Armagideon Time

ambulance MY FACE IS OVER HERE.” src=”http://armagideon-time.com/img/120504/0504a.jpg” alt=”” width=”451″ height=”331″ />

I won’t be seeing The Avengers this weekend.

Not because I hate fun. Not because of the creators’ rights issue. Not because I already promised the wife I’d clean the front room.

I won’t be seeing The Avengers because I don’t see the logic behind spending fifteen bucks and three hours on an experience I can already extrapolate from the previous struts of the franchise’s tentpole. Oh, sure, my hypothetical version may have some of the banal one-liners mixed up or assume the giant explodo-thingee at the climax will make a “CRASHABOOM” sound instead of “SMASHAKRAKOWIEE” effect, but I’m pretty confident that the actual beats will closely match the imagined ones.

Here’s where everyone laughs at some “witty” bit of trash talk. Here’s where some CGI monstrosity barrels down the Uncanny Valley. And here’s where everyone fidgets through the end credits for the pseudo-surprise commercial for the inevitable sequel.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the feeder films leading up to the big event. I’m not immune to the charms of big dumb spectacles, especially where they intersect longstanding points of interest. Yet it was pretty clear by the time Captain America rolled around that the process of content generation had settled into a predictable and profitable formula. That plug ‘n’ play aspect is ideal from a production standpoint; a reliable recipie for success is the Holy Grail of studio execs — especially when dealing on the blockbuster level of budgetary scales. From my perspective as an end-user, however, the sense of diminishing returns has set in with a vengeance.

Chalk it up to having a PSYOPS vet for a father or just a general sense of surliness, but there are few things I despise more than being blatantly pandered to by some agency or form of entertainment. It’s greasy and gross and presumes familarity that it hasn’t earned or been granted.

“We know you’ll lllluuurrrrrrrve it! It has that thing that you have fond memories of in it!” Fuck that noise. I don’t drop trousers for every Slick Willie who promises to massage my nostalgia or fandom cortexes. In fact, I resent the assumption that I could be so easily bought — or, in the case of the contemporary model of fandom, induced to buy.

That may reek of cynicism, but so does a big-budget cinematic juggernaut ruthlessly tailored to maximize licensed revenue streams for a massive entertainment conglomerate. That doesn’t preclude an entertaining experience, but it does color my impression of it.

Whether it excites you or not isn’t my call. I don’t really give a shit either way. Conversely, my lack of enthusiasm shouldn’t be interpreted as litmus test for my geek credentials. If someone told me going in that loving stupid shit would eventually require playing an unpaid cheerleader for media combines, I’d have found another hobby.

I’m a dedicated functionalist where my entertainment is concerned. If it moves me, it moves me. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Sources only matter when they intersect non-negotiable matters of ethics. While there are some serious ethical issues surrounding The Avengers, the real dealbreaker was that it just doesn’t interest me.

(Panels taken from Avengers #252, an issue which presents the platonic ideal of what the franchise means to me. If Disney gets around to making a film which reflects that, I’d be more than willing to reconsider my stance.)

Recommended listening: The notes may change but the song remains the same.

Related posts:

  1. Let’s go places
  2. Every Record Tells a Story #36: From nowhere places

14 Responses to “Got backup vocals in just the right places”

  1. ScienceGiant

    Sounds like someone else I just read: Roger Ebert. “These films are all more or less similar, and “The Avengers” gives us much, much more of the same. There must be a threat. The heroes must be enlisted. The villain must be dramatized. Some personality defects are probed. And then the last hour or so consists of special effects in which large mechanical objects engage in combat that results in deafening crashes and explosions and great balls of fire…. “The Avengers” is done well by Joss Whedon, with style and energy. It provides its fans with exactly what they desire. Whether it is exactly what they deserve is arguable.”
    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120502/REVIEWS/120509997

    But when it gets painted in those terms, I have to wonder how Hollywood can so badly f*ck up adapting the four colored funnybook? “Spider-Man” needs a reboot already?

    Or just screwing up sci-fi in general. They had a hundred years to make “John Carter of Mars.” And I didn’t see it. Because as you pointed out, it didn’t interest me. At no point did I say to myself, HOLY SHITISH! CIVIL WAR ERA SOLDIER FIGHTING ALIENS! THIS I MUST WATCH!

