Monday, October 15, 2012

Avengers Assemble

"Too much talking." "Dull action scenes." "Too many characters." Just some of the complaints I've heard levelled against Avengers Assemble. Seeing as how I loved the film I thought some sort of response was called for. Because there aren't enough comments about the film on the internet already.

Avengers Assemble had a lot going on, and a lot of characters, but that was the whole point of the film: getting to see all those heroes together in the same story. Yes, the film has flaws: it takes time to get all the characters in place; some of the characters don't get much to do; Thor's backstory is hand-waved away, with only one or two lines of dialogue to explain how it is even possible for him to be back on Earth. But these problems were inherent of the nature of the project. No one's ever attempted something like this before; taking four existing film franchises and joining their characters and storylines all together in one film while simultaneously blending all the separate genres from those franchises and adding in some more -- science fiction, fantasy, war movie, spy thriller. The logistics of this film were a nightmare; it could -- it should -- have all gone horribly wrong. The fact that it didn't is a testament to the skill of all the people who worked on the film.

Maybe not everything worked in the film, but even the bits that seemed underwhelming were there for a purpose, elegant solutions to impossible problems of too many characters and not enough screen-time. Hawkeye doesn't have enough time to develop as a character? Tie his character arc in with Black Widow's so that everything she goes through reflects back to Hawkeye, fleshing out his character even when he isn't on-screen. Not enough time for Loki to outline his dastardly plan and give Black Widow a character-defining moment? Make her response to his plan her character-defining moment. No one likes Tony Stark and Pepper Potts any more after Iron Man 2? Use a five minute scene to make them sexy and likeable again, while simultaneously setting up the major themes of the story. The entire screenplay is full of smart solutions to similar problems. Obviously some of them work better than others but Joss Whedon does a better job of making the film coherent and exciting than anyone had a right to expect.

Just imagine if someone else had tackled the project. James Cameron -- the film would have gone on for 3 1/2 hours and Black Widow would have been a wimp for the first half of the film before one of the male characters taught her how to be independent. George Lucas -- the dialogue would embarrass the writers of porn films, there would be "comical" sidekicks, the plot would have holes big enough to fly a Death star through. Steven Spielberg -- one of the heroes would have father/son issues, cute kids would be shoehorned into the script and for every cool scene there would be another one filled with toe-curling sentimentality. Or how about Michael Bay? Or Stephen Sommers?

We were never going to get a perfect Avengers film. Maybe we should settle for what we got: a very good one.

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