Review: AVENGERS? More like MEH-VENGERS...

Featured Critic; Toronto, Canada (@filmfest_ca)
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Review: AVENGERS? More like MEH-VENGERS...
OK, fanboys, let's get a heap of things on the table, shall we? I'm the one that defends Phantom Menace, John Carter, and even War Horse, kinda, but thought Hunger Games was a disaster. I liked Cabin in the Woods a whole lot, but have never suckled at Whedon's teets. I liked Thor and Iron Man more than Iron Man 2 (duh!), I loved Lee's Hulk 'till the last 20 minutes, and thought Norton's turn in Incredible Hulk was just silly. And while I grant that 2011's Captain America was better than the 1990 version, I'm not entirely sure that should be the basis for fair comparison.

So, in broad strokes, I went into Avengers not minding spending some time with a heap of super heroes battling some mythological bad guy. I hoped to see some slinky outfits and hear some clever repartée. Instead, I got a pretty bloated film so eager to please that in the end it felt bland and lifeless. It's a Michael Bay monster with slightly more restrained editing, but just as many forced one-liners and empty plot detours.

Now, I'm going to get all spoiler-y, but, really, you're likely to be seeing this film in the next couple days, so why not wait to see it before you decide I'm an idiot and unleash outrage in the comments below.

Avengers does a few things I hate. First, it has scenes that explicitly exist only to inject a bit of delay so that the film feels more epic in scope. I have no real problem a film taking time for pixels to fight other pixels, but when we have to sit and wait for Thor and Iron Man to prove just how tough they are by kicking the shit out each other while their captured bad guy waits around patiently, it's a bit stupid. The issue with any of these can't-be-killed-so-why-the-fuck-should-I-care movies (I'm looking at you, Ghost Rider) is that they usually have to have some bad guy even tougher or stronger so that you at least kid yourself that the ending's not going to unfold exactly as you expect it to.

When our good guys are beating themselves up, and you just know seconds afterward they'll be in some conference room hatching a plan, then it turns to Glee levels of fucking annoying, where some teacher plooking or incest subplot gets resolved before the next commercial break, with everyone suddenly breaking out into song.

Yeah, I compared Avengers to Glee. Suck it.

However, even before that stupid "drama" with our heroes, we've got Sammy J getting shot, and then, you know, just kind of ignoring it. I don't pretend to know any backstory, whether Fury is in fact some immortal guy who gave up an eye for being able to survive being shot without obvious medical care, but you know what would have really made for some awesomesauce? Killing Mr. Fury two minutes into the film. Bam! Deep Blue Sea, fuck you style. Instead, even the CEO of this ragtag bunch seems immune from any real harm that isn't ocular. That, or the bad guys just got to learn to shoot the dude in the fucking face.

In this very same scene, we've get ye olde "zombie" trick filled with Indy allusions - I swear that must have been pitched as Loki takes the Staff of Ra and does a full on Temple of Doom on Hawkeye's ass (or, well, chest). Oh, noes, how ever will there come a time when such thing is reversed, perhaps inadvertently, hopefully so that the finale can happen with everyone on the same team? Blargh. You know what would have been cool? Loki does his magic shit, and the, Bam! Fury's dead. Can't take that back, bow-and-arrowman. You killed Mace Windu. And now, at least, the film would have earned this stupid comic book-y conceit.

I liked ScarJo's tuchas, and even liked her opening scenes doing her version of Craig's version of James Bond. I think the 15 minutes or so where Robert Downy Jr. does his thing is fabulous, and I'm super pleased they used the big green guy kinda like they used shark in JAWS. I like when Hulk punched Thor, ending a boring conversation pretty damn quickly. I like that there are people that don't know what the hell is meant by "quim", and now are forced to look it up.

I even kinda liked the preposterous ending, with an invading army conveniently keeping to a few city blocks as they smashed the shit out of NYC. Sure, it's Phantom Menace by way of Ghostbusters II (thx for the latter, AP), but giving the proper scope of many, many opponents to our ensemble of heroes is what the film was always meant to embody.

I'd slash about an hour from the film, take out some of the more stupid, trying-too-hard lines that'd make Diablo Cody barf. I think the flying ship is pretty stupid even by Marvel standards, and maybe a few set pieces from that sequence could be dropped. I think it's OK that they killed off one favourite character, I just think it'd be cooler if they killed off a few more, showing actual balls about what they're prepared to do.

For those that have got this far and really haven't seen the film, then please, go, enjoy. The 3D's very good, the soundtrack decent, the graphics and visual design certainly capable. Stuff blows up, you see guys in tights do battle against a horde. Stick around for the credits, and you'll get some bad guy that I really thought was Red Skull's brother, but what do I know. I understand there's a scene of the guys sitting around eating shawarma, something truncated from the pre-screening and something I'd have enjoyed to see. Hell, wouldn't you like to see the team go bowling, or ride in bumper cars?

