Thor and Avengers

Well I have at long last finally seen Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) and Thor (2011) — two of the early films in the long-running Infinity Saga (the series has 23 films out so far; more are coming). The short version is I thought The Avengers had some good bits, but overall I found them both fairly underwhelming (but I’m so not the audience for these).

Unfortunately, I was also a little underwhelmed this week by Stargate: Universe, which I tried binge watching because John Scalzi (whose book Redshirts I really liked) was the creative consultant on the show. I quit after three episodes. It wasn’t that it was bad so much as it (as with these comic book movies) just seems like the same old stuff I’ve seen many, many times.

Ah well, you can’t win them all.

I should say up front that I’m not generally a fan of comic book movies.

Some are better than others. The original Superman movies, at least the first one or two, have a charm that makes them fun. A lot of that came from Christopher Reeve, who was well-matched to the part, but it also came from not taking itself too seriously.

That’s the problem with comic books — they’re utterly ridiculous. They’re stories for children and they’re filled with the overly simplistic, the overly dramatic, and the overly preposterous.

People in body stockings and capes. Astonishing powers. Invisible planes. Aliens. Magic. Super-technology.

It’s all absurd, but there’s nothing wrong with that, in and of itself. Is a Hobbit with an all-powerful ring (and everything that goes with all that) any less absurd? Even a crew flying around on an FTL spaceship is absurd, but it doesn’t matter if the stories are good enough.

Depending on the level of absurdity, I think it helps to not take things too seriously, because that’s harder to pull off. What makes the early Superman movies work is the whimsy and lightheartedness.

(In fact, one of the most jeered at scenes in those old Superman movies is that deadly serious bit where he flies around the Earth faster and faster in order to turn back time. Contrast that with the kiss that made Lois Lane forget — also absurd and arguably non-canonical, but the silly whimsy of it makes it work much better.)

I think a key reason Marvel movies have been so much more successful than the DC movies is that Marvel is more prone to include some humor and whimsy. Despite their appearance, comics are fantasy, not science fiction.

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For that reason I’ve usually found the Marvel movies fairly watchable. Their track record with me is much better than DC’s is.

I’ve disliked (or hated) the Superman movies. I’ve tried to watch Wonder Woman twice and given up. Justice League is the one I’ve found most watchable so far, but I’d only give it an Eh! rating. (My scale is: Wow!, Ah!, Eh!, Meh!, Nah!, Ugh!)

I liked the first Nolan Batman, but to me they went downhill from there. I especially disliked the last one (which many liked the most; go figure). I’ve never been a fan of villains, so the middle Batman movie didn’t grab me. (Nor the new Joker movie, which I have no interest in seeing. I just don’t get the attraction.)

And Suicide Squad… the less said about that one, the better.

I think DC simply hasn’t figured out how the lightheartedness factor, and they’ve made a complete mess of Superman.

On the other hand, how do you not make a mess out of a nearly omnipotent goodie two-shoes alien wearing blue long-johns and a red cape? The whole proposition is utterly absurd. That’s why those early movies worked — they embraced the absurdity and found an actor suited to the goodie-two shoes nature of Superman.

FWIW, I was never one of the ones who found Superman boring, but — call me crazy — I like the idea of morally superior role models (and dislike villains). It’s why I approved of Vulcans in Star Trek and loathed what Rick Berman did to them.

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Anyway, back to The Avengers and Thor.

I do know that Thor came first. Or rather, I remembered that after I watched The Avengers first. The whole point of Thor was to introduce a Marvel character most comic book fans never really cared about and set up his appearance in The Avengers.

They aren’t the first movies in the Infinity Saga. Two Ironman movies, and a Hulk movie, came out before them, plus the first Captain America movie comes out between them (to introduce Caps to audiences before The Avengers).

The Avengers is the last movie in Marvel’s Phase One of the Infinity Saga, and it stages the whole Infinity Stones thing and introduces Thanos in the first cookie. (Pity the poor fools who walked out then and missed the second cookie at the very end — the too tired to eat Schawarma scene.)

