Giant flying sea turtles from space? Really? This is the film that is raking in all the cash; the film that has fan boys drooling over their flabby, donut-enhanced bellies - a film with flying sea turtles from space in it?!?
I know this is hard to do, everyone, but sit back objectively and think about the last forty minutes of this film. Is this giant clusterfuck of shit really quality entertainment? Do you really enjoy watching enormous marine reptiles flying across Manhattan while being ridden by poorly rendered skeletal space monkeys? It’s like Transformers ate The Phantom Menace and exploded this sequence out of its distended rectum.
My hopes were minimal before the release of The Avengers but they rose significantly when every man and his dog (and sometimes his cat) told me how great the film was. However, my rising hopes deflated pretty quickly when the film began. Wait a minute, there’s an alien talking incomprehensible gobbledygook. And he looks like Skeletor! Oh, I know what’s happened. They’ve accidentally hooked up Masters of the Universe to the projector. Dolph Lundgren will turn up in a second in his furry loincloth and then we can fix this horrible, horrible mistake.
But Dolph Lundgren never appeared. You mean this is the correct film? Oh fuck me in the head with a pitbull; this is going to be a long evening!
Perhaps I’m being a little severe. The Avengers is most definitely not a horrible film. It’s just a crushingly mediocre one that has inexplicably been lavished with praise. I’m sorry but a half a dozen decent quips doesn’t make for a great movie.
Following the Skeletor nonsense, the film continues on shaky legs. Some eggheads gather around the film’s MacGuffin (some cube thing that can be used for cheap energy and which can create portals through space) and then everything gets a bit Stargate. The film’s bad guy, Loki, suddenly appears through a portal and proceeds to either kill or ‘turn’ people to his side. The way that he enslaves people is by prodding them with his gnarly space sceptre of convincement. One touch and they’re his drones. It’s all a bit rushed and doesn’t set the stage particularly well.
Thankfully the film improves significantly after this. Once Loki is out in the wild, doing his thing (being a colossal dick is what he does best), Nick Fury gets to assemble The Avengers. Where the film succeeds is in the inter-personal relationships between the heroes. The action scenes are a colossal disappointment and amongst some of the most boring stuff I’ve seen in recent years, but the friction between the protagonists and some of the humour that ensues is really well done.
There’s also some nice moral ambiguity. At the beginning it seems like Nick Fury’s espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is working entirely for the good of man. There’s this crazy guy loose in the world and they want to bring him down. But then we find out that S.H.I.E.L.D. is using the MacGuffin to develop super powerful weaponry against an alien invasion. One can see both sides of the coin. The negative: once you build these weapons, you can’t undo it; they’re always going to be there and they can cause your destruction. The positive: you want to protect yourself from hostile forces; you don’t want to be powerless. So like the atomic bomb; it might have saved us from an even longer war but it also opened Pandora’s Box.
There’s also a thread of hero worship that runs through the film. Agent Coulson (one of Nick Fury’s closest colleagues) is a huge Captain America fan and boasts of having valuable Captain America trading cards. After Coulson gets killed by Loki, Nick Fury shows the bloody Captain America trading cards that Coulson was apparently carrying on his person. This revelation lights a fire under everyone and allows Captain America and Tony Stark to get over their differences and work together as team. We then find out that the cards were never in Coulson’s pocket and that Fury used this as a way of motivating the team. It’s a pretty despicable act but one that is done for the greater good - this lie binds everyone together and allows them to finally act as a team.
I also enjoyed the film’s sense of humour. There are several parts that stand out. The clueless Captain America finally getting a reference because it relates to The Wizard of Oz (Captain America has been frozen in ice and so every modern pop culture reference goes over his head), Tony Stark making a quip about Shakespeare in the park as he, Thor and Captain America battle it out in the middle of a forest, and best of all, The Hulk beating the shit out of Loki.
This last scene was surprisingly hilarious. The rather pompous Loki tells the Hulk that he’s a god and that he won’t be bullied by such a dull creature. The Hulk then grabs Loki like a rag doll and smashes him repeatedly into the ground, calling him a ‘puny god’. The timing and the animation are magnificent.
Sadly this moment of comic relief occurs in the huge clusterfuck at the end of the movie. Towards the end, I really just didn’t care anymore. I just wanted the film over. Whedon tries to inject a bit of pathos by trying to convince us that Tony Stark might die but we all know that he’ll be fine. So therefore we have to endure about forty minutes of poorly designed pixels flinging themselves around. A bit of restraint can be a wonderful thing.
And I have to roll my eyes if I hear another person say that this is the definitive interpretation of the Hulk. Sorry, but as maligned as it is, I still love Ang Lee’s Hulk. As far as comic book movies go, only Nolan’s Batman movies can light a candle to it.
But the people have spoken and the cash registers are bulging. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more Avengers to come, but I doubt I’ll be there.