Avengers is not the worst film you'll see this year, not even the worst one you'll likely to see this summer. Nor, I'd suggest, is it the best. The trailer for Dark Knight is more exciting than any moment in this entire film. I also anxiously await, more than some await the birth of their child, Battleship, that film that seems to know exactly what it is (Battles... Ships... what else do you need?)

You're welcome to comment below, tell me all the subtle things I missed and jokes I didn't get. Frankly, I welcome your scorn and your vitriol more than I do a sequel.

For me, when all is said and done, Avengers is all sound and Nick Fury, signifying nothing.
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More about The Avengers

SimonMay 3, 2012 7:57 PM

You're obviously allowed your opinions (I haven't seen the movie yet so I'm in no position to agree / disagree with you) but the fact that you used the word "meh" in your title makes me want to punch you.
It is one of the most irritating words out there right now and screams: "I can't express myself properly."
Again, that's nothing to do with your review (I'll read the reviews after I see the film), but you're a writer, you're being published for everyone to read, embrace the damn language and come up with something better than "meh".

marleydiditMay 3, 2012 8:20 PM

bahahaaaaaaaa!!! this is definitely one of the funniest reviews i've read in a long time, hope to see more of your work Mr. Grober

TimMay 3, 2012 8:34 PM

I agree this review is pretty awful full stop - it reads like a IMDB forum rant with all the annoying turns of phrase included.

I haven't seen it either, and it doesn't appeal - but god this review stinks. This site can do a lotr better.

Jason GorberMay 3, 2012 8:48 PM

Thanks for reading!

I admit being more amused by your Frodo-ian slip - I assume you type LOTR more than a few times at other fora, eh?

Jason GorberMay 3, 2012 8:51 PM

This is my most favouritist comment ever, or at least it's the most cromulent.

I may quote some it on a T-shirt, if that's ok, or maybe take a photo and post it on Instagram.

Jason GorberMay 3, 2012 8:51 PM

Gorber, and thank you.

AlanMay 4, 2012 2:26 AM

I agree with this review to an extent but I did come away thoroughly entertained rather than annoyed. Comparing it to transformers is unfair, Bay make films that are infuriatingly dumb, obnoxious, and downright nasty, whereas The Avengers is merely a silly but harmless summer action flick with at least some redeemable qualities.

Some of the humor was hit and miss, and with most things Marvel, everything felt just too safe, and just a bit too silly.

Overall I think it was a film that wore it's cliches unashamedly with Whedon's signature wit still bubbling somewhat underneath the nonsensical plot.

Also, Mark Ruffalo makes the best Hulk, too bad he wasn't considered for the Hulk movies earlier on.

SimonMay 4, 2012 2:37 AM

Now you use the word "cromulent", and I like you more.

RobertMay 4, 2012 3:26 AM

Jason, thank you for the review. It sounds like I may have enjoyed the movie slightly more than you did, but I'm fully willing to admit that this is because I DO suckle at Joss Whedon's cromulent teats. Enthusiasm for this is so high right now in my very nerdy group of friends that I feel nothing but disdain when I say "Yeah, it was awesome, but -----"

I'll definitely be checking out your other reviews, because... it's 3:30am, so why not?


NishimaMay 4, 2012 5:45 AM

The Avengers 2012 - Hulk Smashes Loki WOOOO!!

Jason GorberMay 4, 2012 9:52 AM

For Frink's sake, where do you think I pulled "Meh" out of my ass?

For those playing along, my word of the day is "Lokivore", referring to those eating up what Whedon's serving you

Jason GorberMay 4, 2012 9:53 AM

That kind of ambivalence is the spirit in which many of my reviews have been crafted.

Thanks for reading!

Jason GorberMay 4, 2012 9:57 AM

The most egregious thing about the first TRANSFORMERS movie is that they made the lead character the comic relief ("whoops, my bad...")

The second one is vile and overtly racist, but it's at least siphoned off the inane banter to others, leaving our leads with a small amount of robodignity.

I think the third's the best of the lot - Bay seems to have learned that a zoom lens has multiple settings, one allowing for wide shots, and smashing the utter fuck out of Chicago coupled with some Moon fun allowed the near pornographic destruction to appear almost poetic on screen. =Almost=.

But don't kid yourself, the line between the end of AVENGERS and the bulk of the last TRANSFORMERS film is a thin one indeed...

