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The fact that I can't recall any instance, at least not beyond vague generalities, where any fan of the Avengers has pointed to a moment that resonates cinematically, or points to some level of auteurship, or even gives a glimmer that it isn't a film solely aiming for the absolute most basic of emotional response in its audience, makes me feel relatively content on the film being something that, in future discussions, will continue to be just as empty as I'm accusing it of being.
I actually agree with this, but I want to clarify something:

Beyond not actually putting forth The Avengers an example of what Minio's looking for (it's just a decent shorthand for talking about more populist fare and how/whether to consider it), I'm also not saying it'll have the kind of depth you're describing above. I don't think it will.

But I do think it'll endure the way something like Star Wars has. Nobody really thinks Star Wars has that kind of auteurship, even now, do they? I don't feel like successive generations have found real genuine depth of the kind you're describing here, but they haven't had to. It's endured anyway, so obviously there's something else going on there. It was neither disposable trash nor deep work of art. We must make room for a third thing.

I think the model we should be looking at here are for things like this: fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, things which were thought of as unserious by older moviegoers at the time but which turned to mean a lot more to the culture than anticipated.

EDIT: ah, someone beat me to it:

I don't see The Avengers as really any different than Star Wars or The Wizard Of Oz or Jaws or Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Are none of those part of the Cinematic Heritage?



I actually agree with this, but I want to clarify something:

Beyond not actually putting forth The Avengers an example of what Minio's looking for (it's just a decent shorthand for talking about more populist fare and how/whether to consider it), I'm also not saying it'll have the kind of depth you're describing above. I don't think it will.

But I do think it'll endure the way something like Star Wars has. Nobody really thinks Star Wars has that kind of auteurship, even now, do they? I don't feel like successive generations have found real genuine depth of the kind you're describing here, but they haven't had to. It's endured anyway, so obviously there's something else going on there. It was neither disposable trash nor deep work of art. We must make room for a third thing.

I think the model we should be looking at here are for things like this: fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, things which were thought of as unserious by older moviegoers at the time but which turned to mean a lot more to the culture than anticipated.

EDIT: ah, someone beat me to it:



Star Wars is a movie that is hardly above the kind of criticisms I'm sure Minio would level against it, but it is still considerably better than what Avengers was doing.



If we are considering the context of things outside of the film itself, when Star Wars arrived this particular approach to filmmaking (regardless of how popular it would become, or what easily digestible entertainment it was, or how how the whole thing could be used to market toys to children) had not been corroded by the kind of cynicism this particular type of movie is now mired in. The film was a passion project by Lucas. A very specific vision he believed in. And while Lucas is at best a bit of a shaky director, and he supposedly needed to bring in all sorts of outside help to make the film ultimately work, Star Wars still somehow maintains an authorial signature. I can close my eyes and know what that film feels like, completely separate from its narrative elements. It has a visual and emotional identity completely lacking from The Avengers.



It is a movie that was born out of pure artistic instinct and not simply craft. We can find evidence of this all over the place, both visually and narratively. It understands the vastness of space, welcoming us into a universe that is enormous enough for us to imagine all of these things it is about to show us to maybe be true. It knows how to visually represent the isolation of adolesence and a feeling of not knowing your purpose in life during its scenes in the deserted landscapes of Tatooine. It's action scenes crackle and are clearly rendered (unlike Avengers) which draw the audience deeply into the dangers it presents to its characters. Its confrontations between good an evil have a simple poetic elegance (Kenobi vs Vader) and aren't mired in empty flash. And, while not always an essential ingredient for greatness, in Star Wars all of its characters and planets and the whimsical jargon of its dialogue, were completely original, the likes of which had never been seen before. This was not an adaptation of material that audience had any expectations for, and could hardly be prepared for what a juggernaut of the senses it was. Unlike the MCU, where the world had already absorbed the different kind of genius of Stan Lee to such a point the audience can't help but sits in expectation for every pre-ordained character revelation, Star Wars was a total mystery. Its audience had absolutely no expectations of what they would see, from one scene to the next. Star Wars was an entire world to explore. And its cinematic surface was warm and genial enough to invite the audience in to look around and be constantly surprised.



All of these things set Star Wars apart from the hunk of inert nothing that Avengers seems to be. And when we put this all in the context of the times, this was a revelation of such enormous proportions, you really could say nothing like it had ever been seen before. Ever. It was one of the cinematic equivalents to audience members around the turn of the century running out of the theater thinking they were going to get hit by that train up on screen. Star Wars was a revelation. Something completely new. Yes, it may have taken many elements of B scifi films that were well known (and generally scoffed at), but it somehow managed to turn all of that overt silliness around to have audiences actually emotionally invest in it. It instilled a sense of wonder, not only in children, but in adults of the time.



