Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Avengers: a non-spoilery consideration of its pacing issues

This isn't a spoiler; it's the premise: The Avengers are a bunch of super-heroes that team up to fight global threats. That means the structure of the film is pretty reasonable:

Act One: In which a Threat emerges and some characters are introduced
Act Two (First Half): In which we witness a series of decidedly awkward encounters between characters
Act Two (Second Half): In which some stuff happens, and we observe the aftermath of that stuff.
Act Three: In which some further stuff occurs.

Here's my review of the movie:
The Avengers (2012) ***** Holy. Shit. Pacing issues don't detract from splendid characterisations and great action scenes. The bar is raised.
It's in the first half of Act Two that the majority of those pacing issues occur. And I think it comes down to this: the role of an antagonist is to force characters to change. Now, I think the antagonist in The Avengers (who, now I think about it, could be considered to be Nick Fury ... but that's a discussion for another day) does force every single character to change - and in ways that really reinforce one of the film's main interests: the nature of teamwork.

However, when you're watching it, notice what the antagonist does and doesn't do during the first half of Act Two. Ask yourself what their goals are, and whether they achieve them. Ask yourself: what is the immediate threat that the Avengers are dealing with? That's certainly what I'll be doing during my second and third viewing of the film - and it's the answers to those questions that created the intermittent bursts of slow pacing for me.

... Also: it's one of the funniest blockbusters I've seen in years.


Mashugenah said...

Nick Cole had an excellent critique of this film which he should put somewhere useful. That critique was that, basically, Loki did not represent a credible and engaging threat one way or another. i.e. you can't believe his crazy scheme would work, and/or his crazy scheme does not have an emotional punch of any real significance.

The comparison he offered was with The Joker from The Dark Knight, where you believe that without Batman's intervention, the Joker's plan will succeed and that would be a bad thing - you're fully sold on his capability and the undesirability of his success. I'd tend to agree that I didn't really feel that connection with Loki's somewhat nebulous "take over the world" concept, and when his army started arriving I thought to myself that they just looked inadequate to the task. Compare to the bomber fleet that Hydra had assembled - it looked more than numerous enough to get the job done, and I was far more sold on the Red Skull's ability to actually get the job done. YMMV obviously.

My reading of the film is that I was fully entertained and engaged with each moment while it was in front of me, but when reviewing it at the end, I did find myself scratching my head wondering what it had all been about really - they spent far too much time "establishing" characters (most of them have had at least one recent whole film to do that) and manipulating them into a team... leaving far too little time for the actual "story". Again, YMMV.

So... I put this in the same kind of camp as Inglorious Bastards, where I think somehow each individual bit was perfectly executed and yet added up to a ho-hum nothing-much film.

David LeVack said...

You don't feel that certain plot elememts negated others? Which most likely is to blame on rewriting scenes without considering overall context. After seeing theatrical version I watched a pirated version with poor video but fine audio and a lot of bad dialog and characterization becomes glaringly obvious. Plus the a story was pretty cliche of transformers 3 and similar summer films. Wasn't anything new.

David LeVack said...

Interestingly. Consider this. The main villain was Thanos. His minnions were legions of undead and he was looking for a way to traverse the realm of death to that of the living.

Consider, hes floating in space without oxygen. The army at the end involves wariors and dragon creatures not needing oxygen in the void of space. The minute the portal closes they all collapse. Cutting off their link to THANOS power.

Stretching it, when loki fell off asgard, did he die? And thats how he met Thanos. However, one thing never explained is how Loki got to earth and why the aliens needed a portal. They could just do as loki did. None of this was properly set up.