Sunday, 1 June 2014

The Avengers 4: Fuck off Marvel

Patient Zero
If there's any word cluster in films at the moment that I hate more than  "Seth Rogen Vehicle" or "Shaky Cam Possession Film" it's got to be "Marvel Cinematic Universe." This utterly loathsome phrase takes absolutely everything that's terrible about comics and packages them into flashy 2 hour, easily digested parcels that can be regurgitated at will by avid superhero film fans. I hate them because they are enablers, bequeathing fans with the ability to splutter ceaselessly on about how it's so awesome that so-and-so is going to be in Avengers 5 because of these incredibly clever hints in this litany of dross that you have to be a true fan to "appreciate".

I have to hand it to Marvel though, the first bunch of these films were a fun experiment. They linked all of those average but enjoyable enough primary films together through Fury's predictable - nay - surprising appearance in a post/pre/mid-credits sequence, and then delivered The Avengers or Avengers Assemble or Five Guys and a Token Broad or whatever the parlance is where you live. It was a snappy, competent action flick, helmed by someone (Whedon) who's deftly managed to link the best bits of comics in with the best bits of pop-culture to make films and TV shows that are full of heart and wit (and that he totally bested with a low-key black budget Shakespeare flick almost immediately after the big A) and who knows how to make an enjoyable film. And Avengers: Age of Ultron will probably be another throwaway, and enjoyable film. But due to the immense amount of bullshit that it carries with it, it and Marvel, can just fuck off.

Comics are frequently vulgar and always dumb masked as clever. Continuums and timelines stretch into infinity and are so twisted that the only way to make anything vaguely redeeming is to generally ignore all of the canonical timelines and just have neat little nods here and there, something that All-Star Superman did with aplomb, and that Grant Morrison has essentially made a full time career out of. Overtly and coyly referencing big comic events in a smart way in one-shot series is great, it turns the arduous slog of the timeline unpicking into a little game of nods and winks, something Marvel are apparently entirely unaware of as it requires perhaps a little bit of nuance and humour. Instead they are intent on bringing the terrible nature of 'Marvel Comic Events' to the big screen - words intoned under people's breathes as they know that they are both kinda cool and desperately awful. Ideas and glimmers of drama are crushed under the weight of years of story lines, character deaths/rebirths and the ephemeral nature of the Marvel multiverse, where characters are shuffled around and presumably tracked on cork boards full of red string and photos highlighted with scruffy circles and tart question marks.

"And this is how we prove that Thanos needs MacGuffin X and Y to attain Power Z, also I believe it is absolute proof of a gritty Howard the Duck remake."
The intertextual clustercuss was bound to happen after the Spider-man and X-Men franchises reached critical mass and both subsequently imploding with self-aggrandising third features, despite initially being helmed by competent directors, scared away or messed around with to the point of nonsense. Now Maguire Spidey is dead and gone, only the X-Men rise, like a bunch of Jean Greys from the ashes, to diddle with their own timeline in a way that's begrudgingly acceptable if only because Singer laid decent core groundwork, the writers appear to actually get what's neat about the comics, and the casting for the bunch of bizarre freaks and geeks continues to be fairly inspired.  But Big Marvel across the plains is lumbering towards endless chaos in the guise of Ultron, who is A Bad thing, and then also Thanos who is A Badder Thing *citation needed* who needs a lot of MacGuffins to be truly bad, or at least bad enough for his own film, the inevitable climactic Avengers 3 (with credit teaser for Avengers 4 timeline after the tragic death of, well it'll be Black Widow right? Comics, Women, Fridges, etc)

I have time for these 4 pals.
The whole problem with it all essentially boils down to the homogenised safeness of all of these films and the fact that they are in the grand scheme of things simply expositional nonsense that is prevented from getting to the flaky meat of a comic book story. Superhero films are rarely high art, nor are they ever really the high-end of low art, and they should be safe to admit that, instead they're bankrolling themselves into an awful event horizon of infinite, drawn out crossover horseshit that's set to dominate our screens for the next decade or century, only gifting us the occasional X-Men to the inevitably endless Captain America, Thor and Iron Man save the world via dazzling white-male-muscle-man-nip-slips-cum-cgi-cringe-fest, relegated consistently to B-directors and script writers struggling to make a film that fits the Marvel template, the crushing inevitability of "continuity" and also some sense of novelty and fun.

It is utterly true that in some board room somewhere, Marvel execs have sat baffled at the prospect of a film that stars a loser hero, a fully clothed green lady, a gun wielding raccoon with a fucking talking tree sidekick and a psychotic tower of muscle, and have simply decided to eschew it from the "Cinematic Universe" because it's the kind of gleefully fucked up madness that enshrines everything that comics do so brilliantly: fun, absurdity, nonsenses, the good stuff.

Look at him. Such a pal.
Except no, that never happened. Instead they managed to work out that it can have fucking Thanos in it, and the entire film will probably be another MacGuffin hunt. The suits rest easy, as they can monetise the franchise link to establish core fans that will buy into sequential investments in their intellectual property products and in turn fuel revenue to build enthusiasm for future franchise convergence events. Fuck, it's hard to have hope in Guardians of the Galaxy with all that interminable horseshit behind it.

The gleeful abandon of Raimi's webslinger has been ejected out into deep cinematic space, and Singer's X-Men are only just keeping their head above water due to their sectarian attitudes to the church of Marvel, and Singer's capability behind the camera as evinced by the Blink/Quicksilver sequences of Days of Future Past, set pieces more worthy of cinema admission than any of the Avengers stable have offered over the course of 9 films. Whilst there's still a glimmer of hope that Marvel will greenlight the occasional diamond in the rough, I grow increasingly despondent. I'm resigned to being a product of my age, but I wish I could be a product in a slightly more graceful way, and I'm furious at Marvel for robbing me of my childhood desire to see iconic figures on the screen in anything other than a product driven mess of self worshipping wank.

Fucking hell Marvel, just fuck off.

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