October 13th, 2011
And while we’re on the subject of porn . . .
So how ’bout that Avengers trailer? I want to love this movie six ways ’til Sunday. Whedon, Avengers, comic books, Downey. Throw in Tricia Helfer and you’ve got a product custom made to tickle all of my erogenous zones.
But the trailer leaves me a little cold, for three reasons. In ascending order of importance:
1) I liked Captain America: The First Avenger and thought it got lots of fundamental stuff about the character very right. The only places it really faltered was in the action. And the reason I think it didn’t nail the action sequences is because it misunderstood the most interesting aspect of Cap’s powerset: He’s a tactical genius. The movie hints at this, showing pre-Cap Steve studying up on tactics manual. And then by noting that the serum increased his metabolism to the point where he can’t get drunk. But they never showed that the enhanced brain activity turned Cap into the tactical equivalent of Napoleon. And that is, for me, Cap’s most interesting ability. He can see around corners, finding solutions to problems no one else can. (He’s a little like Batman in this way.)
In other words, Cap doesn’t kick ass just because he’s bigger/faster/stonger. It’s also because he’s smarter. He’s a floor general. And with all that, comes the idea that Cap is a young guy, but an old soul. I’d hoped that Whedon would take something like this read on the character. But instead he looks kind of petulant, the way he gets chesty with Downey’s Tony Stark.
(2) If Avengers is going to work, I suspect it’ll do so by exploiting Cap-Stark tension. They show some of that in the trailer, but none of it seems very compelling. I’d think that, on this score, they’d want to get the punchiest stuff out front.
(3) Scarlett Johanson is, again, horribly miscast as Black Widow. At least three times in the trailer–twice in action sequences–she’s essentially posing. She crouches all fancy. She flicks her hair back. She looks like she’s trying to sell a Wu Ping move. I love her as an actor–love her. Think she’s great. But she does not have the physical presence for this role.
But worse–the thing that really bothers me–is that the kind of physicality on display is the kind of simple, off-the-shelf, comic book stuff that we should no longer have to endure in a comic book movie. It’s fine for Thor to pose and strut because he’s Thor and that’s what he does. But Natalia Romanov should be more like Jason Bourne. What makes her character work, both physically and emotionally, is that she just kind of moves through space like a shark. Totally decisive; pure economy of force. Compact and brutal. No flourishes.
Of course this is just a trailer. Of course Whedon isn’t showing his hand. Of course it’s not fair to judge a film by its trailer. And I hope the movie is great. But in terms of the aesthetic, and what it means for character, I’d hoped for more in this first real look at what they’ve got.
Some of my thoughts in no particular order:
1) With this preview coming after the preview they showed at the end of Captain America, I get the strong sense that Whedon is slowly teasing us with footage just as it becomes ready. The preview at the end of Cap barely had any effects or CGI and now this preview has more, but not a lot more (e.g. almost no Hulk). So I tend to think these previews are driven by how much footage he actually has in the can at the time of their release.
2) The lack of Hulk footage is annoying — I think figuring out how they are going to incorporate him into the group will be interesting. I thought at first he was going to be one of their first “villains”, but given Loki’s central role, I don’t think so anymore.
3) Speaking of Loki, I like him a lot, but we barely see him in the preview and none of his allies or henchmen. This makes me worried. I maintain that any superhero movie will only be as good as its villain. I was really hoping for a Red Skull tease, as Hugo was good in that role and the Cap movie left it an open matter as to whether or not he’s really dead.
4) Regarding ScarJo as Black Widow — I can’t get as worked up about the matter as you — I’m fine with her posing through the whole movie. I’m just excited with Renner playing Hawkeye.
actually worst thing (imo) was the Reznor song. It flashed me back to that stupid synergistic Smashtastic Pumpkinny song from the Watchmen trailer (which is all I ever viewed re: Watchmen).
Conversely I normally can’t stand Ruffalo (sp?) but like him for this one
Also, I am loving, nay–inspired by, RDJ’s Nixon-like comeback… Next thing you know Romney will be President, ha
You might be going a hard on Scarlett Johanson.
I think of the male equivalent as the “Bruce Wayne problem”. The comic book Bruce Wayne is supposed to be both an Olympic-level athlete and a genius-level intellect. How many actors in Hollywood can pull that off? Ideally you’d want an actor with a Stallone body and a George Clooney on-screen smarts, but for me, a name doesn’t come to mind.
So maybe there’s an equivalent “Black Cat” problem. Ideally, you might want an actress who can put sex appeal on screen AND look like a credible female commando, but maybe that’s asking too much for modern-day actresses?
You might be going a bit hard on Scarlett Johanson.
I think of the male equivalent of this casting issue as the “Bruce Wayne problem”. The comic book Bruce Wayne is supposed to be both an Olympic-level athlete and a genius-level intellect. How many actors in Hollywood can pull that off? Ideally you’d want, say, an actor with a Stallone body and George Clooney’s on-screen smarts, but for me, a name doesn’t come to mind.
So maybe there’s an equivalent “Black Cat” problem. Ideally, you might want an actress who can put sex appeal on screen AND look like a credible female commando, but maybe that’s asking too much of modern-day actresses?
When is Scarlet Johanson *not* miscast?
she was not miscast in Ghost World. granted, she was playing a shallow, sullen teenager in that case.
JE, in the horse movie — that was her, right? With Robert Redford and Kristin Scott Thomas. Also, in Lost in Translation. For some reason she just worked in that. But I give you everything else.
I can’t count the Horse Whisperer. Next to Redford, the worst “great” actor in Hollywood history, she seemed like Streep. Also, she was 13 and hadn’t yet become “Scarlett Johnanson!” She became that after Translation, and ever since she’s made Elisabeth Rohm look like Jodie Foster.
You had me at Elisabeth Rohm.
I’d like to go hard on Scarlett Johansen. (rimshot)
Regarding Scarlett Johanson – Action Star – my wife and I have similar conversations every time I watch a woman knock down a man three times her weight/muscle mass and that’s about physics.
I’m not looking for realistic when I watch a fictional film, it’s called “escapism” for a reason, but I do yearn for plausibility. Anyone who is remotely familiar with physics understands that it’s almost impossible for a lady of Ms Johanson’s size to throw around fellows three times her size, let alone start punching them and doing damage. As much as I enjoy the idea of female super-commandos, my wife is an army veteran, they need muscle. If she’s a superhero with magical powers that makes it easier, but “Black Widow” isn’t.
All the proper martial arts technique in the world won’t overcome physiques and in my opinion pulls you out of the experience and makes the actress looks stupid.
There’s a reason no one thought “Vasquez” in Aliens was just posing – she was badass – and a weightlifter.