So, The Avengers.I kept hearing this global phenomenon was not just eye candy and fanboy dreamboat fodder—I kept hearing this was a “good film.”
Disclaimer: I smiled a lot, stopping just short of clapping like a little kid. The movie was a good time, an event. I’ll probably watch it again. But a good film?
If good means having a comprehensible plot and a strong villain, this wasn’t a good film. The first act was long and disjointed, introducing the characters that I would bet a majority of the audience already knew, and were tapping their toes waiting for the “good stuff.”
The second act was more about the superheroes “infighting” than actual development of the looming threat of Loki, who got himself imprisoned, a la, Heath Ledger’s Joker, only with an inferior plan and far less charisma and menace. He just sort of hangs out in a glass lockbox until needed, just like the fire axe at your place of employment.
And that glass—the glass that Thor can crack when he’s really mad and wanting to get at Loki, but he doesn’t outright break out of it. Not until he’s a few inches from the ground and he really needs to break out of it to—what?—he’s still falling the same speed and the fall won’t harm him anyway because he’s fucking Thor for God’s sakes, he falls from places, it’s sort of what he does.
This is a slippery slope, applying logic to a film like this. I can hear the chorus swelling—it’s supposed to be fun, you’re overthinking it. Yeah but you know what? Thor looks stupid in that sequence. In a good movie, the villains are brilliant but the heroes eventually outsmart them. This movie? Not really.
Don’t worry, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, either.
The problem truly lies with Loki, who has recruited a scary-looking alien force to capture Earth for him. The problem is, he’s completely under-utilizing his own skills. He can turn people into his mindless slaves with the touch of his scepter and he can also create holographic images of himself and/or teleport, we never really get the full grasp of that since it’s hardly deployed usefully or consistently. You would think that holographic images and/or teleportation would come in handy before daring the Incredible Hulk to smash your ass, but I suppose he forgets about this handy power that he uses exactly twice.
Did I mention he can also turn people to his side with the touch of the scepter? He has Nick Fury dead to rights in the first ten minutes. He turns two important characters to his side but never really pulls that trick again and completely wastes an opportunity to kill and/or “turn” Nick Fury, which would really f things up royally for the good guys. Probably the screenwriters as well, which is why it doesn’t happen.
The “heavy” stuff is hinted at, such as WMD’s and the use of torture on prisoners. Yet it is quickly dismissed. I found myself drawn to Captain America the most—fish out of water, by far the most vulnerable of the superheroes with a perfect opportunity to have his duty and loyalty played against his honorable sensibilities with torture and whatnot.
The third act paid off nicely for pure visual spectacle and that melted honey feeling of the heroes finally working together (even if the alien army was about the worst fighting force you could ever recruit) The Incredible Hulk stole the show, both for character arc moments and comic relief. Tony Stark was refreshingly back to being funny and cheeky instead of smug and unlikeable (I’m looking at you, Iron Man 2). There was a lot to like and with the hodgepodge of characters, this may be the most one can ask for from the first Avengers film.
But a “good” film? Not with that first act, not while its essentially plotless. Not when these films depend largely on the cunning of their villains and Loki lacks both the intelligence and physical disposition to truly put our heroes in jeopardy. Combine this with the many gripes of logic the comic canon may fill in while leaving the casual viewer wondering, “huh?”
A small list of those types of gripes (in addition to the Thor glass gripe listed earlier):
1 – The poorly guarded, laughably defenseless mothership explodes and the obviously flesh and blood creatures either have a “let’s make it convenient for the heroes” brain switch located in the mothership or simply cannot take the sight of so many pecs flexing on screen causing them to faint.
2 – Loki watches Thor and Ironman and Captain America have a “he started it” fighting moment but doesn’t take the opportunity to escape and is magically in captivity in the next scene—but wait, Fred, he wants to be imprisoned! Yes, so he can instigate the Incredible Hulk, which at the top of the “this plan sucks” list that he cannot reasonably think he can pull off.
3 – The MacGuffin—I’m sorry, the Tess-er-act—is stolen, taken to Germany for a little under the hood work, then brought right back to Stark Tower to open the portal over New York. So, umm, why the fuck did they bring it to Germany?
4 – The Avengers flying battleship thingy has a cool invisibility cloak—that is probably the worst cloak in the history of science fiction films, as it is instantly found by enemy forces and we see the ship during the entire movie. I guess after it got turned on, someone just turned it off to save energy as part of a “go green” initiative? Not that someone wanting to find the ship couldn’t hear the thing from a billion miles away.
Gripes aside, I love superhero movies and this had a lot going on. The sheer scope of the final battle, the dynamics of the hero personality clashes, the creative use of their powers and collaborations, and the emergence of Ruffalo/Hulk were all highlights for me. This one felt a lot like a traction-gaining exercise, depending on the allure of the heroes on screen together instead of “wasting” a more menacing villain on the first, guaranteed blockbuster. I see from the cookie that the second one could feature the villain I’m craving, and maybe in Avengers 2 we’ll see the superhero sweet spot that was struck by superior sequels such as Spider Man 2 and The Dark Knight.
One can only hope. Oh, and spoiler alert.

About the Author

Fred Venturini is an author and freelance business consultant.

He grew up in Patoka, Illinois. In 2014, his story "Gasoline" was featured in Chuck Palahniuk's Burnt Tongues anthology. His short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South. The Heart Does Not Grow Back, published by Picador in 2014, is his first novel. He lives in Southern Illinois with his wife and daughter.

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