§

Keeping in mind I’m not a big fan of these kinds of movies (I generally find them as memorable as the popcorn I eat watching them), I did enjoy at least parts of The Avengers and was glad I’d finally seen it.

It was the humor I enjoyed the most. I laughed out loud at the scene between Hulk and Loki. (The one that ends with Hulk’s exit line, “Puny god.”)

I did not care for the childish playground dick waving between Tony Stark and Thor, and it’s the other thing I really dislike about the Marvel movies: the infantile playground behavior of many of the characters.

Thor, on the other hand, was a waste of time to me. I’ve seen enough clips by now that the story had no surprises, and I generally find Thor a complete loser. I’ve never been a fan of brawn over brains, and Thor is a muscle-bound idiot.

There is also that Thor is definitely on the fantasy side of comics, and I’ve always preferred science fiction to fantasy (unless the fantasy is very special). So there’s really nothing about Thor that grabs me in the slightest, and I have even less interest in Asgard.

I will say that, as villains go, I do rather enjoy Tom Hiddleston as Loki, although I like him better when he’s being a good brother. (I just don’t like evil or find it entertaining, especially given all the evil in politics and business these days. I want stories to help me escape from all that.)

What blows me away about (the movie) Thor is that J. Michael Straczynski was involved in the story (but not the script!) and it was directed by Kenneth Branagh (for whom I have high regard).

How did the movie turn out so lame?

And pity poor Natalie Portman, who once again is placed in another script says so romance that makes little sense. (One can at least see the attraction even if one finds it rather inexplicable; a scientist should have better sense. But why anyone would find Anakin even slightly attractive is utterly beyond every observer’s understanding.)

At least she got to star in a really good SF film: Annihilation. It’s a visual treat and well worth seeing. Much better than any comic book story.

§

The main thing I dislike about these comic book movies is the fighting and destruction.

I am so beyond over that childish bullshit. It’s little kids smashing sand castles or towers of blocks. It’s infantile and tedious. It’s boring.

Worse, it’s frequently idiotic within the context of the story.

If there’s any single factor that makes Marvel movies — unto themselves — empty childish bullshit is that their world-building absolutely sucks all the balls. There is zero consistency to what their powers amount to or what they can do.

Whether they are mighty and capable in the moment, or weak and defeated, depends entirely on where the script writer needs the plot to go. New abilities arise as the script requires (Hulk can control himself? WTF!), and abilities are forgotten when their use would make a script problem too easy to solve.

These movies substitute funny bits and action scenes for some of the worst storytelling I’ve ever experienced. It’s as if all the cinematic bullshit makes up for a stupid mindless story.

Seriously, just about every one of these movies is a complete fucking idiocy when considered on its own terms. They are pure mental junk food — there is nothing redeeming (in the storytelling sense) about them.

As I said, no more memorable than the popcorn I ate watching them.

Something I realized watching these older ones is that it’s the same old shit every time. Major script-driven fight scenes that become at tedious (and tasty) as Styrofoam peanuts.

§

Of course, that’s what comic books are often all about, too.

At least the one for kids involve all these silly fights. How many times have Batman and Joker gone at it? Or Superman and Lex Luthor? Or any of them?

About ten years ago I went through a phase of reawakened interest in comic books (more in graphic novels, in my case). Once you move beyond the infantile confines of the mainstream — once you begin getting into truly adult graphic stories — it gets a lot better.

The Sandman, a series by Neil Gaiman, is a great example of what comics can be without all that nonsense. I’m looking forward to seeing what Netflix does with it. Gaiman is involved, so it stands a good chance of being good. (Good Omens was excellent!)

The thing I realized about all this fighting is that it’s very much like professional wrestling and fans are getting the same sort of thrill. I’ve never understood what that thrill is, but it sure seems many people do.

But it’s a lot of the same posturing, posing, and pointlessness.

It’s all fake, and it’s all bullshit.

More to the point, I find it all so tedious and boring.

Stay interesting, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

12 responses to “Thor and Avengers

  • Wyrd Smythe

    The good news is that I read John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream and really enjoyed it.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Also of note, a book by Hugh Laurie (who played House, M.D.), The Gun Seller.

