Ashtray Chat Films

The Avengers, a movie

I dearly wish I’d seen this movie equipped with blinders and ear-plugs and lots of aspirin. Or something far, far stronger.

a Review by Simon Drax

* All persons looking forward to this film should stop reading now. *

In a thunderous and tedious display of global hegemony (to put it indelicately), Marvel/Disney’s The Avengers finally opened in North America this weekend after shaking down overseas markets to the tune of 150 million dollars. As of 4/6 Sunday morning, the film’s domestic opening-weekend grosses are projected to exceed 170 million…

[Updated: As of late Sunday, Deadline Holloywood reports that The Avengers now commands… the biggest domestic opening weekend of all time · Fastest film to reach $200M (3 days) · Biggest opening weekend of all time in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Central America, Peru, Bolivia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines · Biggest Marvel opening weekend in Russia (May 3): $17.9M]

Oh, what a world, what a world! A planet over-boiled with desires set to rewind, every ticket holder expecting an impossible Christmas in May. Well, here it is, you saps, in all its empty majestic digital glory, here’s your must-have toy of the season, your super-powered thrill-ride is finally here. And boy, it’s hideous.

Some reviewers have called it, “Bloated,” “Empty,” “Castrated,” and “Soulless.” It is all those things, yes. It’s a movie from La-La Land that cost a shitload of money, what else could it be?

It’s just a movie, sure. But it’s barely a movie, and very much a bad one. Because The Avengers, with its piss-poor set-up of a story (Loki is upset, oh please) played for me not so much as a narrative as—forgive me—a really impressive assembly. Every piece is beautifully carved, of course. The characters are icons charged with sentimental lightning, and the players are celebrity-humans who currently reside in a shared collective consciousness of approval; we like every face we see winking at us from under their icon’s mask, we really like them, even the new one, the Ruffalo one, but I’ll get to him soon enough. Every frame is gorgeously designed, upon pain of freaking death, designed and over-designed with a zeal that might be mistaken for love. Don’t be fooled, saps! Because all the beautifully carved pieces, the mighty icons played by the likable thesps, and the fetishistically detailed scenes and set-ups which contain trademarked likenesses (and dollar signs) in very nearly every foot of film—they are all in the service of delivering a final grotesque “jaw-dropper” slugfest of massive CGI effects that render Manhattan effectively crunched. Crunched with glee. Which is not the same as joy. Far from it. The glee that finds release by ceaseless hammer-blows of destruction should not be excused, or dismissed lightly, for with it comes the burgeoning worship of Total Power that acts without impunity; it is akin the arrogance of corporations that marches its stellar/showcase/piece of shit film around the world, pummeling audiences into submission before finally steering the great sick slick CGI beast back to its foul land of origin, where it will be worshiped as a New God even as it feasts and engorges itself on the dollars bled by willing idiot victims—!

(Whew. Sorry about that.)

Of course, there are pleasures to be had in The Avengers, guilt-inducing though they might be: the jokes (see, bones) tossed to the “total geeks” in the crowd, the “fabulous fight scenes,” and the previously mentioned adorable humans. Everybody’s fine in their respective roles, such as they are—Downey and Jackson being old hands at the super-show by this time, and the newer actors are stolid, guiltless of irony, at times brave enough to allow the earnestness required by their roles to render them not wooden but endowed with a quality akin to “idiot sainthood.” But it is Mark Ruffalo, the third actor in ten years to portray Bruce Banner, who delivers the most pleasure to the discerning adult viewer in the audience. Banner is a quiet little masterpiece of sorrow and ever-present pain, anger controlled not by heavy-handed wincing and mugging and shortness of breath, but by carefully telegraphed and very self-aware patience. Consequently (but not coincidentally), when Ruffalo’s Banner finally loses his cool and the gamma-fueled berserker at last gets his due, The Hulk as a computer generated character is finally (finally) convincing on film, monstrous, brutal, effective. But these small pleasures cannot compensate for two-plus hours of loud, exhausting trash.

The film is about a group of heroes, yes? “Earth’s mightiest.” Beneath their brawn and godlike powers we’re meant to empathize with them as human beings. (This is where the winning actors and their likable faces come in handy.) But this is a group film, duh, and the heroes in question and the actors who play them spend precious little time actually onscreen together. (Torturous untold minutes of eye and ear-shattering violence wherein one character appears in the same shot as another character absolutely do not count, as they were digitally inserted from separately-lensed green-screened scenes; no, those scenes do not count.) And because the poor actors are barely ever physically in each other’s company, there is no chemistry, no chance for any real acting. That the film actually addresses this issue in its lame excuse of a story does not help, that the characters do not know how to “work together,” but in the course of the story they eventually operate “as a team.” Sorry, but punches thrown in the same direction of a shared (and stupid) enemy do not a frat-house make. They are barely comrades, let alone brothers, with the lone girl allowed to play as well, because, ah hell, why not. No, the characters are neatly and completely separated from each other, each in suits of armor of their own design, and no, this is not deep.


Maybe it’s the now-familiar visual motif of Downey as Tony Stark, impervious beneath his layers of sculpted metal and nestled in comfy black while endless streams of data and graphics dance before his eyes, that unrepentant fanboys find most appealing. All that info, streaming constantly. All that stuff. All that money. Nobody can touch me, man. I’m invincible. Nobody better fuck with me, ever.

All right. That’s a little cruel.

But not as cruel as two-plus hours of The Avengers.


4/7 edit: Changed “fans of the comic book genre” to “unrepentant fanboys,” above.

3 replies on “The Avengers, a movie”

Of course he did! He’d also enjoy sticking his finger in a light socket for two and a half hours, too!

I didn’t hate it the way you did, but I did, uhm, fail to like a lot of it, and concur with much of what you say here, especially about the empty CGI-fest at the climax. I also agree completely that the camaraderie that is supposed to make the Assemblers what they are was absent.

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