I need to establish a few things before I start to talk about The Avengers. First and foremost, I've been a Joss Whedon fan since way back. I started back in the 90s with Buffy when I was a teenager and so was the character.
I identified with the character on a personal level, along with many of the other characters on the show and what they were going through as teenagers. Then came Angel, Firefly/Serenity, Dr Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog and Dollhouse. All of which I could identify with on some level. So when I say that I'm a fan of his work, you understand what I mean.
That being said, I am also a fan of superheroes. Always been more of a DC fan then a Marvel fan, Superman, Batman and so many others. But I have an appropriate affinity for the Marvel characters too, Spiderman, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. They are all characters that I have admired and enjoyed on some level or another. I saw all the Marvel movies in theatres when they came out. So much like with Joss Whedon, when I say I'm a fan of superheroes and the Marvel characters in The Avengers, you understand what I mean.
Now here's the thing, I didn't really like The Avengers. As a fan of Joss for years, I had always wondered and hoped that one day he might be given a multi million dollar budget and access to some of the biggest and best actors and actresses of this generation and show the world exactly what he can do. But what happened? He failed.
And I hear you saying, what are you talking about? It was fantastic. It's making millions at the box office (in fact recent numbers suggest that the film broke the bank with a billion dollars the second weekend in theatres), how can you say it's not a good film?
Well firstly, box office success doesn't always mean good. There are any number of films in recent years that have been a success at the box office but have been terrible films. The most obvious of which is the Twilight series. Poorly written, poorly filmed, and a terrible message to its young tween audience.
Now by no means am I comparing The Avengers to the Twilight films. Compared to Twilight, The Avengers is a well oiled machine of filmmaking. But it still isn't a very good film when held up against its predecessors and Joss' other works.
So again I hear you asking, why?
When you watch a superhero film, there are certain things you do. Particularly when it's a team up film like this, and in some sense the film accomplishes them. Most of the characters are well established in the film, we know who they are and where they have been since their solo films. Although I think a few of the characters (Thor and Captain America come to mind specifically) could have used a little more establishment.
For all the time spent in this film on the characters, I never felt like they got to the core of the characters emotionally or as heroes. Often the characters feel like pale reflections of what they are supposed to be, larger than life heroes who stand for what's right no matter what.
There's a scene towards the middle of the film where they are all in the same room together, the truth of what S.H.E.I.L.D. wants has been revealed and the heroes are arguing about the morality of the situation and the scene breaks down into a mostly indistinguishable argument meant to establish the fact that they don't get along, and all I could think is that what should have been going on is establishing what they have in common. That despite their differences, one thing that they should all agree on is that they need to help people and save the world from whatever is coming. But instead it was implied that their arguing was a result of the villain's staff. Something that never really came to anything down the line.
This entire scene, if it were done properly would have been the result of the villain, not the staff. As a supremely confident bad guy, trapped in a cage should be the perfect opportunity to attack them psychologically much like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. But instead there's like two scenes between Loki and the heroes, and not all of them either.
This of course brings up another issue that I have with the film, the villain. A good villain is larger than life and supremely powerful, not to mention incredibly confident, but at numerous points during the film Loki is castrated as a villain, first with the reveal that his future is dependant on a bigger villain which is revealed way too early in the film. Secondly with the art gallery/social event that has an incredibly large amount of innocent bystanders for use by Loki and a magic staff that could turn them into his willing slaves and human shields against the coming heroes but instead he allows himself to be captured. Any decent hero would have picked up on that and not brought Loki back to the heroes' main source of power.
Then comes the obvious (paraphrased)...
Loki: "I am a god, I will not be..."
SMASH! BANG! CRASH!
Hulk: "Puny God!"
Yes, it was funny but it was the exact wrong moment for humor.
And this in the middle of the big epic finale that should've been more epic. Which is another problem. The heroes dealt with a major alien invasion way too easily. Not only did the aliens invade from a single point making it easier to fight them off, but they were way too easy to destroy. For a race that knows it's going to be attacking with a bad strategy, one would think that they would shore up their defenses to take over an entire planet.
There are all kinds of moments in the film like this that just don't work in the greater scheme of things and I couldn't help but notice them throughout the film. Particularly as someone who has seen Joss Whedon tell a story without these glaring flaws in them.
Now admittedly, I may not have seen the movie in the right emotional context. I hadn't slept very well the night before and wasn't in the best mood at the time. It saddens me to see so many people loving this movie when all I can see is what is wrong with the film, but I plan on seeing it again just in case a second viewing will improve my disposition about it.
At least, that's my opinion on the subject.