PSA: This Avengers post is free of Avengers: Endgame spoilers. I may be opinionated, but I’m not a barbarian.
The second a new Avengers trailer drops, the conspiracy machines start churning out new, wild ideas on how everything is going to connect and change. Superhero fans become abuzz with ideas, hype, and internet craze-ing. And now, that Avengers: Endgame has its country-wide release? The internet doesn’t know how to talk about anything else.
Me, though? I just wonder how this will affect the solo movies and wait for the storm to be over.
While I’ve seen every Avengers film, I’ve only seen two in theaters and didn’t really enjoy either experience. Honestly, there’s a chance because they people around me were so excited about them and there was some yelling. I don’t love theater-goers yelling. Looking at you, The Avengers and Avengers: Infinity War.
It’s important to preface this all by not saying I’m anti-MCU. Actually, three of my favorite movies are Marvel based (Logan, GoTG, GoTG 2). However, all throughout this long saga of MCU cross-adventuring, the Avengers films have by far been my least favorite. I have had lukewarm or positive experiences with everything else, but the big crossover films? They’re so tiring and not nearly as exciting as people treat them.
Let’s start with the first Avengers film. I’ll play the side of an eager fan. It’s awesome to see so many cool heroes all working together for a common goal. The MCU is honestly impressive with how many things it weaves in between all of it’s different films. The payoff of, say, someone stealing something in one film and it coming back to haunt them three movies later is incredible. That kind of continuation is well-planned and clever. The behind-the-scenes, the production of all of it, it’s fantastic. I’m so impressed. They flesh out such interesting characters and have changed the face of action films. That’s pretty badass.
And now to the cynic. We’re going to focus on two main points: the levels of fan-service, reason, and creativity.
Let’s start with fan service. The first half-hour, at least, of The Avengers consisted of too many arbitrary hero-on-hero fights. It was like a constant “what if”, fan-service trip of having good guys fight one another for no reason. Sure, it makes sense to have some misunderstanding when first meeting. I’ll admit that Avengers: Infinity War did the best version of this, having an understandable scenario where two foreign groups meet on a planet they assume hostile, so of course they start fighting. The Guardians vs. Avengers bit was a good scene. But in Avengers? There was not enough good context, just “Hey buddy but what if they started fighting?” The Thor vs. Hulk scene is easily the most egregious.
This bleeds way too well into the “reason” aspect of my issues with the Avengers films. My praises of The Avengers are the same as my praises of comic books. They do grand team up events that no other medium or type of story really does. It’s mad impressive. But their faults? The same as in comic books. Too often comic books can choose to do something “just cause”, not because there’s a good reason to do something. Furthermore, too many things are done for shock value (the action version of a jump-scare) instead of for any real weight.
For example, the infamous Thanos snap at the end of a movie? It’s a thematic and cinematic jump scare. Unless the MCU is planning to completely deviate from comics, and even destroy some of it’s “already announced” movies, characters are coming back. Likely, everyone who was “snapped” will. Maybe characters like Vision and Gamora will stay dead, but it’s so unlikely for everyone to stay gone. It’s a lame cliffhanger to finish off a film, especially when it’s well-known that it won’t stay permanent.
Now, maybe the MCU will surprise me. Maybe people will stay dead. But this just reminds me of Superman’s first death. Comic book fans were shattered and shocked, and it was such a big deal. However, over time, that death became cheapened by getting reversed so quickly. It reminds me of my least favorite parts of action films, the fake-outs. While action can be dramatic and impressive, it also can do cheap tricks to “keep fans guessing”. Almost everyone knows that when Vin Deisel “seems dead” in a role, he’s about to pop back up in a few minutes. It’s an attempt to have all the emotional weight of deep loss without actually having any of it. That’s pretty annoying and lame.
All they’re doing is exactly what’s cathartic, what will please fans, what is easy. But there’s a point where having your cake and eating it, too, especially with character death, just feels cheap.
It stops the story from being special and bold and instead just makes their choices a manipulative tool.
And that’s the same with The Avengers hordes of interpersonal fights. Or the sporadic Quicksilver death in Age of Ultron. Or, the biggest manipulative fan-service choice in Avengers history, the Thanos snap. Those didn’t feel special or weighty. It felt like a lame cop-out. All the other Marvel films have their own innovations, clever ways of making their characters, versions, and stories unique to the MCU. This Thor gets to find his own voice, be funny and clueless and buff. Peter and Tony get to have a modern, adorable relationship that lasts past Civil War. They all have their own, unique deviations that make them special, but in the group films they don’t get enough space for their relationships to grow. If characters don’t star in a solo movie together, their relationships always end up feeling a bit shallow (See Hulk and Black Widow).
None of the Avengers films have felt unique at all. It’s more like big events in comic book history get these new versions of the classic characters copy-pasted into them, not like these characters get to make the events their own.
There are glimmers of specialization in the big team movies, like the moments between Gamora and Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War (though that weird abuse/love thing could be a whole other problematic article). Or Hulk’s in-form humor. There are moments where it feels like theirs, but then it’s just a movie trying to fulfill all these classic comic expectations and rules. It makes the group films far more boring and predictable.
It’s like watching one of the Disney Live-action remakes. There may be fun, bold moments, but the rest of it is just trying it’s best not to offend anyone. And that’s pretty lame, right?
Such rich, interweaved characters deserve a bolder film. The MCU doesn’t just have to jam-pack all the favorite Marvel comics events. They could create an event of their own, resulting from other films. For example, there could be a film about refugee problems with the Asgardians after Ragnarok, and the big bad could be an influential/even superhuman person opposing the integration of Asgard, eventually mounting into a full-scale conflict. Or we could work on a Hulk film with Black Widow, Tony, and Hulk trying to figure out what’s wrong with him Hulk side. A group film, but not oversaturated with so many characters.
But, there can be a point made that with so many characters involved in the MCU, it’s kinda impossible for them to keep so many characters dynamic, so Avengers films have to dull down everyone.
Perhaps Avengers films just aren’t my style. However, I think there could be a good middle ground, like I mentioned before with a Hulk-focused group film. I think the Avengers deserve more crossover films that use a couple characters, but not so many that the whole film can’t concentrate on anyone. That could lead to stories that are interesting and new, but still get those crossovers that get fans so giddy. Big, sprawling battle ARE cool.
But look at Thor: Ragnarok. Hulk, Thor, and Loki got to team up and have interesting dynamics, but the story also got to be its own and grow their own versions of the characters. This style is also probably why I like the Guardians films so much. They already don’t have such an exact established canon, so the writers, directors, and actors got to make their own versions of all the characters and the line-up. Of all the MCU, they feel the most like their own, unique characters with new dynamics.
For now, I’ll focus more on being hyped for my beloved Guardians films. But I hope that, maybe with the end of Endgame, the MCU can have more stories that can be all their own, not just trying to adhere to Marvel’s big event canon. Maybe this big battle can sate everybody for a few years.