By WIshIWasSuperman 152 Comments
I’m about to become one of the least popular people on ComicVine.
As much as I enjoyed The Avengers – I don’t consider it one of the best or greatest movies of all time. In fact I think it’s pretty poor in that regard.
There – I said it!
Now, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll explain exactly what I mean. Just bare with me for a few minutes and remain open minded and maybe we can get through this without everyone hating me.
Have you ever seen a movie where you watched it, you loved it and thought it was great, but then the more you watched it and thought about it – the more you realised it actually wasn’t all that special? Well, The Avengers was one of those movies for me. When I first watched it – I laughed and got excited and fist pumped certain moments in the film. I adored the film and it was easily one of the best films (at the time) I had seen for the year. I loved it. I love Joss Whedon’s work usually and was not let down by The Avengers and any Joss Whedon fan could see his hallmarks all over it.
But time went on and I saw it a few more times (both at the cinema and at home) and with each viewing – I was left feeling a little flatter. Inevitably comparisons are made between it and other popular and successful CBM films such as The Dark Knight, Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-man. Here at CV it happens A LOT. In reading these threads it allowed me to get some perspective on why I didn’t have the same love for it after several viewings as I did on the first (in contrast a film like The Dark Knight or the original Superman movie fills me with joy or excitement or some other positive feeling each time I see it or think about it – I might come back to that point later).
You see in considering other films comparatively, I realised that The Avengers lacked substance (for want of a better word). This does not make it a “bad movie”. I want to be clear about that. Not every film I see has to be some deep and meaningful experience. Sometimes I just want to see stuff get blown up. Sometimes I want mindless fighting and shooting and explosions. Sometimes I don’t even care if the dialogue is all that entertaining, as long as the action is great, or the special effects are good, or it makes me laugh despite it having a terrible story line (Dumb & Dumber anyone?). However the films that cater to these desires are generally not considered any type of cinematic masterpiece. Take The Expendables 2 for example. It was a ludicrous movie full of cheesy one-liners, bad puns, bad dialogue, worse acting, but LOTS OF EXPLOSIONS!!!!!! It accomplished (what I hope was) its goal of being a cheesy action flick to parody and pay homage to the big action movies of the 80’s and early 90’s. While the film as a cinematic experience was terrible – it was enjoyable and fun. The Fast & Furious movies are another example of this in my mind. Stupid, ridiculous films that stretch the realm of disbelief to its limits – but they’re fun and entertaining still. I rarely hear anyone however saying how Fast & Furious 6 was one of the best movies they’ve ever seen, or rating it among their favourite films. It made a stack of money – meaning it was popular and people liked it enough – but it’s not going down in the annals of cinematic history as a great film.
This is where I find the Avengers however. It made an absolute ton of money – pointing to its popularity. There are endless debates about it being the best CBM of all time, and I’m sure many people on here have it in their top 5 films of all time (CBM or not). But for me – I can’t justify this.
Once I take away the humour and the special effects action sequences – I find there’s nothing left to the film. The dialogue itself isn’t special in any way. The acting isn’t brilliant, Oscar worthy stuff (not that I expect such from a CBM mind you). Chris Evans, RDJ, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson… all good enough actors but none of them did anything that plenty of other actors couldn’t have achieved as well. The plot and story were – well, not really there. It’s a simple alien invasion story basically at its core. I don’t find any underlying themes, or commentary of anything. There are plot holes left, right, and centre. The visual effects while good aren’t overly stellar or ground breaking in any way. This film hasn’t defined or created a genre or style (if anything it just lends from all various films that came before it, with typical Joss Whedon tropes that can be seen in Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, and Firefly to name a few). I’ve seen several people complain on here that the humour is injected far too frequently, basically as a way to pad the dialogue or to hide the films failings.
Now, none of this stops it being an enjoyable experience – but as I said, I also find the Fast & Furious films (well, except for Tokyo Drift) enjoyable as well – but they’re nothing to rant and rave about and I certainly don’t consider them among my favourite films – they’re just a bit of mindless entertainment.
On the other side of the coin are films like Man of Steel and The Dark Knight. Nolan, Goyer and Snyder did something with their respective films that few (if any) CBM’s have approached – being serious, proper movies. These aren’t just mindless entertainment. These are serious movies that happen to be about comic book characters. They could just as easily be about a real life person or event or topic in their approach (obviously not their story). They explore themes and ideas and issues that are present in the real world. They reflect society, present concepts such as fear, choice, what it means to be a leader, how we as species act and interact with each other and our world and our place in it. A concept like free will and what that can mean and look like is portrayed in Man of Steel. How a man can over-come fear and become a driving force behind change in the world is reflected in the Nolan Batman films.
