It’s been five days since I’ve seen Infinity Wars and I can’t stop thinking about it. This might come as a surprise since the only other article on this blog is about how much I disliked the first one. Since then I’ve come to have a healthy appreciation for the MCU. The light-hearted jokey tone, great actors utilized well, engaging screenplays, and giving lots of respect to the source material I grew up with.
The Avengers – Review
I was skeptical about this movie from the start, and my instinct told me this would be a bad movie. But, eventually overhearing news and hype and seeing ads for this movie every time I watched TV or YouTube, I eventually warmed to the idea of it. I hoped that while it was a blatant money grab that perhaps they’d infused something in it or took some chances somewhere. Unfortunately, good advice always dictates that you should listen to your gut before you listen to Hollywood hype.
I guess I should feel compelled to state that this review contains spoilers, but really, if you can’t extrapolate the entire plot from the previews, then you’ve clearly never been to a movie before and I question the logic of reading this review in the first place.
To start with, let’s talk about the characters. My first concern was that with such a mish mash of characters, instead of one or two good character stories we would be thrown into six slapped together ones. However, I’d heard that this was being solved by having the story center on Captain America, him being the “fish out of water” character that we could relate too. I didn’t find this at all thought. If anything, the most relatable characters were Hawkeye or Black Widow, since they were true fishes out of water seeing as they didn’t have any powers. They didn’t get enough screen time though, and Hawkeye spends the first half of the movie on the bad side anyways. So really we’re back to where we started; washing over conflict with a bunch of characters to fill up screen time between explosions. There is a quarter of the movie after they assemble that is spent jumping scene to scene trying to establish each character’s motivations. If feels unnatural and out of place and you just end up wishing that they’d get back to the explosions. If they’d stuck to having one character being the focal point, like Steve Austin, then you could build up the other characters through their relationship with him. This is what they did with the first X-men movie. We saw the X-men through Wolverine’s eyes, and all relationships were seen through him. An audience needs that. Especially in a movie with so many characters. Wolverine’s struggle allows us to experience the X-men and learn about them through his eyes. This wasn’t the case in the Avengers. Instead, we’re flipping back between scenes, not really building any sense of who these characters are and all of a sudden it’s back to the action sequences, and we don’t really care about these characters any more than we did at the beginning of the movie.
The best example of slapped together tension is between Iron Man and Captain America; namely their opposing philosophies of duty versus self. The problem with this is the entire Iron Man 2 installment centered around the idea that Tony Stark had to learn that he didn’t have to fight alone, with some throw in filler about some disease caused by the reactor in his chest, or whatever. The problem here is we watched this character become someone in Iron Man 2 who he isn’t in the Avengers. For that reason, it feels like the writers just said
“Hmmmm … how are we gonna build character here? Well, Bruce Banner just wants to keep to himself. We can throw some sort of sexual tension between Hawkeye and Black Widow. Audiences love sexual tension between attractive actors. There’s only one girl on the team though, so we can only do that once. Wait, didn’t Iron Man used to be a big billionaire ladies man? That seems like the opposite of what Captain America stands for. Why don’t we put them at odds? Then by the end they could learn to work together and gain mutual respect. Yeah, that will work.”
“What about Iron Man 2 where he learned to work as a team with War Machine?”
“Well, it’s either that or we spend another hour brainstorming, and I’ve got a pile of cocaine at home that isn’t going to snort itself.”
“You don’t write while high? No wonder you have such terrible ideas!”
This led me to roll my eyes when Captain America and Iron Man work together to fix the broken engine on the Avengers base. Why was Loki trying to destroy the Avengers base anyways?
What was Loki’s plan anyways? To get caught and unleash the Hulk? I’m not even sure how his getting captured actually caused that to happen. I mean, they all start arguing when they have Loki’s spear in the room, but its never made 100% clear that it was the spear causing them to do that in the first place. And in the end, Loki’s soldiers end up attacking the Avengers ship anyways. Why did he need to get caught? Is making the Avengers argue important enough to give them the weapon that can dismantle your entire plan? We see later in the movie that the spear is the only thing that can de activate his portal. Loki seems to be there to try to get Bruce Banner to Hulk out and destroy the ship, but in the end it’s his troops attacking the ship that causes that anyways. Did they follow the energy signature of the staff to find the base? Was taking down the Avengers ship REALLY so important that Loki would risk everything to hand them the fail safe to his weapon? But they handle this with a line of expository dialogue by saying the attack was the “trailer”, and taking over is his “big release”. Um … ok. Why not release the army first and use them to attack the Avengers directly? The Avengers are having trouble finding you anyways. Why not release the army somewhere where they don’t have to come through a small hole, but instead get your whole army to the planet and fortify the position of the portal. Attacking through a narrow gateway is a sure fire way to get everything that comes through killed instantly. That’s exactly how the Spartans kept the Persians at bay for so long in 300.
