By now it's abundantly clear that I'm not in the target audience for Marvel films, which is fine, but I quite enjoyed Guardians and Cap 2, so there was really no reason for the second Avengers film to not offer at least something of value. Sadly, this was just a huge disappointment. Probably more telling was that the people I saw the film with, all of whom loved the previous instalments in this franchise, also left feeling underwhelmed.
I'm not sure what people are seeing here. The action is fairly unremarkable and generic, with individual scenes blending together with few standout moments and the film eventually doing what all Marvel films do and descending into a CGI destruction porn spectacle with an arbitrary race against the clock to save the world. Again. Meanwhile the overarching storyline is nothing new and, in broad strokes, could have been lifted from any number of previous superhero movies. I don't know whether all the comic book source material is overwhelmingly similar or it's just how it is being adapted, but this is by far the most risk-adverse and cliched Marvel movie to date.
None of that is overly surprising, but the real killer here is the dialogue. I've never heard so many forced attempts to be witty in a film; it's like every second line needed to be this quip or piece of hilarious banter between the team and, whilst some of these work, for every joke that lands ten fall flat on their face, with the result that everything feels extremely forced, rather than letting the dynamic between the Avengers flow in a more natural way. This comes at the cost of character development, which is disappointingly sparse; it feels like all the Avengers come out the other side of the events here more or less the same as how they came in, other than perhaps a romance subplot with about as much chemistry between the players as those in Fifty Shades Of Grey. Given the possibilities raised by the mental manipulation powers, this is a huge wasted opportunity.
It's a real pity as well, because the cast is phenomenal: Johansson is coming off her career-best performance in Under The Skin, similar can be said of Renner in Kill The Messenger and Ruffalo in Foxcatcher, and Olsen and Spader are very strong additions. These are seriously talented people, not just big names, but they're given absolutely nothing to work with. I can't think of a single scene that required any degree of acting talent to the point where it couldn't have been performed by any number of lesser actors. Spader's antagonist in particular is just the next entry in a long line of utterly forgettable Marvel villains, forgoing the menacing presence promised by trailers to become another mouthpiece for Whedon's quips, and the strength of the twins as characters is diminished by their
complete 180 degree turn in motivation mid-movie which was far too rushed and under-explained.
Of course the film is going to make a billion dollars and criticism is just going to be waved away as 'haters gonna hate', which is one of the most damaging things you can possibly say to film discussion. It's a shame, because there's a lot to discuss here, particularly given that Whedon himself has admitted to feeling tired and worn out while making the movie. It remains to be seen whether this will be reflected in general audiences after one too many superhero blockbusters, but I have no doubt that given time this will be seen as one of the weakest instalments in the Marvel franchise behemoth. Which is saying something.