  2. Aberration, The

    Still, that’s not much different from comic book franchising:

    “If the book is successful, there must be as many offshoot titles as the market will bear. The cover of every issue must promise a death or that ‘everything will change forever’ and usually depict an event that does not occur in the story. The villain presents a threat, monologuing floridly. The heroes fight viciously among themselves over some silly misunderstanding upon first meeting, then unite seamlessly against the foe; the exception being that one hero may appear to betray his fellows, only to be faking said betrayal to turn the tables on the villain. The character who most appears to be utterly useless must be the key to victory. There must be a ‘current topic’ weaved clumsily into the conflict, and everyone will discuss it in a manner that would embarrass a fourteen-year-old emo. Three of the last four pages should be an eye-stinging splay of fistpunch, zapray, and sound effects. The average reader is assumed to be a sociopath; civilians should die horribly and graphically at every opportunity for his masturbatory gratification. Heroes should die as often as feasible; survivors should somberly jape afterwards that the fallen heroes/villains ‘will come back, (we/they) always do.’ The graphicness and dignity of the hero’s death may vary according to the hero’s race and gender; heroines may plead for mercy or have their throats slashed; male heroes will generally die in a badass explosion after some manly parting words. Flavor-of-the-Month popular artists must be allowed to reshape a decades-established franchise to their whim, then run it into the ground and leave as they grow bored with it. Annual ‘events’ may double as in-house pissing contests, but their primary purpose is to attempt to patch up the disastrous mistakes of the previous year while making new ones.”

    …Okay, yeah, that’s a bit much. A LOT much. The point remains: movies, TV, or comics, it’s always about formula, followed religiously until it becomes stale, after which the game is changed up, creating another formula. Repeat for one hundred issues, if lucky, then kill half the cast and end the title for the sake of a new franchise.

    But I get your point. I enjoyed both Iron Man movies; I still haven’t watched The Incredible Hulk, Thor, or Captain America: The First Avenger. I am excited for The Avengers, but I’m not expecting Pride and Prejudice and am laughing out loud at the ridiculously high current Tomatometer rating.

    Still, this movie really isn’t for us aging comic-book nerds, no more than the first Star Wars movie was for serious science-fiction fans. It’s okay that we can see that Avatar is just a pseudo-sci-fi knockoff of Dances With Wolves or Pocahontas; it’s not for us, it’s for the next generation, who will probably never watch Dances With Wolves (let alone read it).

    I’m approaching the big-five-oh. What a drag it is getting old! There are cartoons on TV that are starting to outpace my processors and Team Fortress 2 gameplay just looks like a chaotic mess to me. I find the rare treasures I upload occasionally are picked up almost exclusively by people my own age or young nerds who find stuff from the ’70s as primitively fascinating as I found the Golden Age reprints from the ’40s and ’50s back in the ’70s. Whether it’s simple aging or the fact that every generation represents a rest area off the evolutionary highway (or the Abe Simpson Combo Platter), I suppose if I stepped out of a time machine two hundred years hence, my head would spontaneously boil away into vapor from sensory overload.

    Let the babies have their bottle; we’ll always have Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. Well, for as long as the eyes hold out.

  3. minkubus

    “the process of content generation had settled into a predictable and profitable formula.”

    Sorta like all the comics that this film is based on. Art imitates art.

  4. minkubus

    Okay, also:
    “here are few things I despise more than being blatantly pandered to by some agency or form of entertainment.”

    Yeah, that pretty much excludes anything with Josh Whedon’s fingerprints all over it, huh.

  5. bitterandrew

    See also: 90% of Adult Swim programming, various “geek” comedians, Tee Fury, Big Bang Theory, the Cult of Awesome…

  6. De

    I liked the film (mostly), but the level of sycophantic insanity it’s generating in pop culture circles is both saddening and frightening.

  7. David Thiel

    Honestly, I don’t think attending (or even enjoying) a movie makes one an unpaid cheerleader for a media combine. Is this a ruthlessly tailored product of licensing, or is it a bunch of fanboys turned executives offered the chance to finally do the big superhero team-up that’s been the mainstay of the four-color pages all the way back to All-Star Comics? Probably a bit of both.

    But is it fun? Yep. I’m not sure what else it needs to be.

    (And the post-credits scene is not a commercial for the next installment, for what that’s worth.)

  8. bitterandrew

    What about directing insane vituperation at critics who give it okay — not terrible, not so-so — reviews?

    Or accusing folks who aren’t interested in the film of being haters who hate fun?

    And, no, Disney would not commit a quarter of a billion dollars to a fanboy’s childhood dream and trust that the action figures and bedsheets would sell themselves…unless said fanboy was the Prince of Pixar and they’re not going to repeat that mistake anytime soon.

    “Retailers have been less tolerant with IP films, so we decided that if we started on this coordinated strategy several years ago, retailers would give us shelf space throughout the years and we would have a more sustainable position in the marketplace.”

    That’s straight from a Marvel marketing exec.

    A post-credits sequence (yes, I know there were two) which hints at a Bigger Bad waiting in the wings is, by tantalising audiences with the prospect of a sequel, an advertisement.

    Again, I am not saying the film can’t be enjoyable because of this. I’m saying that I can’t enjoy it because of this and there’s a distinction between being given something and being enticed to buy something.

  9. d

    Thanks Andrew. I get tired of feeling like the only lover of Silver/Bronze Age comics who doesn’t want to see a movie featuring a bunch of big explosions and some actors dressed in costumes vaguely similar to some characters I used to read about.

