It should be stated in advance that I really do enjoy the work of Joss Whedon. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and to a lesser extent Angel portrayed universal issues cleverly wrapped up in a non threatening, non therapeutic package that's as clever as it is enjoyable. Firefly was misunderstood and ahead of it’s time, Dollhouse wasn’t given the chance it deserved and suffered from the level of expectation from Execs and fans alike as Whedon re-teamed with Dushku. I want The Avengers to be all it can be but unfortunately I am more than prepared to be under whelmed.
The reason for this buckle in and prepare for the mediocrity crash is because the very ethos of the film is so anti Hollywood, anti American even, that it can only even end in disaster. How can a film featuring Captain
be anti American? How can a multi million dollar Blockbuster be anti America ? So glad you asked. Since the relocation from the East to the West Coast and setting up shop in Hollywood to tell their tales California has been the pioneer of the individual storyline, it’s deeply rooted in Hollywood ’s history. The American Dream, the capitalist ethos of every individual working towards their own ends. This is why, all too often, America Hollywood cinema is accused of being overly simplistic when dealing with large historical tales. The focus is all wrong. Rather than dealing with the Socio-Political effects of the American Civil War, the sinking of the Titanic, the attacks on the Twin Towers Hollywood tells the story of how these far reaching events affect the individual. The story of the many, the story of the group is a typically Socialist form of cinema. The Battleship Potemkin tells the story of the uprising of an entire crew as one unit, Battleship tells the story of individuals…see where we are going? For The Avengers to work the narrative needs to be almost Socialist in style and direction but instead it will a tale of individuals and the biggest battle any of these Superheroes will have will be the battle for screen time.
Looking back at Kenneth Branagh’s Thor indicates the problems ahead, narratively the film was barely able to plot a convincing story arch between Thor and pretty Scientist type Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman). “I am Thor” “That’s not possible, my scientific mind rejects this statement and concludes there must be something wrong with you” “But look how I can’t interact with this realm!” “That’s me sold you really are Thor” granted the dialogue contained here wasn’t exactly how to rolled out in the film but I find it a lot more honest to the rushed mess they called character development. Consider this and then remember that this was a film that was trying to tell the story of just one hero…imagine the cinematic carnage we are in story for.
Every battle has winners and losers so it’s probably worthwhile looking at who’s going to be the losers of The Avengers. First up this will be the first cinematic meeting between Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the cash waving fans of celluloid so his character will remain undeveloped and will be little more than a supporting role and ultimately be used as a device for furthering the grand narrative. Think of Jeremy’s role in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and give him less to do. Similarly Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is without her own film, it’s either an example of how female heroes simply aren’t believable (a real insult when you consider all the other disbelief you have to suspend to get through a Superhero film but not unlike Hollywood as it has serious trouble writing strong female roles) or there’s not enough to her character to carry an entire film…Elektra anyone? No real character development for you Black Widow though there will be a basket full of slow motion shots of your booty in your figure hugging Sunday finest…enough to give the weekend Dad a difficult time walking back to the car. What will, most likely, happen is you’ll be reduced to furthering the narratives of the manly manly men who stand centre stage and if you’re lucky they’ll throw you a love story. The Hulk is the biggest shock loser of this film, Ruffalo (having stepped into the stretchy pants made vacant by Ed Norton’s ego) comes to The Avengers as a new face in an established and troubled character and while he’s a great actor he hasn’t had the time to showcase his interpretation of Banner and will probably struggle to carve out his own time. Captain America and Thor come in at second and third place, with the big bad (to quote Whedon) being Thor's kin and prospective kidney donor you’d imagine the story would push Thor to the forefront but the character is painfully uninteresting. Captain America, outside of the U.S, was never a big seller in the comic stakes and I think out of time, out of context and without Red Skull he’s going to be as awkward as a Joel Schumacher Batman as an example of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ rule. This leaves the road to the winners podium clearly for the wise cracking, scene stealing smugness that is the sober and thoroughly annoying/boring Downey Jr. He's become a lot more dull since becoming Hollywood' clean and respectable darling.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s very much suited to the role of Tony Stark but that doesn’t mean that sometimes wishing he would rust isn’t appropriate. Iron Man is the front runner with two individual movies and a third in the pipe and unlike The Hulk hasn’t had to go through face lift after face lift as they strive to fine the movie that works alongside the actor that brings balance to the big green meanie.
I’ve failed to mention the biggest loser in all of this and that’s, unsurprisingly, the cinema going public. With the exception of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Superhero films have been mediocre at best, watch Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk side by side or back to back or whatever other way you want and tell me they are not the exact same film. Marvel have been selling comic book fans crappy Grand View property for years in an effort to build up to The Avengers film which can never ever live up to even a fifth of the hype but you won’t know that for certain until you’ve paid your money and once you’ve done that and the
Box Office figures are in then we’re pretty much guaranteed an invasion of Superhero team movies that will leave you uninspired, unfulfilled and so very very tired. I hope I’m wrong but The Avengers strikes me as a step beyond breaking point, too many Chiefs…too many Cooks…too many Alter-egos and not enough script.
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