Have movies become so bad these days that a merely well-executed totally formulaic film, like "The Avengers," is heralded as an exceptional film?
Sure, this film hits all the marks and has some good one-liners, but once we expected films to be refreshing and new. "Star Wars," while having obvious flaws, provided us a totally new universe with its own unique political conflicts, worlds, and even its own theology (the force). Its first twenty-minutes is mostly watching the story of a robotic English dandy (C3-P0) argue with a chirping rolling trashcan (R2-D2), but amazingly enough Lucas made that unique and crazy idea entertaining. The plot of "The Avengers" is just your run-of-the-mill comic book story-line. Compare its plot to that of "Inception" or "The Matrix" or even "Back to the Future" or "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Much of what makes those films so great is that their plots are highly innovative. You have no idea where they are going. You always know exactly where "The Avengers" is going.
Along these same lines, "Psycho," "The Empire Strikes Back," "The Matrix," etc. provide classic twists--Norman has gone insane and has, in his mind, become his mother, the film's apparent killer; Darth Vader, the film's main villain, is revealed to be Luke's father; the first half of "The Matrix" turns out to have transpired in a totally false reality. Nobody expected these twists. What unexpected occurs in "The Avengers"? Even its minor twists have appeared in other recent films. Its most significant--Loki allowing his own capture--comes straight from "The Dark Knight."
Gangster films before "The Godfather" were just pulp. "The Godfather" transcended the genre just as "Unforgiven" did with Westerns. The same is true about "The Dark Knight." "The Avengers" doesn't transcend; it regurgitates a done-to-death plot. Unlike "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight" was more than a comic book film. It was entertaining, compelling, yet it explored complex moral ideas, and its plot went in innovative directions. Did anyone know that "The Dark Knight" would end not with a fistfight but instead with a battle between the Joker and Batman for Harvey Dent's soul, a scene that leaves it open to interpretation whether the Joker or Batman really won in the end, a scene far more compelling than any sequence of destruction could ever be? And did anyone NOT know that "The Avengers" would end with a huge battle with the Avengers ultimately triumphant? Uncertainty about how a plot will be resolved is what once kept the audience hooked, not the continual spectacle of fights and explosions. In fact, look at the IMDb Top 250. With how many of these films would you know exactly how they'd end if you were seeing them for the first time? In fact, apart from the cartoons, is there a single entry as totally formulaic as "The Avengers" is?
And let's not forget, did you ever worry that any of the Avengers would not survive? If not, then where was the real dramatic tension? One of the things that made "The Dark Knight" so compelling is that one of its two heroes not only dies but is also believably turned evil before he is killed. And did anyone expect what happened to Rachel Dawes, Harvey Dent's girlfriend? One of the things that made "Psycho" so dramatic is its main protagonist dies halfway through the film. Great films--serious or fun--must make the audience feel that there is something truly at stake.
And do I even have to go into how voting to give "The Avengers" a 10 places it on par with the all-time great works of film art--"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Schindler's List," "Taxi Driver," "Apocalypse Now," "Citizen Kane", "Vertigo," "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "8 1/2," "Manhattan," "Cinema Paradiso" etc.? A vote of 10 for a film like this diminishes the worth of these works of art that explore the deepest issues concerning the human condition.
Though I've brought up some films that are darker than "The Avengers" or more serious, that is not my complaint about "The Avengers" at all. "Star Wars, " "The Empire Strikes Back," "Back to the Future," "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" were fun movies, but they also had plots that went in unexpected directions, had surprising twists, introduced us to unique characters. The elements I've listed here are what make a film exceptional and deserving of an incredibly high rating. Just a well-done totally formulaic movie like "The Avengers" simply does not deserve the praise it is getting. Of course this film does not deserve a 1 out of 10. I would really give it 3 or maybe 3 1/2 out of 5 stars, which is equivalent to a 6 or 7 out of 10 on the IMDb rating scale. However, until others don't alter their votes to put "The Avengers" more in line with where it should be in comparison to other great entertaining films of history, my vote will remain a 1.
Go watch "The Avengers" a few more times. Once you've gotten used to the 3-D, the special effects, the digital surround sound, you'll see that the film is predictable, the jokes are so-so, and the violence of the fights and of the long climactic end battle actually gets kind of boring.
If you're a teenager still reading comics or a lover of comic books who's always dreamed of watching Hulk fight Thor, Thor fight Iron Man, then this movie is what you've always been waiting for, but for the rest of us, "The Avengers" is not the tour de force it's been made out to be.
Oh wait a sec.
I just learned that there's a movie based on "Battleship"--you know, that dull board game for eight-year-olds. I guess movies really are that bad. If you compare "The Avengers" only to garbage like that, I guess it really does seem great.
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