If there’s any glaring flaw with The Avengers, it’s that the “assembling a team” concept was already perfected by Seven Samurai and Magnificent Seven half a century ago. I’m naming those off the top because they’re the only ones that have done it better. Granted, any movie that follows the spiritual footsteps of a Kurosawa project will have a rough go about themselves internally but externally we can explore why the formula works so well.
As fans of fiction, each of us loves watching heroes come together for a greater cause. It may be spiritually connected to the greater subconscious of “heroes coming together” but there’s an undeniable welcome feeling we give this familiar story trope. We love Han Solo swooping in at the last moment to save Luke so he can blow up the Death Star. We still get giddy when the fellowship of the ring embarks on a quest to take the ring to Mordor. Watching these characters, we’re reminded how larger than life movies can be. Avengers tapped into these eternal cravings of big budget heroics in a manner unlike any other blockbuster. It’s all in the mantra of the Avengers themselves: They come together to fight battles we never could.
Is it predictable? Sure. The idea that movies need to be unpredictable is a load of shit. Simplicity does not mean faulty execution or stupidity (to an extent) and even then it’s not a signifier of lesser quality. Not every movie is holding back a surprise twist (most movies don’t know how to ingrain them into a conflict anyways). Sometimes you just have a good storyteller helping you get from point A to point Z.
We know the Avengers will defeat Ultron. We know Tony Stark and Iron Man will live to fight through the foreseeable future of Marvel movies. The meat on the bone of any story conflict should be based in what defines these characters. It’s about how they defeat the villains, how they come together, and what breaks them apart.
People look at Christopher Nolan movies as the pinnacle of modern blockbusters for their complex tapestry of narrative threads. This is just plain doohickey – and no, I still haven’t seen Interstellar so please stop asking me. Movies like The Dark Knight or Inception aren’t masterpieces because characters spout exposition while riding the rails of an overly plotted story. They’re deep-rooted in their thematic exploration. Nolan may tackle hefty ideas with elongated stories but they all manage to complement each other for the core thematic conceit.
The Avengers is an inverse of that with one of the most basic Act 1-3 structure I’ve seen in a theater that succeeds on almost every other level. We get our individual team member introductions, followed by the struggle to keep everyone together, before the final act of stupendous action and rip-roaring one-liners, all book-ended by Nick Fury on why we need earth’s mightiest heroes. Good luck trying to find a more quotable movie than this one.
Yeah, the movie is a bit flat on the cinematography side of things. But so what? The script is packed with delightful character interactions that inform the audience on the characters without being too exposition-y. Actors are given breathing room to bounce off each other. The action makes sense geographically and is shot so we can see everything clearly. TV visuals (and I mean like primetime) aren’t so detrimental after all.
The Avengers is a simple movie with big, bold intentions. Our heroes get together, they argue and squabble, then they defeat a god with an alien army. Sometimes simplicity can be a bad thing. Here, it’s what we needed. It’s a statement that a movie with simple plot structure is better than a movie with a dozen plot lines and to fulfill the needs of the character first. A promise.
Featured Image: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney