. The score, which is pedestrian to say the least, doesn’t matter anyway because its drowned out by the constant din made by the avengers.

A solid story and evidence of a workable plot-line usually helps when trying to navigate through the narrative chaos - a portal opening in the skyline of New York is neither original or imaginative.

At times it felt like one long jingoistic ad for American imperialism; New York is under threat again, we must band together, Captain America you patrol ground zero, and let’s fight for the common good because we don’t believe in nuclear deterrence. If Loki is the Other then what exactly does he represent or symbolise in terms of a foreign threat?

The final set piece is just chaos and the action is poorly co-ordinated & choreographed.

Representing India as a poverty infested third world country is simply regressive and yet again validates the way American cinema and Hollywood promotes India as an inferior and exotic place.

This film was made with 12 year old boys in mind. Everything else is secondary.

The Avengers is not good enough to join the company of the following comic book film adaptations: The Hulk (Ang Lee version), Nolan's Batman films, Dick Tracy, The X Men films (excluding The Last Stand), The first 3 Superman films, Hellboy 1 & 2


  1. "If Loki is the Other then what exactly does he represent or symbolise in terms of a foreign threat?"

    Space al Qaida! The entire film is a redo of 9/11 (foreigners attack New York) but this time superheroes will save us.

    "The dialogue may have looked good enough on paper"

    No, the dialogue was lame. It's a shame how so many people think quips, comebacks and one liners are all that's needed to constitute good dialogue.

    The Avengers is the end result of a business strategy, not that of an organic creative process. That's why it's so mechanical, so unsurprising. All of Marvel's films are the same. The reason Iron Man 2 sucks is because even back then Marvel was aiming for 2012. Every Marvel film is essentially a set up for the next one. Even Avengers is (with that ending scene with Thanos). Joss Whedon had no chance (and I'm not even a fan of his).

    BTW didn't you like X-Men: First Class?

  2. Thanks for your comments Paul - it seems as though you didn't like the Avengers either. Your comment about the film being the result of a business strategy sums up best the approach taken by the studios these days and although I was stepping back from post 9/11 allegory, I think this plays up the same politics. I was impressed by X-Men: First Class - what made it so interesting for me was the cold war backdrop.