Ten Thoughts on The Avengers

Seeing “The Avengers” was an interesting test for me. You see, I hate comic book movies. Original Batman with Adam West aside, I just don’t get into comic book movies. In fact, I find them annoying and frustrating. I also don’t like Scarlett Johansson. I have never seen “Thor”, “Iron Man”, or “Captain America”.

But I love Joss Whedon. Love. And where he goes, I follow. So, I saw “The Avengers”. I didn’t hate it, but I do have some thoughts I have to unleash somewhere, so here goes:

1. Is it just that Jeremy Renner looks that strange? Or is this the camera just not accurately capturing his face? Every time he is on screen, I am wholly preoccupied at how strange his proportions and features are. I cannot process that he is playing a character. All I see is a shrunken head. There’s no way he actually looks like that.

2. What is going on with Bruce Banner’s pants? Much like Renner’s strange skull, I couldn’t wrap my mind around those hideous high-waisted pants they put poor Mark Ruffalo in when he is in his purple shirt/brown pant ensemble. I tried to find a picture of said pants on the internet and could come up with nothing, so I can only hope the studio saw the error of its ways and are trying to erase the pants from cultural memory.

3. Those pants are the only things I didn’t like about the Hulk. Perfect casting, Ruffalo nailed it. Considering two feature films have very publicly failed at putting The Hulk on screen, I was impressed. And the moment where Hulk grabs Loki mid-tirade and beats the tar out of him? Classic Whedon and my favorite moment in the entire film.

4. Who exactly is Cobie Smulders playing in this movie? As someone with genuinely no knowledge of the comic book, I had to take to the internet to learn she is apparently Maria Hill, A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with no discernable powers or personality. I am totally on board with more Cobie Smulders in my life, but I didn’t get how invested I was supposed to be in her. Is she a Samuel L Jackson sounding board and that’s it? There was a weird shot of her when Banner walked by that I thought they might fall in love, but that was apparently a bad read on my part.

5. Do you think Tom Hiddleston had to try on the absurd helmet in a screen test before he got that part? I don’t think any old guy can pull it off. Also, I learned there is going to be a Thor 2?? Having not seen Thor, perhaps I am reading this wrong, but isn’t The Avengers basically “Thor 2”?

6. Um…who was that guy at the end of the movie? I am not joking when I say I think it was Hellboy?? I thought Hellboy was a good guy though….and lived on Earth, not the other side of space…I think I might need to take to Google again.

7. I know I prefaced this by saying I hate comic book movies, but I think I might actually enjoy the first Iron Man and Captain America. Both Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr are remarkably charismatic.

8. The tones of 9/11 in the Manhattan destruction scene really threw me. I found the 9/11 throwbacks to be pretty insensitive and gauche. It really surprises me considering Whedon is usually such a master of tone and this one was so very inappropriate.

9. Why is this movie two and a half hours long? Moreover, why can I not see a movie these days that are less than two hours long? We can tackle Gone With the Wind in three hours. We don’t need two Breaking Dawn movies, we don’t need two Kill Bills and we can certainly trim the fat on this fluffy comic book story. 

10. This last one might be long, you’ve been warned. Let me set down my soap box, hop upon, and give you my two cents on transmedia storytelling. Like many of you, I enjoy the fact that a sprawling story can cover a multitude of media. You can tell a story with a book, a comic book, a movie, and a video game and that fosters a lot of creativity and innovative storytelling.

So here is my problem with The Avengers and most comic book movies in general. I am of the belief you can intertwine storytelling across media, but each medium needs to be able to hold its own as a product. “Star Wars” is a great example. You have the Clone Wars cartoon, the six movies, the Ewok saga, video games galore, and each of these things helps to expand and flesh out the universe Star Wars exists in. However, by and large, you can take each product as an individual product and enjoy it for what it is.

I am probably in the vast minority going into The Avengers completely blind, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be able to view this movie with no frame of reference and understand what is happening. And I couldn’t. I inferred from the various articles I read that Samuel L Jackson was Nick Fury. I could only conjecture he ran some sort of government operation. I had no idea how to feel about Cobie Smulders. I had no clue whatsoever what Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner have to do with anything. I don’t even know what movie they were in. 

This isn’t specific to The Avengers or even comic book movies, but I think this is something you see more often in comic book movies with a rabid fan base than other genres. You have to make a movie to please fans, yes, but the expectation that the rest of cares that much is presumptuous and makes for lazy storytelling.

::carts soap box away::