Heath Ledger, in my opinion, portrayed the Joker in such a way it was completely worthy of an Oscar – even if it wasn’t true to some people’s perception of the source material. Within the context of the film and the cinematic experience itself, he was true evil, he represented everything that is dark and chaotic and twisted in us. He tapped into something that each of us has within us and brought it out in full, making that his entire character. The part of us that hates others, and wants to see them falter. The part of us that doesn't trust anyone. The part of us that makes us laugh at someone else’s failures and misfortunes. Nolan’s Joker was that in a pure, homicidal, totally chaotic form. He reflected the darkest parts of humanity and what we are capable of – for no rhyme or reason than simply because we can.
And Ledger nailed the performance in such a way that to watch him, to listen to him, to hear that laugh can give people chills up their spine. Comparatively, Loki was just a punch-line. A means to an end for a plot. He’s charming and cool and hip – but he really is (as someone described Zod and Faora in another thread), that moustache twirling villain that ties someone to train tracks and laughs because he’s the bad guy. This is only scratching the surface of reasons why I personally consider this an amazing and brilliant movie (I will point out a lot of this doesn’t follow into its sequel Dark Knight Rises – this was a major let down for me).
Superman The Movie, despite its age and faults (especially when compared to current films), for me is an integral part of cinematic history. It attempted something that had never been done before. It created the CBM genre and laid the foundation of pretty much every CBM to come after it. Kevin Smith talked about this on his podcast once and stated it perfectly. The construction or layout of Superman The Movie was the blueprint for every CBM that came after it (with the exception of Nolan/Snyder that is). At the time it was a bold and risky move to create this movie. It had massive expenses and production costs. They literally created new special effects methods for the flying scenes to make them look better and more realistic than anything that had been done before it. Christopher Reeve’s portrayal became the image of the character for a large majority of people (not just comic book fans) for decades and is still the measuring stick today for how the character is portrayed for many people. Hell, he was the poster-boy for “how to be a super-hero” – about how to try and encapsulate the character in the comics on the big screen. He held the throne of being the “true Superman” for almost 4 decades, and only now is their considered to be possible genuine contender. On a personal level the feelings of nostalgia and boyish pleasure it brings out in me isn’t replicated by any other film and never will be. I watched many movies and have loved many – but nothing compares to Superman The Movie (and Superman II as a close second) in that sense for me. I realise not everyone has this same emotional attachment, and they probably have that with other films, but this is a genuine part of a truly great cinematic experience. Man of Steel however brought all that back for me, which is one of many reasons why I love that film.
When I think of truly great and amazing films throughout history, films like Superman The Movie and The Dark Knight for me, rank up there with others like some of the (now) classics such as Silence of the Lambs, Scarface, the original Matrix film, or even more recent films like Gladiator or Blood Diamond, 300, The Kings Speech, or Argo. Each of these films brought something to the table that others tried and failed at, or had never thought to bring before, or was just so brilliantly done it really did become iconic. Silence of the Lambs has one of the most iconic and chilling performances by a truly amazing actor in the history of cinema. The Matrix introduced revolutionary special effects techniques and an intricate and mind-bending story that people talked about for days, weeks and months after seeing the film. Scarface is one of the cinematic worlds masterpieces, thanks in no small part to Al Pacino’s amazing acting. Others might consider films like The Godfather, the original Star Wars (usually specifically Return of the Jedi), Jaws and a massive list of others to up here as well.
I just can’t consider The Avengers in the same league of cinematic history as these types of movies. I enjoyed The Avengers. I thought that within the CBM genre it was great work and is thoroughly entertaining – but at the end of the day for me it will fade into memory as just one of a million other movies that I saw, enjoyed, and then largely forgot about, and it doesn't stand out as any better than a vast majority of CBM's - it's just like the majority of them.
I realise I may be mostly alone in this view, that many of you will disagree with me in every possible thing I’ve said here. And that’s fine – each person has their own perceptions and opinions. While I may not have gleamed anything from The Avengers, some of you may have, and I would honestly be keen to hear those things - perhaps it will open my mind up to once again enjoy The Avengers in a similar way to my first viewing of it. Maybe it won’t.