By Other Voices voices@moviecitynews.com

If Manipulative Marketing Keeps Making Money… Why Stop Making Bad Movies?

I recently sat through over two hours of cheesy one-liners, and I’m left wondering whether the 92% favorable rating given to The Avengers by critics on Rotten Tomatoes means they’re all on the studio’s payroll or just didn’t think critically enough. I’m also beyond confused as to why Marvel didn’t hire Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnson or Louis Leterrier – or indeed any director with the genuine talent to tell a story. Joss Whedon has no credibility for this project, and was clearly out of his depth. What a waste – of the studio’s money, and of mine as a frequent moviegoer and shareholder. To mention nothing of the minds of Americans, which this movie will help to further dumb down into thinking that hype and CGI make a “good story” despite grossing $200M opening weekend. But unlike other consumer products, smarter moviegoers can’t “return” their viewing of this movie for a refund.

Let’s begin with the script, which is appallingly low-minded. Even a fast-paced comic- book-hero action movie can and should contain thoughtful, character-revealing dialogue (dialogue meaning more than two sentences per utterance, at least now and then!).    It becomes quickly impossible to care at all about any of these once-special characters, each of whom is reduced to sheer flatness.

Nor is there any discernable armature (moral) – just a vague sense that the movie is flogging to death the platitude of how awesome America is because it’s full of rag-tag teams of really special, gifted people who are destined to save the world from some nebulous evil. The entire plot is, in fact, disconnected and rambling. On the one hand, the movie makes the sweeping assumption that every moviegoer will already know the backstory of the characters (It opens with Loki arriving and being introduced as Loki. End of introduction.) Why not set up each character (as well as the concept of S.H.I.E.L.D) in a way that ties all the prior movies together into this one? But regardless of the lack of backstory and context-setting, the plot is full of outrageously intelligence- insulting turns that are devoid of both logic and human (or superhero) authenticity. Loki plans to use the Hulk against the group – because in a convenient up-ending of logical continuity, the Hulk’s first rage in this movie will be unleashed on anyone and anything around him and be unable to distinguish his friends and enemies. The Black Widow announces that apparently, a blow to the head is sufficient to clear Loki’s magical mind- controlling energy zaps. Loki opens a hole in the sky and randomly brings in Transformers-esque aliens to help him in his feebly articulated quest to “free Earth from freedom”.

Kudos to critics like A. O. Scott for telling the truth about this movie and Whedon’s failed vision for The Avengers. Just because people spend their money on something hotly anticipated doesn’t mean it’s good. This movie is a crass manipulation of people to cough up money to cover the studio’s ill-spent investment, and you can keep doing this because moviegoers are not entitled to demand a refund for the waste of two hours of their life. Nor, can they take you to court over product misrepresentation through trailers that set a tone of quality that the feature film doesn’t even begin to reach. Clearly, it’s time for that kind of consumer protection in the movie industry, because failing that it seems unlikely that studios will actually take responsibility for the egregious waste of resources that goes into churning out mediocre movies like The Avengers, let alone the outright duplicity of packaging it as something worthwhile and meaningful.

4 Responses to “If Manipulative Marketing Keeps Making Money… Why Stop Making Bad Movies?”

  1. Dewey says:

    Somebody call the WAAAAAAHmbulance.

  2. Think says:

    Is this The Onion?

  3. Alex McCaffrey says:

    I humbly disagree with most of your critique. Here are some bullets:

    *Setting up each character would take forever. You thought it was long as is, try adding another hour of establishing scenes. People who went to see this are fans. Period.

    *Its a free country, you don’t need to “cough up” any money if you have no interest in seeing it. Also, it never insulted my intelligence. Its a comic book movie. Suspension of belief is a given. Did you come out of Superman going “I’m not sure that spinning the world backwards thing is scientifically sound”. No one is trying to insult you. We like you. Its alright.

    *Demanding a refund for something is just bad form and embarrassing. Ill spent investment? It had box office receipts of over $200 million on opening weekend plus Thursday. Sounds like they are going to get a good ROI to me.

    *Taste is a subjective thing. General acceptance does not always equate to quality, but the stats on the opening weekend are insane. 50% of the audiance was over 25, 40% were women. Best open ever by a significant margin. This is a widely appealing and entertaining two hours. Slow out of the gate, but really delivered after that.

    *The CGI was used to enhance at just the right points. It was not a crutch like in some other movies. I believe it was well executed.

    I give it a B+ overall; it was refreshingly likable. Joss Whedon is the man BTW, with great nerdcred. Louis Leterrier, for real? After what I consider a failed Hulk and the disappointing Clash of the Titans, I wouldn’t let him sit for my dog. Something to consider.

  4. Kate Erbland says:

    It appears this anonymous letter was sent to a number of sites (we received it at FSR in our editors’ box), and it actually seemed too boring and off-base to publish. Not liking a film is obviously fine, but what exactly is the point of this?

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DEADLINE: How does a visualist feel about people watching your films on a phone or VOD?
REFN: It depends on what kind of movie you make. We had great success with Only God Forgives on multiple platforms in the U.S. Young people will decide how they see it, when they want to see it. Don’t try to fight it. Embrace it. That’s a wonderful opportunity. We’re at the most exciting time since the invention of the wheel, in terms of creativity because distribution and accessibility have changed everything. A camera is still a camera whether it’s digital or not; there’s still sound; an actor is an actor. Ninety-nine percent of what you do is going to be seen on a smart phone – I know this is the greatest thing ever made because it allows people to choose, watching what you do on this format or go into a theater and see it on a screen. That means more people than ever will see what I do, which is personally satisfying in terms of vanity. But you have to be able to adapt, to accept things in different order and length than we’re used to. We are in a very, very exciting time.
~ Nic Refn to Jen Yamato

DEADLINE: You mention Tarantino, who with Christopher Nolan and a few other giants, saved film stock from extinction. To him, showing a digital film in a theater is the equivalent of watching TV in public. Make an argument for why digital is a good film making canvas.
REFN: Costwise, it’s a very effective way for young people to start making movies. You can make your movie on an iPhone. It’s wonderful seeing how my own children use technology to enhance creativity. For me it’s a wonderful canvas. Sure, I love grain in film. I love celluloid. But I also like creativity. I like crayons, I like pencils, I like paint. It’s all relative. Technology is more inclusive. A hundred years ago when film was invented, it was an elitist club. Very few people got to make it, very few people controlled it and very few people owned it. A hundred years later, storytelling through images is everyone’s domain. It’s ultimate capitalism. There are no rules, and no barriers and no Hays Code. Where does this go in another hundred years? I don’t know but I would love to see it.
~ Nic Refn To Jen Yamato