Not so much “With Avengence”

This will actually be a double review and it will contain spoilers for both.  You have been warned….

In the past week I have had the pleasure (or misfortune) of seeing the final two films leading up to the big Avengers movie:

THOR  &  Captain America

I was really looking forward to both films quite a lot.  The deep mythology of Thor drew me to his film but they did a very poor job conveying a believable hero.  And when I heard they were making a war film that happened to have Captain America in it….well, that was just too great to miss!  But when I got far more hero than war, I was just as let down as I had been with the other Avenger movie.

In a nutshell, here is what went wrong:
“Both films were treated as set-up movies – necessary exposition standing between Marvel Enterprises and larges piles of mone….I mean a well-crafted franchise – rather than their being made for the great stories that they are in of themselves.”

I will take them one at a time and show exactly what I mean, starting with The God of Thunder and then discuss the third (I mean First) Avenger. Let’s go!

THOR

In case you haven’t figured this out about me, I like to know a little bit about everything – just enough knowledge to make intelligent conversation while not spoiling the magic of discovering it.  This trait of mine can be particularly seen in my understanding of the Comic Book Universes.  I knew about the base of Thor’s mythology being founded in actual Norse legends. I thought this was a fantastic way to build a backstory – take that which is already half-believed and add just a little extra fiction. Stir and bake at 350 for twenty minutes and you’ve got a great way to start a superhero tale.

Having said that, I went into the movie hoping that they would show that vast mythology behind him, show his character develop, and show why I should be worried about an oversized carpenter 🙂

What I got was a film poorly made in nearly every aspect.  The CG was terribly fake and the makeup of the Ice Giants reminded me of the Devil from Tenacious D.  For the character who mattered, it was not believable at all and ultimately this did more to set up the coming film than to make this one stand out of the crowd.

My major issue with the film is that it is called Thor, it stars Thor, is about Thor, yet Thor is the least logical and least interesting character in the film.  He is an arrogant, spoiled…murderous child at the beginning. I liked the banishment scene, but after that he makes a complete 180 in the course of, like, 3 days on earth!  He is a jerk, his friends arrive and the Destroyer tags along, then “Thor Good!”  It leaves you and me wondering “why we should suddenly root for a guy who has only shown himself to be a jerk?”  Not what we should be thinking about your protagonist…

Three good notes to mention:
First, they did have a great introduction with Odin explaining the backstory.  I thought it worked well and it gave me just enough to understand the plot.  I wish they had developed it a bit more but to be honest they gave us what we needed.

Second, the blending in and performance of the Shakespearian-esque dialogue was good. Branagh really did do it justice there. It fit in very well with the regular English.  To be honest I only noticed it when the movie was half over.  Really top notch work.

Third, and most importantly, I want to give a HUGE shoot-out to Tom Hiddleston for his incredible portrayal of Loki!!!  He took a very hard role and in my opinion gave something close to an Oscar-worthy performance. I was honestly fooled by his acting within acting as he lied to Thor about their father.  Loki is known as basically the father of misdirection – he is the embodiment of mischief and distraction – and Hiddleston really captured that so well. Truly a show stealer!

However, despite all of those positives, I just can’t get over how unlikeable Thor is.  He is worse than Stark if you ask me.  Also, the ending left me wondering “Wait.  What was the problem again?”  It was so anticlimactic and really made me question why I’d come to see it at all.  Poor story structure that fulfilled the job it meant to do – tell me just enough about Thor to know who he is in the Avengers.

Ultimately, not worth my money.  It was Pre-Avengers part I.  The only positives I can claim from seeing it was that I saw it with a friend, who generously paid for my ticket, and that he only paid $1.50 for it 🙂  FINAL ASSESSMENT:  5/10

Captain America

Again, I really went into this excited.  What I knew pre-screening was that the Capt was created in the midst of WWII, that his enemy was Redskull, that he was Batman-esque in that he has no super powers, and that he was frozen in the arctic and was rediscovered in modern day. What I was looking for in this film was the artistic push for the War Film feel – something like Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan.  While I can appreciate it as a hero film, I was still very let down by how little war factored into it.

Basically all of the focus of the film was on the creation of the Captain which, I grant, is important. However I would say than nearly 60 of the 124 minutes were spend on building him from lowly Steve Rogers (what kind of a Captain’s name is “Steve” anyway?) to the pop-icon (Mr. Rogers to you) to his full embodiment as Captain America.  You don’t need to spend that much time on the appetizer if it means sacrificing part of the meat and potatoes of the thing.

I want to make it clear:  I do like the story of how he becomes Captain America.  What I don’t like is that the reason the focus was there was because the film’s purpose is to set audiences up for who he is in the Avengers.  Instead of getting some truly great battles and fighting when people begin to follow him, we get a bare-boned montage to advance us from A to B.

And please, don’t EVEN get me started on the ending.  I loved that he woke up in a falsified environment, that he bust out and ran amuck in downtown NYC. That was great.

What wasn’t great was EVERYTHING ELSE!!!  There is not musical ramp, which leads to no emotional ramp.  The Nick Fury monologue has no power – no punch.  It comes down to a really bleeping one-liner that your grandmother might think is “cute”, but it is so lacking of anything cathartic, spectacular or engaging. The ending was such a letdown and it truly ruined that which I had liked about the film (the exposition) because it didn’t go anywhere.
Pre-Avengers part II.  FINAL ASSESSMENT:  5/10

That is…it doesn’t go anywhere OTHER than straight into:

Unlike Ironman which was made for its own story, Thor and Captain America were made to get us to this film.  Instead of 3 A+ movies that would lead up to a great junction film, we get an A & two C’s that will lead to a horrible pile of crap. Here is why:

How is The Avengers supposed to be a good movie when you are tying 4 major characters (1 well-defined, 3 poorly so), multiple minor characters (not defined at all), and all of their villains into one two-&-a-half hour movie?  You don’t. At least not well.

Thus far we have Downey doing his thing, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth stepping in, and OH YEAH! Mark Ruffalo out of nowhere in as the Hulk.  Besides the challenge of bringing them all together under one leadership, there is the well known and rather important power struggle between Stark and Rogers. How is Joss going to bring them all together under one roof?

Btw: Hawkeye and Black Widow are supposed to be in it….yeah….  Sorry Scarlett and Renner, but you are going to become Deus Ex Machina for the real stars. Yup. (Pardon while I wipe the sarcasm off my brow)

I do have one positive note. The only confirmed villain is Loki from the Thor series.  Good call because Red Skull is dead as are the biggest and best Ironman villains, and Loki is not just a great villain but a great character in general.  I look forward to seeing more Hiddleston, and I applaud Marvel or whomever made the decision to set up Loki as The Villain for the Avengers (at least the first one….uggg).

There has been a recent news break that there will be some short films released leading up to the Avengers, presumably setting up Hawkeye and Black Widow.  Personally I think they should have done more of that stuff.  Really they should have gone with something like an HBO miniseries about the forming of the group – taking there time to really set up the situation well.  Then you could let the movie focus on the epic battle rather than petty squabblings of a newly formed super-Glee club.

In case you haven’t picked up on it, I really don’t expect much from the Avengers movie.  It has too much that needs to happen and far too little time to develop it properly.  All I can say is “Good Luck, Joss” and “Enjoy your swimming pools of money, Marvel.”

Thanks guys!  Hope you enjoyed the review. Please let me know what you think in the comments below – particularly what you expect from the upcoming Avengers movie.  So, until next time, stay thirsty my friends. 🙂

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Author: Tyler D. Welch

Filmmaker, Storyteller, Scholar

2 thoughts on “Not so much “With Avengence””

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