About ten months ago, I posted a rant about Captain America: The First Avenger. Wednesday night I watched The Avengers. I was having trouble coming up with anything meaningful to say beyond: go see it if you haven’t. Chances are, if you like superhero movies at all, you’ll enjoy it. I watched David DeMoss’s review over at And You Thought It Was Safe…? and I nearly wrote a post that just said to go watch *his* review, because he *mostly* agrees with me, and put in the effort to actually put it in words, probably more coherently than I would have. Job done. Then I realized: Hey! I’ve got a rant from ten months sitting around. I wonder if this film answers it? So here we go:
Complaint 1: Stuffing 200lbs of Comic History in a 10lb Bag:
Superhero movies have done this more and more, little nods to the comic fans that constantly take you out of the option and make you think things like “Hey! That’s the original Human Torch in that tube!” Admittedly this film features a ton of comic characters, but most have the benefit of being introduced in previous entries in Marvel’s recent superhero films, and they don’t feel crammed in. They all get good things to do, good character moments. They’re not here just to please the fans, they tell a story. If there were a lot of little references to comics continuity, I missed them; I was having too much fun with THIS movie to think about it. This is the way, Hollywood, to integrate comic history-not little splashes here and there, just take the best elements and use them!
2) Red Skull is a Nazi
Well, that specific issue wasn’t present here; but I did feel that the characters behaved in the range that those character behave in the comics. Loki was a lying, twisty git who has other people do his heavy lifting for him and who continually causes conflict. Yep. That sounds like Loki.
3) Overuse of CG
Again, I was too busy enjoying myself to notice, but I feel like the CG was at an acceptable level; for most of these characters and situations it is a must. That being said, I’m not sure if it was better, or the mix was better, or you just notice lame effects less when you’re fully engaged, but I barely noticed with a few exceptions. More on the point I was making before, there’s a minimum of use of CG to make the mostly human members of the Avengers do things that are just completely impossible.
Anything else to say? Not too much. I loved Chris Evans as Captain America, he was the embodiment of my favorite version of Cap. Robert Downey Jr. continues to be hilarious as Tony Stark/Iron Man, and we didn’t get treated to the barrage of moments that remind us that playboys retained a modicum of class that is absent in the Maxim era like we were in Iron Man 2. I was skeptical of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner; I was glad to be proven wrong. I’m not even a fan of the character and I’d like to see a solo Hulk film with him in it. I was a little disappointed we didn’t see much of Thor, particularly of Hemsworth’s comedic side (submerged to make RDJ the big comic relief of the film, I’m sure), and the version of The Black Widow and Hawkeye that the film is using are not my faves, but these are minor complaints, to be sure.
Which brings us back to: go see it if you haven’t. Chances are, if you like superhero movies at all, you’ll enjoy it. I know I did.
Put me firmly in the “you just notice lame effects less when you’re fully engaged” camp. After trying to proclaim that from every mountaintop I could find for years, Hollywood’s finally supplied me with a ready-made example. I’ve seen great movies with deplorably shitty special effects and I’ve seen awful movies with “great” effects I inevitably end up faulting…usually because I’m so bored by the shitty storytelling. I’m left with no choice *but* to try and catch the animators “cheating.” (Can you guess which three-part, multi-billion dollar-grossing, Big Dumb Summer Movie franchise I’m talking about? I’m sure you can. ILM’s a house of dirty, rotten cheaters.)
Otherwise…yep. What more can I say but, “What you said”…? Oh, I can ask after your preferred versions of Hawkeye and Widow, since you keep chalking your criticisms of them up to your preference for a certain era of the team’s history. Which would that be? Are we talking the Roger Stern/Ultimate Vision era, the John Byrne/Acts of Vengeance cycle, or something to either side of both? Me, I’m the asshole who ignored all of this until “Heroes Reborn” in ’96, so no need to worry about me screaming and pointing like Pod Person.
Wait, were the effects in this particularly lame? I’m not sure which series you’re talking about…the Prequels maybe? I’m not really up on my digital effects houses.