It’s a major problem when the two major points of tension in your movie is when a) an engine breaks down and has to be repaired, and b) one of your heroes loses control and goes on a rampage in your home base. In fact, the scene where they all start arguing in the lab made me question how stupid this group of people really is. Black Widow runs in knowing that Loki’s plan was to make Bruce Banner lose control and go Jekyl on their flying base, and she still ends up joining the argument. The whole scene just makes them all look stupid. If the only thing that can cause you any damage is infighting in your team, then I question why this team assembled in the first place. Why couldn’t everyone just meet up at the end and fight this alien army as individuals? That is basically what happens in the end anyways. Then you could save the cost on your flying aircraft carrier. Oh wait, I guess you have to prove that there is some kind of character development in this movie though. Seriously though, how awesome of a movie would that be? From start to finish, army of aliens open a portal and start coming through, and Marvel characters just start showing up to beat the crap out of them. That’s pretty much the whole Onslaught saga, and that was one of the most popular Marvel series of all time. I’m not against a mind numbing action movie, but then don’t waste my time with the illusion that your building story or character. Cut the story, throw in 5 more Marvel characters, and then have them go tag team and just ripping aliens apart in awesome poses. With this idea, you could even release five more Marvel character films and rake in even more cash.
Wait, and another thing … during the final battle, why is the portal not being defended? You’d think that as an invasion force, securing the one thing that is allowing you to bring reinforcements is the thing that you’d want to most closely protect. Oh no wait, Loki’s guarding it. Because he’s proved to be such a effective force to be reckoned with in the past. Which brings me to the enemy of this film.
Who were these bad guys? I know there was supposed to be a veiled mystery around who the guy who was clearly using Loki was, but what was this enemy force? They are referred to as extra terrestrials. From where? Why do they want to take over earth? Why are they even using Loki? What is Loki giving them when he enslaves man kind? What is this enemy getting out of earth? Are they going to share ownership? I’m not really sure why they’re even attacking, other than being told they are attacking and that Loki has an army. Maybe I missed something in the Thor movie, but this isn’t even the biggest flaw in this enemy.
The final battle of the movie opens and extra terrestrials start pouring out of the portal. At no point during the beginning of this battle is there any struggle. Seriously, I felt no sense of tension or dread at any point for that battle scene. Tony Stark starts leading them around tight corners and they immediately start crashing into walls and blowing up. Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow start picking off the soldiers like flies. A giant monster/ship/fish comes out of the portal, and Iron Man lures it to the Hulk who struggles, overwhelmed, for a few moments and then destroys it. Just kidding, he pushes against it for two seconds and then Iron Man blows it up. Immediately after that, we see more of the same enemies pour out the portal. Why should I care? I just watched the Avengers make short work of what’s already come out of it. At this point, I’m convinced that you could just leave the portal open and beat anything down that comes through. It really kills the tension when the enemy forces can’t even harm the heroes and get picked off so easily. And by this point you thought Loki was weak. At least he can like … hypnotize people… by stabbing their heart … until they get hit on the head. Seriously, that’s how Black Widow snaps Hawk Eye out of it. “I hit you on the head … hard.” Lame.
The Final Battle
The first thing I thought of during the final battle was “Transformers 3”, and at any point in a movie that you’ve done anything that makes people think “Transformers 3”, you’ve failed not only as a director, you’ve failed at creativity in general. You might respond that somehow this battle scene was made first and that Michael Bay totally stole the idea. Maybe even Joss Whedon copied Michael Bay, or worst of all, two directors had similarly bad ideas at the same time.
