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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“A shot is a story. A shot on its own should be a piece of a story. Which is why I talk a lot about watching films, even the films we’re working on, with the sound off. Just to analyze how the film works, because a film should work for an audience without any sound. The biggest problem I see is that someone may have a superficial understanding of what a shot is propositionally, but they don’t have an understanding of how all of these shots are part of a family that needs to connect, and so you’ll get something that’s like a sentence arranged poorly with six nouns in a row. That surprises me, because I think that’s something that can be learned. Some things can’t be, but that can. It’s a grammar. In a classroom I could walk somebody through the difference between a sequence in which the filmmaker has a deep understanding of how images connect, and someone who doesn’t. It’s not really an intellectual process. Some people are just born with it and are just sort of savants at that deep mathematical understanding of shot construction.  I’m better than I used to be, but there are some people I’m just never going to catch. Spielberg. His staging ability. I’m never going to catch him. But when you’re trying to figure out how to get better—I’m not competitive in the sense of looking around at other filmmakers and comparing myself to them. What I do have to think about in trying to navigate myself through a career is: what can I get better at, and what do I have that I can enhance that somebody else doesn’t have?”
~ Steven Soderbergh

“It’s not going to be huge. He and I had been corresponding for a while. When I finally met him, he said, ‘We should collaborate.’ When John Ashbery says that to you, you don’t say when, you just say yes. It has not been easy to conjure this out of nothing. Sean Price Williams and I spent time with him, and it will appear on FilmStruck before the year is out…. I have figured out how to streamline things. I still have dreams of making movies with bigger budgets, and they might be considered to have more of a voice in pop culture. I don’t want to let go of that. I also realize that you grow up a lot of your life with wishful thinking and waiting. I have figured out ways to avoid doing that. I am working on a bigger movie about Nikola Tesla, set in the past, so it is not an easy film to make. I am also working on an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s ‘White Noise.’ That seems more likely to catch fire.”
Michael Almereyda Steps It Up