GastónMay 4, 2012 11:38 AM

I found transformers (all three movies) unwatchable, can stand them -I just believe "The Rock" was Bay's last decent movie-.
In"The Avengers" also found things that were forced or unnecessary , but overall was a enjoyable an the good thigns, didn't make me care about all the bad (for example that shield end up looking like a buch of retards that didnt even are usefull as a backup, for wath good is to have all those planes if you don't deploy them when bieng invaded¿?).
"The Dark Knigth Rises" it may end up being the best movie of the year -the wait has been to long, dying to see it here-, but if not good what are you going to call us??, "Banevore"

godsaremonstersMay 4, 2012 9:44 PM

Congrats, your opening paragraph reads as a "this is why my opinions are irrelevant" screed. I enjoyed you trying to own your poor taste as if it was a badge of credibility. The only real problem I have with that is the smugness you feel comfortable displaying after you've convinced your self that you have somehow established a base line of artistic interpolation. When your tastes could at best be described as scatter shot. There is no integral foundation for your tastes. And certainly not justification for smugness.

Jason GorberMay 4, 2012 11:22 PM

The equivalent pun for "Meh-Vengers" would be "Bane-al", but it's a bit less elegant.
As for puns for sycophancy, well, I can't seem to come up with anything better than to follow the Chrisptopher Nolantern wherever it points, but that remains pretty week.

Even as a kid the BATMAN movies were heaps better than any other comic book movie, I remain entirely nonplussed about Spidey's return, but that might prove to be a good thing. Sometimes, I'd suggest, lowered expectations can actually help you enjoy a film (you know, like I've done above).

Jason GorberMay 4, 2012 11:28 PM

I agree with your second last sentence, but probably not for the reasons you posited it. Still, thanks for the works of congratulations and enjoyment, appreciate you reading the site! 5, 2012 12:03 AM

By calling Tranformers 2 overtly racist, you are calling the fim maker racist and that is what is vile - especially since you don't know Michael Bay.

It was a bad decision to try and make the two Autobots urban but that does not mean there was a racism. Racism is defined is seeing one race as superior to the other.

There is absolutely no evidence that Michael Bay is racist. His two biggest movies had African-American leads and almost all of his other movies have African-American playing a significan role.

Armageddon - Michael Clark Duncan
Pearl Harbor - Cuba Gooding Jr
The Island - Djimon Housou, Michael Clark Duncan
Transformers - Tyrese
Bad Boys - Smith, Lawerence, Union

You have every right to not like the films Michael Bay makes but just because a poor decision was made on the portrayal of two robots does not make the man a racist.

One of the men that voice the one of the robots was African-American. Is he a racist too?

MarkMay 5, 2012 12:32 AM

A have to disagree with you Jason. I like your writing style (first time I've read your review). And I can't argue with some of your statements (I've never seen Glee. I frigging hate musicals).

But this is hands down the best super hero movie made to-date, and I've seen them all. At over 2 hours and 20 minutes, it is wholly captivating, perfectly balancing character development, team development (which is critical for this movie) and eye-popping 3D action. This is no small feat, bringing together the six "heroes.". Even the minor characters are brought to the forefront (Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, for example), enriching their characters and making their action sequences just as cool and dynamic.

And surprisingly, it is the best Hulk movie. There are two scenes featuring the Hulk that will have you laughing so hard you'll be in tears. You'd think Iron Man would have the coolest action sequences, but when the Hulk inflicts carnage on the enemies, you don't want it to stop.

This is Josh Whedon's breakout movie. No longer will he be known as "the guy that made the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series," but the guy that made The Avengers.

So I read your review after I saw it. I give you credit for being an "outlier" ... 93% of the world (or the 300+ critics on Rotten Tomatoes) disagree with you. But I think we saw two different movies.

ChevalierAguilaMay 5, 2012 3:52 AM

*defends phantom menace
*Glee reference

All i can say is, cool story bro.

QinlongMay 5, 2012 6:30 AM

A refreshing review. I always value dissenting voices. I wouldn't be as agressive as you against the movie, but I really didn't like a quarter as much as the rest of the world.

cuckooMay 5, 2012 9:32 AM

Does Todd still write for Twitch? I miss him.

Jason GorberMay 5, 2012 10:39 AM

Todd who? (*cough*)

hiroaki.jMay 5, 2012 12:21 PM

It's an example of institutional racism, which is often what people are talking about now days instead of just old fashioned racism. It's why often you hear people of color say they can't be racist. Because they can't be racist in the institutional sense of the word, at least not in the united states.

if people were less semantically lazy there might be less confusion.

also, I seriously hope you don't think that saying because X movie has a black person in a lead role that it can't be racist.

