Okay, so before the nerd hordes charge with their bat’leths held high (or Mjolnir replicas, or whatever), I’m not going to say I didn’t enjoy watching The Avengers. Indeed, I came out of it feeling truly entertained1. On that score, let us be clear: The Avengers is quite successful. I would particularly mention that the final third of the movie, wherein the Avengers fight the baddies in New York City in a top-notch extended battle, is probably the best super-extended action sequence since the final third of Hard Boiled when Chow Yun-Fat and Tony Leung fight the army of gangsters in the hospital. There are plenty of amusing quips, as one would expect from a Joss Whedon movie (and one hopes this elevates Joss Whedon, finally, to the directorial A-list, because there are many people who are there who deserve it less, and that is even given all my issues with Whedon’s oeuvre), although only three of them really made me laugh out loud and two of those involved the Hulk. The performances are good, although there are levels of excellence – RDJ and Mark Ruffalo top the list, of course, but nobody is bad.2
But here’s the thing. When I came out of Captain America and Iron Man and even Thor, I came out and said to myself, “well, that was a great movie.” Because all of those were great movies.3 I did not say that after coming out of The Avengers, because, well, it’s not a great movie. It’s not even a really good one. It’s an okay movie. At this point someone usually says “but it’s a great thrill ride!” and… well, no. At the end you might think it’s a great thrill ride, but again – that’s after the superb third act. The first two thirds of the movie are not a great thrill ride – there are thrilling moments interspersed with a lot of waiting for the awesome moments. There is, let us be honest, barely a plot to this movie: it is a bunch of Awesome Character Moments (well, mostly) and big fights, but the Awesome Character Moments aren’t really earned like they are in the previous and better Marvel films because no character gets enough time to really build a coherent storyline, and some of the plot twists in this movie are really amazingly stupid.4 Also, the movie unfortunately points out multiple times how stupid it is for anybody in a superhero universe to use a bow and arrow, which is a shame because Jeremy Renner is great, but nobody put a gun to his head and said “hey, be Hawkeye.”
So it’s not a great film. It is about as good, though, as I think an Avengers movie can be in the modern era of film: it is entertaining, competent on most levels, and if you’ve seen all the other Marvel films you can appreciate it as Adventure of The Guys From Those Other Movies well enough, and I have and did. It could be so much worse than it is, and it’s not really “worse” in any way. It’s just not great, and it’s not because it’s a team movie because The Incredibles was a team movie and it was splendid – it’s because it’s product, and product has to hit the expected beats, and in a movie like The Avengers there’s so much less room to hit them well. Which it does, right down to the end-credits reveal of Guess Who to make the fanboys come in their pants.
- Although I wish I had not spent the money to see it in 3D. The 3D is ass. See it in 2D, folks. [↩]
- Although Samuel L. Jackson just phones in a paycheck Samuel L. Jackson performance, which is not terrible but let’s be honest, he’s basically the black Christopher Walken at this point. [↩]
- Okay, Thor less so than the other two by a fair bit, but even so, Thor is at least a decent movie with some really great moments. [↩]
- Loki’s mind-control can be beaten by punching them in the head, which is basically the shittiest mind-control ever. [↩]