Wednesday, May 9, 2012
**Spoiler Alert! Do not read this blog until you have watched The Avengers. Seriously. Don't read it.
This post is about movies, and how I think about them too much.
Recently, I wrote a post about Ironman Syndrome, in which the superhero is faced with a supervillain that is exactly like him, just bigger and stronger. I refer to it as a Syndrome because it's a challenge faced by many movies due to a director who, unfortunately, is unable or just doesn't care to make the movie more complex.
There is, however, another syndrom I would like to reference in this blog: Shia Syndrome. The name of the syndrome is referencing one of my least favorite actors in the history of acting, Shia LaBeouf. Disturbia, Indiana Jones, Transformers... the list goes on and on as to the movies he has singlehandedly ruined. However, this blog actually isn't about his poor acting skills. In this case, it's not actually his fault.
I speak of Shia Syndrome, which is, in effect, the decision of the director to focus and give extremely important roles to non-essential characters. Transformers seems to be the best example for this, hence the name Shia Syndrome. I can't count the number of scenes in which Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, or some army dude was playing a super-essential role in defeating the Decepticons. Michael Bay took this to the extreme at times, even slowing down the non-essential character scenes for super slow-mo (and super YAWN) shot, trying to capture the "human" struggle. Unfortuntately for Bay, many of us just wanted to see Optimus Prime and co. smashing Megatron and co. in the face. We sometimes wondered why Bay needed humans in the film at all!
Finally, Transformers was ending, and you could only hope to see an epic Megatron vs Prime duel for the ages. Unfortunately, Shia snuck in again, and in perhaps the worst "how to end a movie" decision of all time, he rammed a cube into Megatron's chest, finishing him off (while Prime sat on his haunches). That was it. Not only had Bay given non-essential characters gigantic roles, he had given Shia the "I'm the guy in the movie - not a robot, mind you, but a guy - that finishes off the baddest of all Decepticons" role. To me... this sucked.
Enter The Avengers. Director Josh Whedon took a page out of the ol' Michael Bay handbook. Fortunately for us, the characters were a little more skilled than a kid with a Strokes t-shirt, but to say they were essential is quite a stretch. The characters I speak of specifically are Black Widow and Hawkeye. Granted, Hawkeye was one of the 4 original Avengers, but the movies didn't pay enough attention to him to merit even a mention. Captain America, Thor, and Ironman all got their own movies, as did the Hulk (heck, Ironman got 2 movies). Hawkeye? How else could the audience view him besides some sharp shooting archer? And that was it. No special abilities, except super cool arrows. Black Widow, too, seemed to go into every fight with one ninja move (jumping on someone's head and flilpping them over) and one pistol. And we were supposed to believe she would play a vital role in helping Ironman? In helping the Hulk? Really?
Black Widow went so far as to save the day, just as Shia did. Whedon couldn't let Captain America figure it out, or Ironman figure it out (he was extremely equipped to do so). Meanwhile, Captain America, despite Whedon's efforts, is playing a less important role "controlling the ground," as he said, while Ironman, Thor, and Hulk do the real heavy lifting. Couldn't his role be reversed with Black Widow?
My problem, to be clear, is not that Black Widow and Hawkeye were in the movie, but that Black Widow and Hawkeye, at times, were the movie. They dominated too much of the screen for my liking - classic Shia Syndrome.
As far as the movie was overall, I actually liked it a lot. I thought it was an action packed blockbuster that lived up to what I expected - lots of witty lines, a shallow at best plot, and superheroes punching things. Shia Syndrome, unlike Transformers, didn't ruin the movie, fortunately.
Notice the picture that starts this blog. Notice the superheroes in the picture. Notice the ones not in the picture. You probably instantly thought, the Hulk should be there! Hopefully you didn't instinctively cry out against not having Black Widow and Hawkeye in it. Clearly, the picture's illustrator didn't feel the need to paint them in either.