Now I understand the concept of setting the final battle in a crowded city. When we see familiar buildings being destroyed, we are being told that there is a lot at stake. Again though, this movie still hasn’t explained to us what will happen if Loki wins. I guess we’ll be enslaved, but I don’t even know what will happen to us as slaves. So, to make sure that we know we as humans have something at stake, Transformers 3 and The Avengers feature a big CGI mess in the middle of a crowded city. We watch civilians run for cover and our heros protect them. At this point though, it’s not enough for me to care. This has been done too often in the epic CGI block busters. I get that if they battled out in space we’d feel even farther removed, but featuring the final battle in a crowded city is just overdone, and its a cheap trick to make up for lack of a plot.
The other thing I hate about this is that the enemies are totally faceless. It’s like the designers got bored and just built 3 classes of interchangeable troops. We have the soldiers you run around with axe guns, we’ve got some flying ships that look like a the goblin glider being ridden double dutch, and then some other big ass ship that looks like some kind of animal. There is nothing exceptional or unique about these designs. In fact, you could have traded any random robot from Transformers 3 with one of the soldiers from The Avengers, and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.
There was no theme, just robot monsters that when you hit them, they explode. Yawn.
Now lets get to one of the most challenging things this film had to deal with; assembling a “super team”. When you have a team composed of a demigod and an invincible rage monster, you need to find something for the human assassin and Robin Hood to do. Now I give props to Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner. They both did well with the parts they were given and actually pulled off seeming pretty badass. I was actually impressed with how this was handled in the first half of the movie. They turned Hawkeye bad so he was sort of out of the picture, and made Black Widow the master interrogator and totally pulled information out of Loki, believably as well. The fight in close quarters even sort of made sense, and they seemed to keep themselves occupied and useful while the flying air base went down. However, in the final battle my worst fears were realized. After the ship they fly in on crashes, they get out and help Captain America protect civilains while Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk deal with the whole “invading army” situation. This draws a very clear line between the Avengers A team, and the Avengers B team, which totally kills the idea of the Avengers “Team” to me. By the end, convenient plot devices had to unfold to give them anything to do at all. It’s not a team if you’re skills encompass having Bruce Banner and Tony Stark on speed dial.
Now I’m not going to beat on this movie much longer. As far as comic book movies go, this one falls about in the middle of the road. We don’t have a scene where Tony Stark starts busting a move for Pepper Potts in a jazz night club
but there are a lot of areas that it could have been better. I knew that this whole “Avengers” movie was a money grab right from the moment Captain America came out. And it worked too. Avengers pre-sale tickets topped all over Marvel movies COMBINED. I get that movies are made so that studio’s make money, and this was a logical investment based on the success of Iron Man. That said, with Joss Whedon attached to the project, I expected much more. I thought with such a great director that the movie might take SOME chances. Tell a superhero movie in a way that we haven’t seen before. It didn’t though. It felt like something that’s been done before. Something slapped together and the producers sat back and waited for cheques to start rolling in.
There’s a couple laughs, and the visuals are great, and we get to see Tony Starks new Mark 7 suit (selling for $39.99 at your local Toys R Us) but there is no tension or feeling in the movie. Robert Downey Jr shines through as a great character and his nicknames that he slides in for each of the characters are priceless (Legolas for Hawkeye, Reindeer Games for Thor). We don’t care about the plot because the enemy seems largely impotent and we’re not even sure what will happen if they win. We’re all privy to the fact that there will be an Iron Man 3 so we know that Tony Stark will be fine at the end during his grand sacrifice. We even haven’t seen Hulk for a couple scenes and know that he will fly out and catch him at the last second.
The funny thing is for this movie, I could have accepted a non-stop action romp if there had been some tension in the battle scenes, but there wasn’t. Even the fight scenes seemed to recycle choreography (Captain America throws shield, it gets blocked, he does a somersault at the enemy, a bit of hand to hand, rolls away and grabs shield, and repeat). If you really want to see a movie though, the real question is why go to this one? I can’t give you a reason. I’ve heard great things about 21 Jump Street, and as far as a big budget epic, Hunger Games wins over the Avengers in every way. I guess if you’ve seen all those and you feel like your too old for American Reunion (which really, if you’re considering the Avengers, your not too old for anything) then I guess go with your mind turned off and just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Besides! They play the third Batman Trailer at the beginning! Actually, scratch everything I’ve said. Seeing that preview on the big screen is worth the price of admission. Maybe after that, see if you can sneak into The Five-Year Engagement.