Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Avengers Review: That Avengers Thing - Movie Reviews, Film Reviews, Film Entertainment, Entertainment, S.H.I.E.L.D., TV Reviews, Television, Television Reviews, Superheroes

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..."


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.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

That Secret Life Thing

All right, here's where I'm going to attempt not to be political and talk about television for a change. Or at least talk about television in a peripheral sense. Mainly because a television show that I've been watching has got me thinking about my own life and the difficulties I've been through versus what other people go through.

First I'm just going to establish what it was that has prompted this blog post. There's a television show on ABC Family right now called "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (@ABCsecretlife on Twitter). Okay, go ahead and think I'm weird for watching a show like that, but it's one of the more interesting shows out there.

Yes, it's a show about teenagers, and yes it's overly dramatic and kind of has excessive situations. But that's what television is for. It's for overly dramatic teenagers in excessive situations. And okay, it's also on a family network run by Disney so it's pretty Christian oriented. But for what it provides, I can live with that.

From a filmmaking point of view, people should really take a look at this show. In a lot of ways it's brilliant. As a writer, I would love to take a look at the scripts they produce for this show because it has to be 90% dialogue. Most of the scenes tend to go like this...

Character #1 enters and talks to Character #2. They speak, then one character leaves as Character #3 enters and begins another conversation.

I know what most filmmakers are saying at this moment "That sounds terribly boring."

But I often think that filmmakers, and directors in particular, say that because of a personal preferance for movement when it comes to dialogue. Filmmakers don't think of dialogue as interesting by itself. They think that because film is a visual medium, that visual means movement. But I don't think it does. It just means making things visually interesting.

But what prompted this blog post in the first place was not the film aspect of it. It was the content of the show itself.

The reason that the content is so interesting is because of the main character. She really carries the show for a young girl, and she is young. At the time of the show's beginning, she was 17 years old. She was playing a 15 year old girl, but compared to what usually happens on shows featuring teenagers, mainly that they are played by 25 year olds. So the fact that she's carried the show at her age is impressive.

What she plays however is a teenager who got pregnant on summer vacation. So the show follows her life as a pregnant teen trying to figure out how to live with her new reality. And they don't pull any punches on the subject either. They present every option that is available to her.

This is what prompted the blog post.

By comparison to what some people go through in life, my life has been incredibly easy. With everything that happens to people, and not even in countries that are at war. In civilized countries, people have terrible things happen to them.

Drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy and bullying. These are all terrible things that happen to people and they are things that don't really go away.

But also, it gives me pause to think about the future as well. Specifically about children. I have always been aware of the tremendous responsibility that children bring to the parents. Raising them is a tremendous thing, and everyone always says that for all the responsibility it's also a great joy.

But not being a parent myself, I haven't personally experienced the responsibility that goes with such a decision. Watching this show, I have come to think about that reality on a more personal level.

By no means am I discounting what I have been through as a teenager, or what any other teenager goes through on a daily basis these days, it's difficult. Being a teenager in any generation is difficult, but what teens who get pregnant go through must be insane. Whether it's within a family that's supportive from the start, or one that comes around over time, or even those that have their family turn against them, it must be hell and a half.

Here they are in the middle of some of the most radical physical changes a person can go through in their lives, and they have to go through another series of radical changes on top of everything. Obviously, the women go through the most difficult part of the process, I don't think anyone would argue that, but it's not exactly a picnic for anyone else either. The fathers, most of whom aren't ready for the incredible responsibility of fatherhood, have to decide whether to take on said responsibility. This can be difficult for a full grown man to handle, some of whom abandon the responsibility mid way through, so is it any wonder that a teenager would have so much trouble with it?

We tend to think of our problems as monumental, and they are at the time we're dealing with them, but retrospectively? There's always someone going through something much more difficult then we are in the grand scheme of things.

It's important to keep that in perspective when we think about our lives. People who forget that are often those who were prone to looking at other people and thinking they have it easy. Whether we're talking about actors and politicians with lots of money, or a family of six kids living in poverty. Life is hard for everyone, there's just different problems for different people.

Yes, people with money can do more things, they have more freedom, but with that freedom comes responsibility. They need to do something with that money. Some people waste the money on parties and drugs and stuff, others use it for charitable causes and helping people.

We see charity as the right thing to do with that money, and I wouldn't disagree with that, but I would say that people who don't often waste their money because they don't have it in them to take on that responsibility. That's a burden too, and sometimes it's as great a burden as using it for charity.

But I digress. My point is that it's important to be aware of the difficulty of others when making judgements about people and the lives they live. It's not always as simple as it appears on the surface.

At least, that's my opinion.

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