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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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“Chad Harbach spent ten years writing his novel. It was his avocation, for which he was paid nothing, with no guarantee he’d ever be paid anything, while he supported himself doing freelance work, for which I don’t think he ever made $30,000 a year. I sold his book for an advance that equated to $65,000 a year—before taxes and commission—for each of the years of work he’d put in. The law schools in this country churn out first-year associates at white-shoe firms that pay them $250,000 a year, when they’re twenty-five years of age, to sit at a desk doing meaningless bullshit to grease the wheels of the corporatocracy, and people get upset about an excellent author getting $65,000 a year? Give me a fucking break.”
~ Book Agent Chris Parris-Lamb On The State Of The Publishing Industry

INTERVIEWER
Do you think this anxiety of yours has something to do with being a woman? Do you have to work harder than a male writer, just to create work that isn’t dismissed as being “for women”? Is there a difference between male and female writing?

FERRANTE
I’ll answer with my own story. As a girl—twelve, thirteen years old—I was absolutely certain that a good book had to have a man as its hero, and that depressed me. That phase ended after a couple of years. At fifteen I began to write stories about brave girls who were in serious trouble. But the idea remained—indeed, it grew stronger—that the greatest narrators were men and that one had to learn to narrate like them. I devoured books at that age, and there’s no getting around it, my models were masculine. So even when I wrote stories about girls, I wanted to give the heroine a wealth of experiences, a freedom, a determination that I tried to imitate from the great novels written by men. I didn’t want to write like Madame de La Fayette or Jane Austen or the Brontës—at the time I knew very little about contemporary literature—but like Defoe or Fielding or Flaubert or Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky or even Hugo. While the models offered by women novelists were few and seemed to me for the most part thin, those of male novelists were numerous and almost always dazzling. That phase lasted a long time, until I was in my early twenties, and it left profound effects.
~ Elena Ferrante, Paris Review Art Of Fiction No. 228

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