I just finished reading Entertainment Weekly‘s new cover story roundup with the cast and director of The Avengers, Marvel’s new movie for Disney, which just lost its motion picture division chairman (after jettisoning Dick Cook) following the mega-bomb John Carter. Let’s just say that if this promotional piece is any indication, and the heavily-hyped movie’s half as good as the “interview” makes it sound, everyone should brace for a major disappointment.
Though I have not seen it yet, I’ve been looking forward to The Avengers, in spite of mediocre director Joss Whedon (Serenity, Dollhouse, The Cabin in the Woods), whose work typically strains and falters. I liked Kenneth Branagh’s Thor for Marvel, enjoyed Jon Favreau’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton and I picked Joe Johnston’s Captain America for Marvel as last year’s best movie other than The Artist. But the culmination of the Marvel pictures sounds like it may be loud, manic and unfulfilling, possibly anti-heroic.
First, I read that Whedon described the film as “Taxi Driver for superheroes.” Then, there is the market saturation, an overexposure of ads that feels a bit like the blitz for John Carter; more hype than story. And there’s the magazine interview, which rambles for half this week’s edition and contains more profanity than insights, with Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and some other actor who plays a lesser superhero – not as much of the principals – prattling on about the N-word, MF’s and other s— and saying nothing of interest or value while Whedon holds court. It’s at once lame, dull and scuzzy, with none of Thor‘s, Captain America‘s or Iron Man‘s wit, intelligence and clean-cut benevolence. Maybe The Avengers is better than its jaded press campaign. I have doubts.
Finally, there’s this tidbit from Chris Hemsworth (Thor) in the closest to a statement of The Avengers‘ theme: “They all do have to put aside their individual interests and objectives. The first half of the film is about them trying to fulfill their own goals, and that doesn’t work out too well. They end up destroying things – and each other. Any community or family can’t be defined by an individual. It’s by the actions of the group.” Entertainment Weekly responds by asking: “So you’re saying the film has a Communist message?” Downey Jr. snaps back in a twangy Texas accent: “Dang limousine liberals!” Maybe Hemsworth’s talking about a movie about teamwork, maybe not. But it sounds like a set-up for a false alternative between working in unison and working alone. Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk, gets a few decent words in when he can.
Poor Chris Evans (Captain America), who comes off as the most serious of the bunch, barely gets to speak, apparently going off to a corner of the room until the magazine asks if his character is an idealist – a notion Whedon tries to squash – and his reply fits the mood of the promotional campaign. He says Captain America may be more disillusioned and cynical than the rest of the avengers. Sounds as if heavily-hyped Joss Whedon’s heavily-hyped The Avengers may be exactly what he described when he pegged it Taxi Driver for superheroes. In other words, anti-heroism. Marketing that obscures a movie’s meaning and appeal is misleading, so I only hope that the movie’s better than its advertising. It wouldn’t be the first time.