It is the kind of miracle of a film that can't be repeated simply because another film also was an enormous theatrical success. Avengers is hardly going to change the outlook its audience has on the world. But Star Wars did. Star Wars actually fundamentally altered how people saw movies. The Avengers is just the end result of what happens once producers harness the power to get asses in seats by dangling promises of things that seem familiar to audiences (one of the reason uniqueness is of vital importance in judging greatness, because it can be completely remove the film in question from cynical motivations).



Now, personally, I'm not putting Star Wars in the heritage. It meant a lot to me as a child, and I still have a great fondness for it, but I've moved on. But even though in retrospect most might now agree its kind of a dopey movie, and it has more than enough flaws to point at now that the nostalgia has somewhat cleared, I can at least accept why some might think it deserves to be forced into Mino's heritage museum while he isn't looking. It has a lot of elements that make it great. And it was also clearly culturally important while it was being great.


The Avengers, meanwhile, is just the cultural monolith that sits in the center of the room and, while it can't be avoided, it hardly generates much of interest to talk about. Or feel. Or think. Personally, I'd like to hope if it had been the mysterious object that was dropped in amongst the apes of 2001, even they would have been evolved enough to just shrug and walk away from it.



No, I wouldn't think they would be, but if we were really going to leave a time capsule for aliens to see what the human race created, would you really leave all of those films out?
I think you'd be on an island if you said yes.

Can you tell me where this island is located. I guarantee I'll be on the first boat chartered to it.



Star Wars is a movie that is hardly above the kind of criticisms I'm sure Minio would level against it, but it is still considerably better than what Avengers was doing.
Maybe so, we'll figure that out as a culture over the next few decades. But I'm really not presenting the comparison to convince you that one is as good as the other, but to demonstrate that the two-dimensional spectrum being invoked throughout this discussion simply isn't sufficient. Star Wars has deep cultural significance and value without having significant artistic depth.

I can close my eyes and know what that film feels like, completely separate from its narrative elements. It has a visual and emotional identity completely lacking from The Avengers.
A lot of MCU films have that, for me. I accept that they don't have it for you, which I put down to age, context, where each of us were in our lives when we saw it, etc. Star Wars can never land as hard on me as it would have if I saw it when I was 15, or something. I grew up with its mythology in my bones already.

All the (eloquent! And interesting) stuff you're saying about your emotional reaction to Star Wars would have, I think, probably been dismissed by a lot older moviegoers at the time. Everybody's got their good ol' days.

It is the kind of miracle of a film that can't be repeated simply because another film (by default of being an enormous theatrical success), is hardly going to change the out look its audience has on the world. Star Wars changed how people saw movies.
See, if anything, I think this is backwards: the idea of a cohesive arc/story over many different otherwise disparate movies seems, on the surface, to be further removed from what movies were before it than Star Wars was. And I say that as someone who regards Star Wars as incredibly influential (and just a flat-out better film).



Quick addendum. Here are the films Wooley asked about:

I don't see The Avengers as really any different than Star Wars or The Wizard Of Oz or Jaws or Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Are none of those part of the Cinematic Heritage?
Genuinely, I would like to know, if these films aren't part of this, what films that invoke the same feelings would be? That is to say, is there some film that will show our affinity for adventure better than Raiders of the Lost Ark? Or are we just totally excluding huge swaths of human experience because they're not serious enough?

This is a real question, because we keep going through "no, not that, no, not that either," and there have been similar discussions in the past where this or that is dismissed, and when something is finally advanced as being sufficient, it almost inevitably turns out to be something sad. Something slow and dramatic. Something about suffering or doubt or some other such bummer emotion.

If I were putting together a capsule for the aliens, quite a few films meeting that description would be in there...but they would not be all, or even most of them, because I don't think those things make up all, or even most, of the best of human experience.

There is definitely an equation sometimes (conscious or otherwise) of sadness with seriousness, and of suffering with profundity. Sadness is serious, and suffering is profound, but I'm not sure they're better examples of what the OP is literally asking for (whatever hidden implications might be underneath it) than something adventurous or funny or jaunty. At the very least the capsule would be incomplete without things like that. And I wonder sometimes if these things are really better, artistically, or if they're just somber enough that they can always outflank baser-seeming emotions like joy. I think it's "safer" to be seen as snobby than uncultured.



Star Wars has deep cultural significance and value without having significant artistic depth.

But it does have significant artistic depth. I gave a handful of ways that it achieves this cinematically, off the top of my head. I'm sure for obsessives there are dozens and dozens more. This is one of the examples where my often cited curse of the narrative is working in the opposite direction. Just because the narrative of Star Wars isn't terribly ambitious, and its morality is clearly delineated between the white hats and black hats, doesn't mean it isn't an interesting or even quality cinematic artifact. The simplicity of its purpose and its basic goals of entertaining an audience through spectacle shouldn't stop us from seeing this. It's there. It's very much a 'film'.






A lot of MCU films have that, for me. I accept that they don't have it for you, which I put down to age, context, where each of us were in our lives when we saw it, etc. Star Wars can never land as hard on me as it would have if I saw it when I was 15, or something. I grew up with its mythology in my bones already.

