Monday, June 04, 2012

The Avengers



Erin and I have now become au courant with The Avengers, having partaken yesterday afternoon. We arrived a trifle late, which makes me anxious. I want to see the previews. The room was full, which hasn’t been the case the last few times I’ve gone to the movies.

As to the up and coming, it is the sort of stuff I want to see, large-scale cheesy summer flicks, but I am beginning to think technology has run away with the genre. I shall expatiate.

The new Batman looks almost wonderful, full of wonder. I hedge because it seems way too grim and serious for something that is basically ridiculous. And disaster and horror are just not that prettily designed. I know from nothing regarding the plot, but the central villain appears to be particularly sadistic, I mean enough to make me consider giving the movie a miss. And the sense of angst amidst all the pyrotechnic gewgaws gets sillier and sillier. One shouldn’t be taken seriously while wearing prosthetics pecs: that’s one of my main rules.

Spiderman looks like redux. Am I right? Is Sam Raimi still involved? It looked like more of the same, with a new everybody. Now that Spidey has hit Broadway—and I think the verb most apt—it looks like it is time to walk away. Anyway, franchise movies work against themselves. Superhero movie plots tend toward apocalyptic, so the films require ever-increasing literal bang for buck. The franchise wears out fast. Back in the day, Tarzan or Sherlock Holmes would chug along for years, more and more, but these dazzlers flash and flare out. By the second Spiderman, I’d seen all the sweeping web swinging that I needed. Why are we starting over?

There’s an animated feature coming about a headstrong princess, probably from Disney, that seems to be zesty. I bet it would be better as live action, with good actors working the comedy, rather than broad cartoon strokes. Tim Burton has an unpleasant looking animation about a boy who reanimates his dog. I imagine he took the plot from Re-animator, a movie by Wes Craven, I think. Burton might want to stop channeling the awkward boy in grade school or whatever explains his self-pitying sense of the outsider.

Finally, there’s the Alien prequel. Mon Dieu! it looks lavish. Truth to say, I’ve never watched any of the Alien movies, not counting about 2 millions clips. This one seems over-invested in visual splash. And it is not in a position to surprise us much at this point.

So I did, in fact, see The Avengers. With reviews and the Joss Whedon mystique, I expected more. It moved along well enough but I can’t even remember how it started. Erin said the plot was like Where’s Waldo. Hard to believe screenwriting is a profession when you can get away with such muddle.

Like with every new franchise, the first half of the movie has to introduce characters, suggest back-story and otherwise dither about until the narratives can be twined into a big explosion. The Avengers has a lot of important characters needing face time so the introductory process drags out, even with the head start of the Ironman, Captain America, The Hulk, and Thor movies.

We start off with Nick Fury, some super military commando or whatever. It’s just Samuel Jackson doggedly brusque and serious. The character doesn’t seem worth placing in a central role. Jackson chews on it but he’s effectively MC Fury shouting orders to the heroes.

Loki is the main evil, and a bit tiresome. Both he and Thor are stuck with dialogue that sounds like Elizabethan drama. I don’t recall that in Thor’s flick, but at any rate, the screenwriters seem to labour with it.

I expected more wit in the proceedings, but it didn’t really show up until Black Widow did. I hadn’t seen Scarlett Johansson before. There was a dry humour to her lines. She often looks pouty, more of a tic than anything sexy, but doesn’t get stuck in that sort of act. We meet her when she is bound and being interrogated. It looks grim for her but then a phone call comes thru to the bad guys. It is for Black Widow. Given the phone, she replies exasperatedly that she’s right in the middle of an interrogation, but learning the nature of the emergency, sighs, and proceeds to clean up the bad guys. What ho!

The Ironman superhero is more of the same but Robert Downey is just so strong with his lines, tossing them off carelessly, that he gives the movie a great deal of energy. The whole cast in fact is quite strong but no one can top Downey in a scene.

Hawkeye was given short shrift. Early on, Loki makes him a minion, a rather simple trick and why didn’t Loki just use that wand thing to command more heroes, thence the world? Hawkeye gets few lines but comes across as weirdly obsessed with archery when everyone else has nice explody things. Well, his arrows explode and do all sorts of unlikely hi-tech stuff but, you know, arrows versus airplanes seems a bit naff.

I should mention the aircraft carrier/flying fortress. It seemed large by aircraft standards. Then, in a strong vote for unlikelihood—thank god gravity doesn’t exist—it rises in the air and flies. I think it also trims weeds. By the way, nobody in the movie suffers acrophobia, just me in the audience.

Against expectation, I liked Captain America. His action sequences are less covered by technological dazzle, and the old-fashioned soldier in him gives him a touch of humanity that the others lack. Wasn’t he Johnny Storm as well?

In the comics, Hulk could talk, albeit simple sentences. In this movie he just bellows and roars. Computer generated graphics can work as a character—witness Gollum—but often look out of place with the live characters. Mr Hulk was a bit blobby in the green side of things, but could be antic when he got momentum. At least there are a couple of funny moments with the Hulk. He and Thor have just finished defeating some bad guys and for no reason Hulk slugs Thor, exit stage right. And when Loki starts to speechify his superiourity, Hulk grabs him and slaps him against the floor repeatedly like a dish towel. Bruce Banner comes across okay but the Hulk is highly limited.

Comics movies, and comics themselves, lose scale because they allow characters to shake off anything. I mean, characters get mashed but get up and go full tilt again. Takes away the possibility of anyone losing.

The alien attack allowed a lot more crashing and exploding. We saw this in Independence Day, etc. I really don’t know why the movie is a big hit. A smattering of applause greeted the ending, which is unusual. A lot of youngsters in the crowd but I didn’t hear much reaction from them. The little scene in the apr├Ęs credits with the heroes sitting in a diner eating is priceless.

I feel a bit grim about the movies, with noise replacing action. A strong cast and characters puts The Avengers over, say, that X-Men movie of last year, but otherwise it offers little to distinguish it from a raft of other superhero flicks. Popcorn was about average.
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