Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Avengers series: A Cinematic Anomaly

 As the saga of The Avengers movie franchise is being unfolded piece by piece in front of our eyes, I've begun to think about the context of each film in the overall series. You see, I've slowly started to wonder - are these really films? Now I don't believe a film has to be a single stand alone narrative, but The Avengers series is quite an anomaly in the history of cinema. You see even with film series such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Back to the Future there is a concrete flow of events which are happening. One film feeds directly into the other and through their combined effort a single story is told. The Avengers doesn't follow that premise. In fact, there's no discernible timeline at all. One film hints at another, which is referenced in another, and features a sequence of events which may or may not have taken place somewhere in or around the context of another film in the series entirely. I'm sure die hard fans could map out the sequence of events for me in the blink of an eye, but I would argue a certain element of that is pure conjecture.

However, you know what the collection of films leading up to The Avengers really reminds me of? A TV Show. More specifically Heroes, or shows of the same ilk. There's a disconnected nature. As if each film is an episode in the context of a larger reaching film. Naturally some episodes are better than others, and each arch is self sufficient enough that they can still function independently. But the way Marvel has organized them - starting predominately with Iron Man 2 - they've become little more than subplots in the broader scale of an intertwined narrative. Which makes me wonder, should they be reviewed as single films or as a collective. You see, I'm beginning to get frustrated by this because Marvel seems to want the best of both worlds.

They want stand alone films which aren't stand alone. Take this summer's installment of Thor. A good 60% of that movie was setup for Thor's eventual wrangling into the world of The Avengers. Iron Man 2 rocked in a good 30 - 40% and Captain America's entire marketing campaign centered around it (I haven't seen CA yet so I'll retain judgment on how much of it is its own entity is Avenger buildup). At least Iron Man 1 and The Incredible Hulk featured their own plots and even the slightest hint of an Avengers tie in was kept at bay until post-credit sequences.

Still, none of this makes them bad movies. I just find myself torn as to whether or not they can be justifiably be critiqued on their own merits. Then again, we review episodes of TV shows all the time so perhaps there's not much in it to begin with. Of course, I'm never much of one to pass up an opportunity to grumble about Marvels latest indulgent outing. Even if I've enjoyed each installment thus far.

4 better thoughts:

Simon said...

You've always been one to grumble about everyone's indulgent everything.

NeverTooEarlyMP said...

Interesting observation. I'll admit that I've only seen the Iron Man ones (keep thinking that I'll get around to Captain America, but each week it keeps getting pushed just beneath the "must see" line of my movie list.)

X-Men seem to be going in the opposite direction, starting as a group film and then splintering off into Wolverine, Cyclops, etc. Of course, this mirrors the history of the comics themselves.

And as I read your post, I started to think of movies like "Four Rooms" or Doug Liman's "Go", where the movie itself feels like a collection of separate narratives that might be tied together at the end at some point, but could really be seen as separate shorts.

I guess it will depend on the narrative structure that they decide to use when they finally gather them all together for Avengers.... Even if the dominant narrative structure is really "bring in the money."

Castor said...

Just disposable entertainment, that's all these movies will eventually amount to when we look back in a few years (if we even do). Since Spiderman 2, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man, all of these comic books movies have ranged from pleasantly forgettable to terribly forgettable.

KINGRPG said...

I can't wait to watch this movie, I need to get it now!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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