My top 20 Comic Book films-16-The Avengers

I did my top 20 horror and SF films last year, and found doing the lists to be more fun than expected, so in a massive bit of logic here’s my top 20 films adapted or inspired from comics. I need to point out I mean comics, not ‘superhero comics’ which is a lazy, and incorrect way to describe a wonderfully varied medium and it’d also cut out some bloody good films!

Previously, in this list at #20, X Men19The Crow18Heavy Metal and 17, Spider Man.

At 16, it’s the film version of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s The Avengers, or Avengers Assemble as it’s known here in the UK in order so people don’t confuse it with Steed and Mrs Peel….

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The Avengers is Marvel’s big finish for their Phase One series of films that started four years earlier with Iron Man, and after a series of films of varying quality ended up in this big, ridiculous mess of a film that’s utterly and totally nonsense but ends up being huge fun even if the plot is dreadful and at times the entire thing nearly falls apart.

What holds it together is the ensemble cast headed up by Robert Downey Jr, Samuel L Jackson, and a fantastic turn by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.  Of course the rest of the cast do their jobs well, especially Chris Evans as Captain America (who really could be a pointless character if played for laughs) and Tom Hiddleston as the panto dame which is what the cinematic Loki has become very, very quickly.

Forget about the patchy opening. The long, dreary section in the middle made up of people talking that annoyingly too aware Joss Whedon tends to do far too much for my liking, but Whedon is clever in that he realises the entire idea is pantomime, and anyhow, all people have paid for is a MASSIVE FIGHT SCENE, which is ultimately what Act Three is. One. Giant. Fight. Scene.

If I was 12 or 13, The Avengers would be the best film I’d ever seen in my life. It’s a big porridge of superhero action, with a few good performances thrown in and it’s fun. However looking at some of the deleted scenes it seems it could have been ‘darker’ (which in superhero comics terms means ‘adult’ but it isn’t)  but instead Whedon keeps the tone right and ignoring the rubbish pacing, the paper thin characters, the truly rubbish baddies you have a pretty good superhero film, though because it’s part of Marvel’s ongoing cinematic universe, it also feels like another stepping block to the next film. That’s a weakness of many of the Marvel films, but taking all this aside The Avengers is fun. It’s not art. It’s not the best film ever made. It’s not even the best Marvel based film made. It is however a good waste of time.

It also has Scarlett Johansson’s arse. I’ll be returning to that later on in this series.

Next time, it gets dangerous and sexy….

 

A Quiet Friday Night in with Agents of SHIELD and the IT Crowd….

I was supposed to do a lot yesterday, but from virtually the moment I woke up every single thing I’d intended to do went horribly wrong, so I decided to play it safe and stay in just in case I inadvertently sparked a nuclear war by buying the wrong type of beans.

So that meant I could watch Channel 4 and their double bill of Agents of SHIELD, sorry MARVEL’S Agent’s of SHIELD (Got to get that brand name everywhere) and the final episode of The IT Crowd, a programme I’ve often loved and at the same time thought horribly pandering and a wasted opportunity, though when I saw the Big Bang Theory I realised that this sort of ”geek humour’ can be even more pandering, not to mention smug than the worst excesses of the IT Crowd. That’s not to say that fan service (which is pandering) isn’t always bad or indeed, isn’t sometimes fun, but building everything around it can be a problem.

I settled down at 8pm to watch Agents of SHIELD which Channel 4 had been trailing to death over the last few weeks. The trailer didn’t especially look interesting as it featured mainly good looking white people with extraordinary teeth smugly cracking onto each other.

It looked interesting enough though, and leaving aside the moral arguments for not watching Marvel product because of how it exploits the original creators, especially Jack Kirby and his family, I decided it was worth a look. Now I’ve enjoyed most of the Marvel films. They’re not high works of art, but they are good solid blockbusters, though I do have problems with Joss Whedon who tends to write enjoyable fluff, but has virtually all his characters coming out with smug one-liners far too often to the point where I find Wheedon’s work often painfully unwatchable.

That said, I watched Agents of SHIELD expecting an enjoyable bit of fluff at worst, but ended up being bored rigid by the first of many ad breaks Channel 4 crammed into an hour.I mentioned how smug I found Wheedon’s work, and Agents of SHIELD is oh so very, very smug which I suppose is to hide the thin plot, the amazingly glossy actors starring in it, the embarrassingly bad and cliched characters like the ‘geeky, young but brilliant  technical expert’ or the ‘geeky, young but brilliant medical doctor’, or the ‘hard nosed but brilliant field operative’ or the ‘hard nosed hacker living in a van who looks astonishingly glamorous’. There’s the problem with a lot of American telly (there are obviously notable exceptions) in that it doesn’t do ugly, or rough or realistic at all, not that I’d expect too much of that in what is essentially a kids, or family telly programme.

The other problem with the programme is that it’s basically a more glossy version of Torchwood, but without the unintentional campness, kebabs and spunk monsters. I never thought I’d see a programme actually worse than that first series of Torchwood, but I have. Agents of SHIELD is well made, looks good, and was in places nearly enjoyable but unless you’re a diehard fan of the Marvel films there’s nothing else there. If you want to spend your time and possibly your money doing something better, go watch Torchwood: Children of Earth and give money to the Kirby4Heroes campaign.

After Agents of SHIELD I was left with a lingering ennui that made me want to drink that bottle of gin I’ve got sitting around for miserable occasions, but fuck it, I wanted to see if The IT Crowd could perform for me, and although I had low, very low, expectations it not only cheered me up, but made me reconsider my entire opinion of the programme overall. Simply put, the final episode is a perfect bit of comedy not to mention a cruelly effective satire of modern society. I won’t say much as there’s so many perfectly timed gags that any would be ruined by just saying anything but it skewers targets like Anonymous and Youtube review videos to such a painfully accurate degree that you’ll want to watch the episode again, or in my case, sheepishly go back to watch the previous four series again and change my opinion of not only the programme, but of Graham Linehan as a writer.

All I’ll leave you with in regards to the IT Crowd is that you’ll want to wear women’s slacks afterwards.

That was my Friday night. The IT Crowd made up for the soggy foul aftertaste of Agents of SHIELD, and although I’m sure the latter programme will continue to be a huge expense it’s probably in spite of itself. Right now I’m off to rewatch the first series of the IT Crowd and offer my cringing apologies to Graham Linehan for doubting his abilities.