Greg RiveraMay 5, 2012 5:04 PM

This is the second funniest movie review I've ever read. While I appreciate your desire to be honest and not be force-fed the gargantuan meal the Marvel-Whedon hype machine would have us ingest, I am a guy who loved the movie Mystery Men and paid to watch John Ritter in Hero At Large three times when I was a tween. I love superhero movies, and really look forward to this clusterfuck. I do, however, appreciate your use of the words "tuchas" and "quim". Thank you, Mr. Gorber, for a fun read.

The funniest movie review I've ever read:

godsaremonstersMay 6, 2012 8:25 PM

Smug and glib, but just as little value as the body of your article. Stop avoiding the criticism of your "review" by thanking people for reading it (though thank them you should) and actually confront the many real foibles they point out in your argument. Let us know you can.

JoshMay 8, 2012 3:38 AM

You thought the helicarrier was ridiculous but the suit that makes Tony Stark pretty much superman is not a problem? Also, Nick Fury getting shot and being okay is an issue but there being a guy who can turn into a giant green death machine is alright? Seems like you watched this just looking for things to complain about.

Jason GorberMay 8, 2012 10:26 AM

Excellent points. However, in fairness, "looking for things to complain about" is part of this gig. Equally, I'd argue that my issues have less to do with established ridiculousness that allow for disbelief to be firmly suspended, versus clunky additions that this particular works adds upon the established canon as seen in the other films. Stark, Hulk and the sheer insanity of the ending third are what make part of this film super fun, Fury's furrowed brow, the mindless "drama" between friends and the silly ship are what drag it down.

Anybody here think the first 2/3s of the film is free from flaws, especially those that think this the "best comic book movie of all time"? The best excuse I've heard yet is that it's like PSYCHO, with Whedon purposely giving us a boring, dreary film in order to, wham! pull the rug out and give us the onslaught at the end. It's an intriguing idea that ascribed authorial intent to banality, but doesn't take away from the fact the the majority of the top 2/3 of the film was (save for flickers by likes cited above in the review) pretty un-good.

What remains to me the most amusing part of this whole escapade is that I think the film's... OK. Decent. I had more visceral fun when a goddamn mountain attacked the guys from Schindler's in WRATH OF THE TITANS than I did at any point in the first 100 minutes of this film.

As I am a RT critic, my grade for this film would still count as "fresh" fruit by their metric. I simply suggest that it's a far less succulent fruit than even THOR or the first IRON MAN before it, a heresy that for some (I'm obviously not referring to you, Josh) cannot stand without rebuke.

Ard VijnMay 8, 2012 11:29 AM

Well, I'll be seeing it tomorrow evening so thanks for tuning my expectations down a notch.

I hate being disappointed so lowered expectations are always welcome before seeing a film.

DanMay 10, 2012 6:13 PM

Some thoughts, not sure what's already been put up here.

Fury getting shot - Clearly, Loki still needed him alive.
Helicarrier - Had it not been there, I, and many others, would have wanted our money back. It's a vital piece of SHIELD lore and I thought it was excellent, well introduced (I really like the techno-fantasy direction these films go in) and well incorporated for maximum use.
Squabbling. Partly it was all there various natures rubbing against each other. Stark had father issues with Cap, Cap had 'being a bit of a dick until you get to know him' issues with Stark. More importantly, it was a specific thing put on them by Loki. It is why he let them capture him, why he had that brief moment with Banner walking past, why his staff both reflected the bigger argument, and ended in Banners hands, and why Banner couldn't control his Hulk-out in the end (when he could later)

Of course it's not perfect, but I think it's a near perfect facsimilie of reading the comics. Marvel has always been bright and obvious, without being stupid. There are themes, character development, arcs and a glouriously childlike merging of high-fantasy, pulp Sci-fi, boys-own derring do and a now just the right touch of post-modernist appreciation for the whole thing.

Finally, has no one else picked up on how 'meta' Coulsons last words were? Seriously? It's both an apology, and an explanation to the audience in one, whilst thoroughly acknowledging the character. There are a thousand things wrong with this film. each one about as substantial as a mote of dust, and they aren't tipping the scales anywhere.

Peter GutierrezMay 21, 2012 10:43 AM

Killer last line. :) And although I disagree with much of the review, I can see where its points are coming from... except this: "we've got Sammy J getting shot, and then, you know, just kind of ignoring it. I don't pretend to know any backstory, whether Fury is in fact some immortal guy who gave up an eye for being able to survive being shot without obvious medical care..."

He was clearly shot in an armored vest -- there's even a shot, albeit a quick one, of him actually pulling the bullet out of the vest. If he needed medical care for bruised ribs and whatnot, it's not inconceivable that this was done off-screen, and in fact I'm glad the movie didn't bother showing this as it would have been unnecessary, perhaps more "padding" (a point that I kind of agree with). Anyway, I haven't read all the comments but I see this point about Fury getting shot is still in the review, so I thought I'd address it.