Movies / Second Opinion

Second Opinion: Marvel’s The Avengers

We look back at this summer’s biggest blockbuster and question if it is really worth the rave reviews.

Hariz:

The Avengers was supposed to be the superhero movie. Not many movies have had the kind of buildup that The Avengers had enjoyed – 2008’s Iron Man saw the first hint, with Nick Fury already in full character (and eye patch) mentioning the ‘Avenger’s Initiative’. We’re talking about four whole years of anticipation here, and five movies worth of preamble.

Right from the start, a movie like The Avengers couldn’t ever reach the idealistic ‘best’ superhero movie it tries to be. Understandably, the movie’s main focus is on the dynamics of the group, how these different heroes come together to save the world. This however means that there is hardly any room for personal character growth, which does the movie a huge disservice. The characters have already been fleshed out in their prior movies, and therefore it might seem like there is no need to invest in that anymore.

But because of this, audiences might not be able to relate to the characters they see. Personally, I think a huge appeal in superhero stories is seeing, perhaps ironically, the humanity develop in these characters. The best superhero movies are able to do this, while maintaining all the fantastic elements as well. Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, Constantine, the first Spider-Man movie, they all achieved this perfect blend of fantasy and reality, which I thought made them excellent superhero movies. The act of self-discovery that underscores the discovery of superhuman powers allows the audience to feel for these heroes, as though the superpowers can be a metaphor for something else.

2005’s Batman Begins was about self-discovery and confronting one’s demons, a dark vision for a superhero film.

Don’t get me wrong, I still thought it was great. The movie roped in the heroes together, gave them a common enemy, was generous with the fan service, and had an appropriate amount of Agent Coulson. And I had fun watching it too, which I think is really what it’s all about. But I don’t think The Avengers deserves a score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, while Batman Begins has a score of 85%.

Ben:

There are many reasons why people love The Avengers. The assembly (pardon my pun) of superheroes on the big screen, the return of Robert Downey Jr.’s wit and Chris Hemsworth’s muscles, more screen time for Scarlett Johansson (and her butt).

I’m not denying that I agree with any of the reasons listed above, but to me none of them were the standout points of the movie. Well I could argue otherwise for one particular reason but let’s leave that for another time and place.

As I mentioned in my previous article on The Avengers, the movie worked primarily due to the brilliant dialogue in its script. Take that away and the brief skirmishes in the beginning, however, and you are left with a less than satisfying battle in New York City in the penultimate scene. Explosions, paranoid civilians, collapsing buildings and a gigantic alien robot that devastates the city easily, it was an all too familiar scene which reminded me of Transformers. Granted, the fight between Loki and Thor, and then the Hulk, was pretty engaging and amusing too, but Loki wasn’t even the main enemy in that gigantic war. And what was Hawkeye doing, shooting down a flying scooter without aiming? Was it necessary? If he was capable of doing that, surely he would have been able to repeat that feat time and time again instead of straining his eyes? Bottom line: it was an absolutely ridiculous scene which served no purpose other than to induce more chuckles. As if the movie had been lacking in that aspect for the past two hours.

Then there’s Nick Fury. I don’t follow the comics or cartoons, I admit, but I would have expected the mastermind behind and leader of the ‘Avengers Initiative’ to pack a little more punch. Instead what I got from Samuel L. Jackson’s portrayal is a CEO who calls the shots in the boardroom without actually getting his hands dirty. He feels, weak. Is that eye-patch handicapping him?

Alright, you superheroes go ahead and fight those evil muthafuckers while I attend to this important telephone call.

Hariz mentioned how Nolan’s Batman movies focused a huge amount of effort on developing the ‘human’ side of the superhero, and I agree. We see Bruce Wayne confronting his fears in Batman Begins, and then his nemesis in The Dark Knight in the form of the Joker, and it is the rich storytelling and narration that captures our attention. In The Avengers however, I’m unsure as to what I’m actually supposed to be drawn to. Since there is more than one superhero, the storytelling focus has to shift to encompass everyone, and it is indeed achieved by centering the first half of the movie on the conflicts among the superheroes. But once we get past this chapter of the plot, we’re back to the generic ‘defeat evil and save the day’ storyline without any kind of innovation. Well, save for a brief, really brief ant bite-like tense moment when Iron Man falls back into the portal to Earth just as it is about to close.

The truth is, what makes The Avengers really work is that it has no competition. This is the first assembly of superheroes by Marvel, and DC is still struggling to catch up with the legacy that Marvel Studios has left behind – should Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman film Man of Steel be a successful release next year it could definitely pave the way for a Justice League film. But in the meantime The Avengers is its own benchmark and it can bask in its glory until its sequel or DC’s own move. There are better superhero movies out there, but this is by far the most fun to watch.

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Disagree with our opinions? Bash us in the comments section below.

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