“The Avengers” is boring. Watching the mega-Marvel slam fist in 2018 is like getting coffee with your once rambunctious friend Tyler from high school. You have fond memories of how Tyler used to be, like when you tee-peed Courtney Goldberg’s lakehouse in junior year, but you also realized that he was emotionally undeveloped and juvenile, like when he took his prom date to Wendy’s as a joke. We want to appreciate “The Avengers” and Tyler in our current day. But Joss Whedon’s movie and my former classmate’s nauseating fights, tiresome destruction, obsession with gun action, and inability to balance emotions, proves that some stories are better left in the past.
But let’s consider that it is actually 2012, that we’re gearing up for Obama’s second term, watching McKayla Maroney get silently pissed off at the Olympics, and trying to ignore another one of those obnoxious Marvel movies until everyone we know says this one is really, really good. I had only seen the “Iron Man” movies at this point (this was pre-MoviePass days) and while familiar with the Avengers heroes and storylines, I had no immediate urge to see the film. But I relented and was blown away. The movie had jokes! There was so much action! There were four superheroes and then two other people with really good agents! And there was supposedly a Thanos at the end, even though I had already left to go to the bathroom!
But “The Avengers” is the type of movie that does not merit a rewatch in its later years. In 2012, it was a spectacle, but by 2015 it was stepping stone, not so much a film but a smaller puzzle piece in the increasingly complex MCU. Fans endowed it with the highest honors of comic book quality, even in the face of newer entrees like the masterful “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the gripping “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” But very few people took the time to trot back to the Battle of New York and see if Earth’s mightiest heroes put up a fight today.
Well, they don’t. Characters aren’t defined by wants or needs as much as requirements and obligations. Thor has to get Loki home, but there’s no emotional pull for him on his journey. Captain America is still shell-shocked after waking up in the future, but does not have to overcome any personal hurdles while sprinting towards the fight. Tony throws out verbal quips with ease but can’t seem to speak to what’s happening in his iron heart. Bruce Banner is the sole exception, always at conflict with the raging Hulk that lives within him, trying not to fight in an effort to win the fight. The heroes are nothing more than guests you meet at a friend’s barbecue who tell you what they do for work but not what where their passions truly lie.
And then there’s the how the film looks, feels, and calibrates its action. Action takes place primarily through a cacophony of guns and other random objects that act as guns, a contrast to the more intimate, hand-to-hand combat prevalent in later Marvel films. The Avengers smash through buildings and concrete so frequently that if we were able to get blueprints to any of the ships or buildings destroyed by them, we’d find out they busted through at least four rooms that don’t actually exist. Whedon gives so many awkward close-ups at uneasy, tilted angles that his direction feels like a dad with a new camcorder at his daughter’s birthday, getting in everyone’s face to ask them if they liked the cake.
The faults are understandable, as the inclusion of more Marvel heroes inherently demands more of everything. But “The Avengers” is a colossal clusterfuck, a rickety IKEA bed of a movie where Whedon got too fatigued with assembling and left out the emotional wood pegs needed to make his Godfjord bed into a godly, cinematic masterpiece. Throughout the movie, when Tony arrives at Stark headquarters, he has to walk through a platform which slowly takes off his armor. It’s a needless machine, only used as a method to impress the audience with its CGI. But it speaks to “The Avengers” as a whole: functional but slow-moving, distracting us with the exterior aura of the character and taking too long to reveal who’s within.