The latest Avengers film is essential viewing for anyone into excessive stimuli and lame jokes and occasional moments of emotional sincerity. That is to say, most of us. Likewise the odds of liking at least one of the multiple Hollywood stars involved in this project is high. Choose your fighter. It’s a lot like the orgy-istic appeal of Super Smash Bros; it’s exciting to find out who will get the most screen time and who will come out alive in the end. Not to bring up orgies again, but there is something thrilling about entangling 4, 6, 8 of our heroes together at random and seeing what comes of it. In this case, the banter is my favorite part. I noticed in another Avengers film that the “adult” Avengers poke fun at Tom Holland’s Spiderman for talking too much while he’s fighting. But I think we like that. Imagine the Wakanda battlefield portion of the film without such banter, no Chris (Cap’n) x Chris (Thor) beard exchange, no Bruce Banner verbalizing his self-loathing (Well. That one I could’ve done without). I don’t know. With your expectations adjusted, there is very little to hate unless as a rule big explosions, large-scale fight scenes, and inane dialogue gives you migraines.
In spite of all the death and love it throws at us, this film isn’t actually aiming at profundity so much as its trying to sprinkle some flakes of it into the mix. Mostly its watered down allegories and rock-hard binaries of good and evil that our heroes can latch onto for a semblance of character development. Josh Brolin’s Thanos is complex and is the best acting performance of the entire cast. But giving Marvel credit for crunching in a feature-film’s length worth of backstory into remote scenes is hardly cause for applause, so much as a needed transition into something slightly more difficult (a villain with a motive aside from I am superior, down with humanity!). Nevertheless, I’m not wanting for the sort of ambiguity that would spoil the well-established binaries of the MCU. I believe it would ruin the fun. It’s also pointless to bemoan the “Marvel morality” that would’ve ultimately cut the movie short or required some additional creativity. For instance, Chris Pratt’s Star Lord is so furious about Gamorrah’s death that, mere seconds from successfully removing Thanos’ “infinity glove” or what have you, Star Lord sabotages the attack because…he needs to punch Thanos in the head. On Earth, there is absolutely no question about sacrificing the infinity stone wielding Vision for the sake of well, humanity. Isn’t Vision just a robot? I suppose that is another lazy philosophical question that was probably solved years ago in I, Robot. Both cases demonstrate a bizarre absence of practical reason; instead what we get is a melodramatic heroic imperative premised on a sentimental-to-a-fault justice.
It doesn’t really matter that these decisions make sense. I’d even say its useful to disregard the plot holes and unbelievable irrational behaviors. Audiences continue to come back for more, in spite of Marvel’s obvious formulaic nature. And yet ultimately, I find it’s a lazy conclusion to say that this is merely because people like repackaged junk (ah, the inevitable fast food comparison). I don’t think we go to see something like The Avengers because we’re hoping to be ravaged by awesomeness, as in the The Dark Knight. There’s a discrete pleasure in seeing an ensemble film with so many characters you recognize and whose attributes and personalities are either embedded in culture, plainly obvious (Captain America), or accessible whether or not you’ve seen the precursor films. The actors themselves shed their old skins and fully embrace their alter egos (sometimes only slightly altered versions of the original) because these are the versions that audiences actually care about, the only ones we really know to be true. Isn’t there an obvious extension of personality from the public persona of Chris Pratt or Benedict Cumberbatch to the characters they play, as if their identities are being simultaneously inflated to mythic proportions but also reduced to the manageable fandom proportions of the MCU? Putting all of them into an ever-expanding and interconnected world and then allowing them to sometimes lose, to suffer tragedy, to fuck up– we might as well be watching the best reality show ever.