Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why the Avengers needs work and how us writers can learn from it

Okay, ranting because I went to the drive-ins last night, and can't believe how monumentally let down I was by The Avengers. First, let me say I saw and loved Thor. I saw and loved both Iron Man movies, and am a Robert Downey, jr. fan. I didn't see Captain America, and couldn't stand the idea of watching the second Hulk after the first pukefest called a movie. I think Stan Lee could have drawn the Hulk and done a better job with the first one. But anyway, basically and so as not to give away any spoilers, this is what the plot boils down to:

Loki, a.k.a. God of Chaos and general ornery dude-- along with a lightning-style sword and what amounted to Alien-like cicadas riding on freaking in-flight humpback whales--versus The Avengers. The whole gang wants a certain cube that amounts to a lot of power for anyone on Earth who has it. More than half of the stinking picture was a collage of about 5-10 minute bits about every single Avengers character. For any of you who know the least bit about writing, you're currently laughing your ass off because two major writing "rules" have been broken right off the bat. Rule #1: No point of view character established. There was absolutely no one in particular to focus on so honestly, I didn't give a crap if all of them died. The writer could have been smart and taken Natasha or Hawkeye or, imo, Nick Fury as the point of view character, and given *extremely* tiny bits about the rest. After all of these movies, we really don't know all that much about Natasha, Hawkeye, Nick...and truthfully, we know about the same after the movie. Rule #1 rant done. Rule...okay, really it's more Guideline #2: Isolate your character for maximum tension. That is, don't have your character with the huge supergang who will easily defeat the little, wimpy enemy. Have one character against the world, so to speak. With a story like this, I could see how that might be hard. The problem I have is that through most of the movie, I'm freaking ROOTING for Loki because he's the one who stands against the world. He's the underdog. (And really, some wicked part of me will always root for Loki...and I'm not the only one.) While I can see how isolating so many characters might be tough, isolating the flipping ANTAGONIST makes no sense at all. So...if they weren't going to do that, then they could have chosen a character to focus on (note I said *focus* and not *entirely use*), given some vulnerability to create tension or even given some personal stake in the whole thing. Instead, there is no tension because there is no true *conflict.* Conflict in any well written story consists of conflicting emotions while some outward event is taking place. Sometimes, even the outward event doesn't matter, depending on the story. 

Iron Man's conflict: I'm a man of peace who finds out I'm in the business of war profiteering, so I must face or change who I am.

Iron Man 2's conflicts: Everybody is completely safe until I discover otherwise, and I have to save myself as well as the world.

Thor's conflict: Get my big huge weapon (hammer) back from a modern Midgard (Earth) while being a god who no one on Midgard believes is a god and also facing my own weakness.

There are internal and an external struggles in these stories that raise them above the usual shallow, mindless violence. (I also happen to like that Thor followed the Norse myth cycle fairly accurately as well...and the casting is quite good.) I realize they probably wanted to keep with Stan Lee's Avenger stories, and I know they kept to the cartoons well, but this movie left me feeling more than a little disappointed. Visually, it also had problems, being too dark for the screen in some places. There were some things I outright couldn't see. All this money spent and they couldn't jack up the lighting? And it wasn't just my blind self. My husband said the same.

However, it was a double feature. While there were some flaws, I liked John Carter waaaaay more than The Avengers. Also, I couldn't help but laugh after noticing *at the very end of the movie* that Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle) played a general. I'm convinced Bryan Cranston is a chameleon, not an actor. Maybe I'm Bryan Cranston and I just don't know it yet....   

Anyway, it's not a popular sentiment, it seems, but skip The Avengers and go for John Carter.


  1. Okay, John Carter. Although from what you write, maybe I 'll just read the books.

  2. You can probably find Princess of Mars free in or I don't think it's still under copyright. Maybe that's why it finally got made. Apparently, Disney was supposed to make Princess of Mars as an animated feature years ago as their first animated feature.

    John Carter is a pretty cool story.