A combination of mediocre characters and an unconvincing plot renders The Avengers not quite worthy of the praise it has garnered
WARNING: Contains Spoilers
The Avengers brings together some of Marvel’s most popular heroes and, in light of that, should prove quite the cinematic experience. And clearly for many it has delivered. The blockbuster movie has been released to gushing reviews. Rotten Tomatoes awarded the movie an astonishing 93% fresh rating, while average viewer rating was a remarkable 4.7/5. Consistently hitting the #1 spot at the box office, the film has now been declared to have raked in $1 billion worldwide.
All the ingredients for a brilliantly entertaining night out, yet following over two hours of resolute viewing (approximately 63% of which was spent wondering when the plot would actually develop) I was left thinking, “thank God for the concluding scenes or this would have been a complete waste of time.”
The plot, while presenting the standard apocalyptic world-almost-but-not-quite-coming-to-an-end sequence featuring the all important creatures from outer space, did have some real potential. But the film found itself hindered by a combination of clichéd characters, jarring plot complications and general predictability. And did anyone else notice how they copied the “tesseract” concept from A Wrinkle in Time?
The plot complications in particular – the conflicts between the heroes, their internal psychological turmoils, etc – often seemed a tad forced and unconvincing, failing to work their way smoothly into the overall tale and even left insufficiently resolved. The heroes are reflected as both perfect in their powers yet imperfect in their humanity, a factor which subsequently impacts the heroism they display. Yet this potential point of verity is jarred by the inadequacy with which it is portrayed, leading it to appear more a contrivance than the ingredient for emotionally engaging realism it could have been. Stark is shown to develop well-placed misgivings, also shared by Banner. Fury exposes the reality of these concerns, yet the complication remains inadequately addressed and unresolved, leaving a gap in the overall tale.
The script was another factor that frequently lodged uncomfortably at the back of my throat; hyperbolic and clichéd, it was too often predictable and almost eye-rollingly annoying. We will give particular credit to Thor for almost, although unfortunately not quite, monopolising on this aspect. The herculean demi-god-plus-hammer was an almost constant source of cheesy platitudes, from the heroic to the sentimental.
In close contest and indeed threatening to outstrip Thor, however, was Captain America whose combination of star-spangled uniform cut out of a fresh US flag and goody-two-shoes one-liners left little to desire when taken in the spirit of satire. My first and last thought remained, “how can one take a man in that get-up seriously?” I daresay the answer to this is, only the devoted Captain America comic readers, rendered immune to the costume and those entirely ignorant of US foreign policy (apologies for bringing politics into this, but it’s inevitable).
Meanwhile, comic heroes aside, villains were not spared cause for critique either. The villain Loki too closely matched the ignoble Grima Wormtongue of the epic Lord of the Rings films (a comparison to which would be too unkind), and left one feeling that there was a stark shortage in imagination. A villain he did convincingly resemble, but not an original one. The greasy, pale, psychotic template has been far too overused.
To the films credit, Iron Man proved as entertaining as ever. Robert Downey Jr seems to have a knack for the arrogant, womanising, ditsy and humorous protagonist. In fact his Sherlock Holmes is almost a Tony Stark in period costume. I begin to wonder whether he is actually like that in real life (and will probably choose to believe it for my own amusement). Really, I should be disliking such a character, but his rough and arrogant exterior does case a heart of high voltage energy, which is rather endearing.
We will also credit the Hulk for providing what is undoubtedly the best moment of the film. His remarkable villain-as-rattle impression was quite the winner and provoked much side-splitting. Not to mention proving very satisfactory for the villain-haters in the audience, who broke out in spontaneous applause. “God” indeed, Loki.
But to The Avenger’s greatest tribute, I must commend the epic concluding battle. As potentially predictable a scene as ever there was, here the filmmakers succeeded in producing a battle sequence that played with as many emotions as, well, a far better movie would. While much of the first half of the movie (and some of the second) was spent in what felt like a scattered confusion in need of a strong-willed director, the climaxing combat scene was undoubtedly impressive and well-constructed, both visually and in its development. A show of classy and quirky conflict between heroes and appropriately imaginative and repellent villains, leading to a moment of teetering utter loss and despair, finally to conclude in an epic and heroic climax. While one feels compelled to point out that the climatic conclusion did rather closely resemble Independence Day of yore, this battle scene did nonetheless almost make up for the entire first half of the movie. Almost.
The concluding battle of The Avengers, scattered with the creditable portrayals by some of the characters, rendered this a tolerable film. Yet hardly worthy of the rave reviews so many seem want to lend it. As a previous writer commented with regards to music, perhaps the film industry too is suffering from the throes of mediocrity, such that even the mildly average movie attains cult status. At this rate, one fears another Lord of the Rings may never happen. It is quite a mournful thought.
Photo Credits: Reuters
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