    It’s kind of an interesting romp (and available as an Amazon Prime book). There was supposed to be a sequel to be published in 2007, but it never showed up. Given how the book ends, I’m not really sure what a sequel would even amount to.

    Worth reading if you like that sort of thing.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    My attitude toward Marvel movies is largely that they’re popcorn entertainment. I don’t expect much from them, and only ask that they entertain me for a while. Similar to Star Wars movies, you analyze them at your peril. (And as I discovered when I posted on Avengers: Endgame, some fans do take it very seriously and don’t appreciate criticism of it.)

    I do agree the first Thor movie was pretty underwhelming. The later ones get better. Thor remains arrogant, but always seems to get punished for it, particularly in the last one.

    But then, I’m easy when it comes to movies. Although I didn’t enjoy them as much, I still found most of the DC movies entertaining.

    The entire Stargate franchise has always seemed derivative to me, but SG-1 and Atlantis were pretty light hearted and easy to enjoy. And occasionally the episodes covered science topics you rarely see on TV SF. I think Universe tanked because it started out way too dark, and only belatedly and too late softened things back to what most SG fans were used to. And the Canadian / US exchange rates shifting around that time, lowering the ROI for those studios, didn’t help. But I miss Stargate. It was a guilty pleasure.

    I have fond memories of Android’s Dream, although after all these years I don’t remember much. I do remember the fart scene. I think I remember Scalzi mentioning that Android’s Dream was actually written before Old Man’s War, even though it was published after.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Until last week, I’d only ever seen the Stargate movie (and really didn’t care for it). I’d never seen any of the TV spin-offs.

      Universe, at least per the first three episodes, has a “bunch of people in a strange and threatening situation” theme, plus “people with dark secrets”, and nothing really grabbed me in those three episodes. (Unlike, for example, Dark Matter which hooked me in the first scene.) It’s still on my Hulu Watch List; maybe I’ll give it another wack some day.

      (I did like that the politician who sacrifices himself for their air was played by an actor who usually plays crooked or problematic. Nice to see him as a White Hat for once.)

      Re Scalzi, his Wiki page does show Old Man’s War (2005) before The Android’s Dream (2006). I’m not sure I’m ready to get into the Old Man’s War series — nine books is an undertaking!

      I have Fuzzy Nation on my Buy List, but I need to get through everything I’ve already bought before I go on another shopping spree. Kind of into early 20th century mystery writers right now. Got a lot of Rex Stout to read.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I found the original Stargate movie mildly (very mildly) entertaining, but not in any way that made me want more of it. So I actually avoided the first TV show for a long time, until I happened to catch one of the episodes one night and was surprised by how watchable it was. Still, all very derivative, so don’t expect anything super original or profound, except for the occasionally surprisingly exceptional episode.

        I’m not sure, but I think Dark Matter was put out by the same production company that made the Stargate shows. A lot of the actors from the shows made appearances, and it had the same kind of feel: derivative, but in an entertaining way.

        Most of the Old Man’s War books are stand-alone stories (except for books 5 and 6). But be-warned that the first book has a very Heinlein feel to it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        [shrug] Based on their respective Wiki pages, there doesn’t seem much in common between Dark Matter and Stargate other than a Canadian connection (which might explain the actors). The Stargate franchise is an MGM thing. (I’d forgotten the movie was directed and partly written by Roland Emmerich, whose work I am not a fan of.) Dark Matter was more an independent thing and was based on a graphic novel.

        Early Heinlein or later Heinlein? 😉

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Hmmm. I knew the distribution companies were different, but I thought the studios might be the same, but it doesn’t look like it. Stargate was The Bridge Studios and Dark Matter was Blue Penguin. I agree. It must have been geographic proximity.

        I’d say middle Heinlein, c. Starship Troopers, although less preachy.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The Canadian film industry can’t be all that huge, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Canadian actors appearing in multiple contemporary productions.

  • suryasrikar

    I do agree the first Thor movie was pretty underwhelming….

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