  10. GeoX

    Interesting post. I don’t actually read superhero comics, but I enjoy your posts on the subject as an outsider looking in. However, for whatever reason, I HAVE seen all of the movies in this here Marvel series, and I’ll probably see this one in a few weeks when the crowds have died down a bit. I should note that I don’t really see very many blockbuster-type movies, but occasionally I feel like I should participate in American rituals like this, and the Marvel movies have been reliably splashy and not as dumb as they easily could be (a relative judgment, of course). I can understand why this sort of thing would rub you the wrong way; it’s undeniably a cynical enterprise. I enjoy seeing one or two movies like this a year, but more than that and they’d quickly wear out their welcome for me.

    I do wonder, though: how far does this extend for you? Are there ANY large-scale summery movies that you’d enjoy these days? I mean, with maybe the exception of Pixar movies that aren’t Cars 2, it’s hard for me to think of any that–whatever positive qualities they might have–don’t nonetheless exude some degree of cynical calculation–maybe not quite as egregiously as The Avengers, but I feel like it’s sort of built into our popular culture, and especially popular culture that HAS to be super-popular to recoup production costs. Is the only solution to avoid all such things altogether? I don’t know.

  11. bitterandrew

    I am 6′ 3″ with damaged knees (scooter accident, 1986) and a bony ass, so parking myself in a multiplex seat for two-plus hours is an ordeal, period.

    I liked the Star Trek relaunch quite a bit and had plans to see Captain America in the theater until my wife snapped her ankle on the derby track the night before. I also saw all three LOTR films on the big screen, too.

    Mostly I wait for things to trickle down to cable or Netflix or a DVD I can borrow from my little brother. I watched The Day After Tomorrow recently on FXM…and while it wasn’t good, I didn’t change the channel, either.

  12. Prankster

    For what it’s worth, I thought the Avengers was a major improvement on most of the (indeed formulaic) Marvel Studios movies to date, though the first half of Captain America challenges it. It is a big dumb (well, sub-middlebrow) blockbuster, but it’s made with a level of care and investment that was missing from the likes of Iron Man 2, which was a particularly shameless advertisement for the meta-franchise. It actually accomplishes a level of “gosh, that was brainless but fun” that ought to be the standard for blockbusters but so rarely is these days–the action is coherent, the characters pop (more so than in their respective franchises, in some cases) and there’s an organic progression to the story, for the most part. It’s not a revelation or anything, and Whedon definitely missed an opportunity to say something a little more significant–particularly via Captain America, whose storyline hints at greater depths but doesn’t really go there–but I walked out of it feeling legitimately entertained rather than having fulfilled some kind of geek obligation.

  13. David Thiel

    “What about directing insane vituperation at critics who give it okay — not terrible, not so-so — reviews?”

    “Or accusing folks who aren’t interested in the film of being haters who hate fun?”

    Sure, people can be assholes when people don’t like the things they like as much as they like them. I was just questioning the assertion that “loving stupid shit would eventually require playing an unpaid cheerleader for media combines.” I don’t think that’s at all an inevitable outcome.

    “And, no, Disney would not commit a quarter of a billion dollars to a fanboy’s childhood dream and trust that the action figures and bedsheets would sell themselves…unless said fanboy was the Prince of Pixar and they’re not going to repeat that mistake anytime soon.”

    Strictly speaking, the idea of an interlocking film franchise predates Disney’s involvement by a good four years. And I’m not arguing that it isn’t intended to be a marketing machine. If that’s the litmus test, then we might as well dismiss a vast number of pop cultural artifacts over the past century. I’m just saying that it can be a marketing machine *and* a fanboy passion project. And fun.

    “A post-credits sequence (yes, I know there were two) which hints at a Bigger Bad waiting in the wings is, by tantalising audiences with the prospect of a sequel, an advertisement.”

    I was referring to the second one, which–unlike the Big Bad reveal–actually does appear post-credits. It struck me as exactly the sort of quiet character moment you seemed to want.

    “Again, I am not saying the film can’t be enjoyable because of this. I’m saying that I can’t enjoy it because of this and there’s a distinction between being given something and being enticed to buy something.”

    I’m not going to try to convince you that you ought to see it, or that you’re a bad person for not being interested. I personally don’t care a lick about “The Hunger Games,” even though by most accounts both book and movie are pretty good. I’m just not seeing the distinction between this film and a hundred other would-be blockbusters/media franchises…aside from this one being better than most.

  14. David Thiel

    A postscript: As a DC fan, I could only wish that Warner had their act together as much as the Marvel folks do. That upcoming Superman film looks utterly misguided. But what do I know? I hated “The Dark Knight.”

Proudly powered by WordPress. Theme developed with WordPress Theme Generator.
Copyright © Armagideon Time. All rights reserved.