The Avengers Movie: A Turd in the Marvel/Disney Punchbowl
What I am about to say is guaranteed to raise the comic book fan threat level to red, but it’s been on my mind forever and, I just have to let it out. A movie based on "The Avengers” is really going to suck. I know, I know, flame on. But as your geeky eyes turn green and your feet burst forth from your Keds in a rage, grab your inhaler and listen.
When I was a kid back in the day, I loved “The Avengers.” I had a subscription before a comic book store finally opened in my town and, when it did, I was waiting out in front of the store at opening time whenever the next issue came out. Sure, the comic had its ups and downs, but whenever things got stagnant, they just mixed the team up and voila, whole new group dynamic. Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America were always constant then (yeah, yeah, Comic Book Guy…give me details about eras in which they stepped aside) and I dug them - as written and illustrated comic book characters. Rather than rant on about the reasons I think THE AVENGERS will suck, here’s my list of issues I foresee with the movie and eventual franchise.
1. Bringing Captain America and Thor to life is a bad idea. Again, I love these guys as written and illustrated characters, but c’mon, seeing them played by actors will be just plain silly. Set aside the iconic nature of these heroes and look at this realistically and cinematically. Captain America is essentially a ‘roided out soldier. Yes, “super soldier serum” is nothing more than steroids. Plus, when the shit comes down, what’s Cap gonna do in this movie? Throw a shield at a bad guy? Ohhh, nooo! Duck! Plus, and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but Joe Johnston is directing the Captain America movie and that doesn’t really bode well in my mind.
Thor is an equally hard sell. The idea of an actor playing Donald Blake, gimping around with his walking stick before discovering if he bangs it on the ground and yells “by the power of Odin!!!” he transforms into Thor, is just not going to sell well on the big screen. Imagine it and you’ll know I’m right. Add to that all the “existence” and “non-existence” gobbeldy-gook that comes along with Thor, pepper in some “Odinforce” and “Warriors Madness” and my eyes are already rolling at the screen.
2. Iron Man rules. He’s the backbone of this tentpole film. But Iron Man coupled with Thor and Cap thrown into an ensemble with proven money loser the Incredible Hulk compounds the issue further. We’re all going to get less Iron Man. Add to that an array of rumored, yet truly lesser Avengers (Ant Man, Scarlet Witch, Vision), and a recipe for a lame tentpole film and franchise is born. And even my all-time favorite Avenger Hawkeye would be a goofy and kind of substandard hero if brought to life. Bows and arrows! Yay!
A good example of this is the use of characters like Storm, Rogue, Beast, and Nightcrawler in the X-MEN films. In the comic, these characters all have strong backgrounds and add to the story arcs, not to mention they’re active participants in major storylines. In the films, though, they are merely paid lip service so we can focus on Wolverine, Cyclops, Professor X, and Magneto. They show up merely to placate fanboys and that’s just wasteful. The same thing will happen in THE AVENGERS. We’ll know next to nothing about the newer characters and then will be forced to deal with the “main” Avengers - Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor - while these more fun and interesting secondary characters become window dressing. Oh yeah, then there’s Nick Fury, which leads me to…
3. Sam Jackson as Nick Fury means nothing. Everyone, including me, loves Samuel L. Jackson…when he’s being an R-rated badass. If you doubt that, think back to how completely tepid he was as Mace Windu in the STAR WARS prequels. Granted, those films had bigger issues than just Sam Jackson, but he seemed like a cardboard cutout of the Sam Jackson we all love, the one who sells tickets as a smartass bad guy. Slapping the PG-13 on Jackson totally writes off what he brings to the table. And as it stands now, Jackson’s Fury is the constant in each standalone film as he assembles the Avengers. We want Jules Winnfield Sam Jackson, not Frozone or “The Octopus” Sam Jackson.
4. Each standalone film for the Avengers characters will have a different director, and then all the characters will be thrown together under the (rumored) direction of Jon Favreau. Thus, if by some miracle Thor turns out well, Kenneth Branagh’s direction and theater experience will have helped it, but he’ll have nothing to do with THE AVENGERS movie. If the awesome Edgar Wright gets to do his version of Ant-Man, whatever geeky goodness he brings to the director's chair will be jettisoned in favor of Favreau. In the end, only the character and the actor portraying them will remain. That just doesn’t seem right. It’s like having a burger made by Bobby Flay with all these special nuances and seasonings and then getting a burger called the same thing from a fast food restaurant. All the directorial subtleties will get lost.
5. I’m not entirely sure THE AVENGERS can work as a either a movie franchise or a fictional team for the same reasons. The thing that makes X-Men so great is that they’re all unified by the fact they’re mutants and they’re being targeted by the government. Although they all have different powers, they’re forced together to fight a common foe. Their personalities conflict, some of them fall in love with others and that causes more tension and that makes for great story arcs and so forth. The Avengers is an assembled team of basically independent heroes, all of which are used to being the one in charge. What will be the common thread? Where will the conflict lie, other than in whatever villain (rumored: Loki) they’re forced to battle? Too many strong characters in the kitchen ruins the soup. Also, the X-Men had Magneto, a truly great villain. Common foes of The Avengers include Loki and Red Skull, both of which will be really lame onscreen as real actors.
Again, I like “The Avengers” as a comic book. Or better, I used to. However, I just can’t see how a real life execution of the comic book can be remotely cool or interesting. One idea that could be wise would be to create a movie-specific team of Avengers. Why does the film have to adhere 100% to the comic book? Why not cherry pick some truly interesting Marvel characters and throw them in the mix? How about someone like Black Panther or Sub-Mariner, both of whom have deep ties to The Avengers?
Perhaps the best and most innovative idea I’ve heard was one posited by INCREDIBLE HULK director Louis Leterrier who told the LA Times,“I’ll tell you my real dream: To work with Joe Johnston and [THOR director] Kenneth Branagh and Jon Favreau and make like a triptych. We do four movies. We release them one a month for the summer. Or even every two weeks or three weeks. And the whole summer would be AVENGERS summer.” THAT is the kind of innovation and thinking outside the box that could really save what I foresee as a rather doomed finish line to this recent outpouring of Marvel films.
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