May 5, 2012

REVIEW: The Avengers (dir. Whedon)

Theres a rather thrilling moment towards the end of Joss Whedon's The Avengers. Bruce Banner and co are staring down some alien robots who have slipped through an intergalactic portal in the sky — they look like giant mechanized eels whose tails turn masonry to meringue. They look as pissed as they did at the end of the last Transformers movie.  But Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is not one to be spooked. He runs towards them — "you want to know my secret?" he yells "I'm always angry!" — and right then and there turns into the Hulk and brings down one of these slithering eels with one giant green fist. The audience lets out a startled whoop. At last! They have been allowed to complete a thought process that has been denied them by the rest of the movie, and the release in the air is palpable. The thought process is this: Huh. That green guy beats mechanized eels from space. It's the first time they've been allowed to think anything like that. Time and time again a pair of opponents whirl and pound away at each other in different combinations — Thor vs Iron Man, Iron Man vs Captain America and so on — decimating whole streets and forests, only to find the other still standing amid the rubble: they are exactly and evenly matched.  That's the whole film: a game of scissors-rock-paper-stone, in which everyone has a pair scissors. No doubt there are kids out there who get a kick from knowing that their guy can't be put down, but dramatically it's a recipe for tedium. I've never got the point of superhero ensembles. I like my supermen and women pursuing solo careers, living amongst us regular folks in disguise, until such time as they are called upon to act — by a call of conscience, a spur to action, or else just a villain of surpassing iniquity who simply cries out be stopped. As Dash puts it so memorably in The Incredibles, "If everyone's super, then no-one is." It doesn't help that the villain here is played by an extremely effete Englishman who lowers his voice at the very beginning of the film to sound menacing, but then lets it creep up as the movie wears on, as if forgetting. His name is Loki, which may be the worst name for an inter-galactic villain I have ever heard. It sounds like the name of a baby dolphin. Loki spends most of his time locked up in the bowels of the Avengers ship, visiting not the slightest scintilla of threat upon a single living creature. It's a bit like an episode of Star Trek in which the Klingons are locked up in the Enterprise's brig the entire time. Where's the fun in that? Shouldn't they let him out to jazz things up a bit? Where are the Avengers going in that ship? What urges them on? What are they hoping to achieve in the small amount of screen time allotted them before they return into the ether from which they came? Thank heavens for Ruffalo, who's tousled, bashful turn is pretty much the sole reason to see this crappy film. C+

1 comment:

  1. With over billions and billions of comic book fans and Marvel practically breathing down his neck, Joss Whedon was given one job and one job only and that was to not screw this up. Thankfully, he doesn't even come close to screwing it up and makes this one of the funnest superhero movies in recent time. Nice write-up Tom.