I started reading the Avengers maybe around 82-84(I was pretty young so its hard to remember what issues I’m seeing listed for Stern I read and which ones I simply skimmed/looked at the pretty pictures), and finally gave up on them after around 1994 when the West Coast Avengers disbanded and were replaced with Force Works. The early 90s were a terrible, terrible time for comics. So, I was reading it during the Acts of Vengeance era, the John Byrne time on WCA, and the Stern era, mostly via stealing my brothers’ comics when he wasn’t around. I’ve also in the last decade or so read the first 4 volumes of The Essential Avengers, so I know the 1960s comics pretty well too. What I mean is, these are the “S.H.E.I.L.D. Agent” versions of those character-I believe that concept first reared its head in the Ultimates? I feel like Marvel Continuity is pretty stable until the late 80s/early 90s, but I could be wrong; in any case, I’m fond of the 60s Avengers comics, and I grew up with the 80s stuff; I’m very much not a fan with what they did to the characters during the rush to be “Dark and Gritty” in the wake of Watchmen/Dark Knight/Image and I pretty much loathe the Ultimates. Busiek’s work I enjoyed, he seemed willing to modernize without shitting all over characters I loved. Around the time I started hearing about “Avengers Dissembled”, “New Avengers”, “Young Avengers”, “Civil War”, I tried to check out and learn as little as I could about current comics events…for me mainstream hero comics are dead, at least the characters that have been around since the 40s/60s. Serial storytelling does terrible things to any character.
Actually, I was referring to the Transformers franchise and its maker’s frequet protestations of complexity. “We made sure to animate all the moving parts individually, so our robots would look as visually cluttered and ugly as possible.” That’s the fake quote, made up from paraphrases. The real quote, from Bay himself in a 2007 MTV.com article, is even worse: “By adding more doo-dads and stuff on the robots, more car parts, you can just make it more real.”
And now that I’ve re-read your Captain America rant (which I should’ve done first – doh!) I can see that as an illustration of your overarching problem: the “bigger IS better”/”more IS more” school of big budget action movie “thought” that turns “more down to Earth” heroes into cartoons and even the least-important setting into an airplane hanger so large it creates its own horizon line. Your advice to Joe Johnston in that is spot-on advice for everyone trying to be the next king of the Big Dumb Summer Movie world: “Spend some money on location shooting, some nice big sets, put in fewer characters, focus the story, get some nicely choreographed action and stunts in there and you might have something.”
On the other hand, I’d call the effects in the Avengers “good” because, as you say, “I was too busy enjoying myself to notice” them. To me, that’s the real measure of a successful special effect. CGI body doubling could still use some work, but I don’t know if that’ll ever *not* be an issue. As humans, we spend all our lives staring at other humans, so faking that with a computer will probably take awhile, though I dare someone to prove me wrong.
Frank Miller’s been saying the whole industry will inevitably move toward trade paperbacks. On the one hand, it would be damn convenient for consumers, and free creators to tell self-contained stories, reasonably free of continuity. On the other hand…I wouldn’t trust Frank Miller if he told me the sky was blue, and I sure don’t trust his power to predict the future.
Ah, god. The Transformers. Terrible robot design…then again, at least in the first one, I could rarely make them out during a fight.
Glad you think my armchair director/traditionalist advice to modern directors makes sense.
Yeah, some of the doubling was not the best, but I’m not sure that the old solution-stunt doubles and blue screens-is necessarily better, though some of those stunts were spectacles all their own. That wasn’t Roger Moore fighting on the wing of that plane, or driving that car through a corkscrew jump…but somebody sure as hell did it, and WOW. Then again, not sure how, say, Capt. hanging out of the Helicarrier could be done w/o blue screens, miniatures and the like back in the day, either. But I enjoyed that they seemed to keep the Helicarrier to roughly the dimensions it has in the comics-there were not shots of endless aircraft bays, for example.
No idea about the future of comics-I’m pretty much (and in a way have always been) just read stuff my brother hands me these days, so I’m hardly a real fan.