Where you were when you saw something, and specifically your age, absolutely shapes what has value to you. Star Wars meant something to me in those early years. And then I branched out to more esoteric things as I grew older. And the things I learned from more 'difficult' viewing allowed me to come back and re-evaluate. It allowed me to see the films obvious limitations, but also the ways in which how it presents its images to us goes deeper than simply 'star fighters in space'


As for those who are growing up with The Avengers, I've already kind of alluded to what happens when they grow older and what they might have to say about it then. For those that become obsessed with film, and all the ways it functions, I look forward to them finding something in Avengers that I can't see. I'm not above having my mind changed.



But as for now, any defence of it has seemed deliriously weak. To the point that I imagine it will probably be a different superhero movie we haven't even considered here.



Star Wars would have, I think, probably been dismissed by a lot older moviegoers at the time.

Established critics have always been slow to come on board changes in what is considered 'meaningful'. Most critics live in dread of being wrong, or being laughed at. Star Wars would have been a nightmare for those kinds of chin strokers. If it was actually great, it would have rendered many of their philosophies on film outdated and redundant. Which, if they actually cared about the art, they would eagerly embrace and adapt to. But, for many, whose names we no longer recall, they didn't.



Would I have loved Star Wars if I had been 40 years old at the time? I have no idea. Possibly not. It would have been a challenge to reconcile with at the time, considering the kinds of things that were considered great around the same period. Deer Hunter is a very different type of thing than Star Wars.



But, if I had dismissed it, I know I eventually would have come around on it somewhat as people kept putting out eloquent and interesting takes on what Lucas was doing with this film. So even if I missed that particular space bus, I could have definitely come around to not dismissing it.






See, if anything, I think this is backwards: the idea of a cohesive arc/story over many different otherwise disparate movies seems, on the surface, to be further removed from what movies were before it than Star Wars was. And I say that as someone who regards Star Wars as incredibly influential (and just a flat-out better film).

But by this measure, you're saying the ambition alone of The Avengers would have made it a success, regardless of its quality. And while I can admire what they wanted to do, unless the films offer something on the actual screen, there is only so much flattery I can give.


Maybe this approach now opens the door for someone to one day make a Berlin Alexanderplatz or Decalogue of Superhero films. Which would be interesting. But I think Star Wars did more than simply change the ambition of what we can do with films (that's what it did with Industrial Lights and Magic, but these are technical advancements I don't have a lot of interest in). The magic of Star Wars was specfically what the film itself contained, and how it transported people in a way unlike anything since, maybe, Wizard of Oz. And The Avengers, even if it profoundly changes how we make movies in the future, hasn't done that. Are, at least, the people it did do this to have yet to grow to a point where they can properly articulate it.



Quick addendum. Here are the films Wooley asked about:


Genuinely, I would like to know, if these films aren't part of this, what films that invoke the same feelings would be? That is to say, is there some film that will show our affinity for adventure better than Raiders of the Lost Ark? Or are we just totally excluding huge swaths of human experience because they're not serious enough?

This is a real question, because we keep going through "no, not that, no, not that either," and there have been similar discussions in the past where this or that is dismissed, and when something is finally advanced as being sufficient, it almost inevitably turns out to be something sad. Something slow and dramatic. Something about suffering or doubt or some other such bummer emotion.

If I were putting together a capsule for the aliens, quite a few films meeting that description would be in there...but they would not be all, or even most of them, because I don't think those things make up all, or even most, of the best of human experience.

There is definitely an equation sometimes (conscious or otherwise) of sadness with seriousness, and of suffering with profundity. Sadness is serious, and suffering is profound, but I'm not sure they're better examples of what the OP is literally asking for (whatever hidden implications might be underneath it) than something adventurous or funny or jaunty. At the very least the capsule would be incomplete without things like that. And I wonder sometimes if these things are really better, artistically, or if they're just somber enough that they can always outflank baser-seeming emotions like joy. I think it's "safer" to be seen as snobby than uncultured.



Great isn't, not has it ever, been limited to just the slow or sad or even the profound. Great art should encompass all of what humanity is. And this can be the most triffling of sweet emotions.


I think the reason greatness gets conflated with sadness or slowness or just general difficulty, is that (more often than not) these are the films which get neglected by general audiences and so there is probably in some ways a need to really push those to the front of that particular line. To finally give them the proper respect they've been denied everywhere else.


But does this make a Bergman film somehow more important than a film that celebrates the small joys in life like, I don't know, Vigo's L'Atalante? Or even, to use one of Wooly's examples above, Wizard of Oz? Definitely not. They all explore what they choose to explore comprehensively and cinematically. Which is what makes them great, regardless if they are happy or sad.



But it does have significant artistic depth. I gave a handful of ways that it achieves this cinematically, off the top of my head. I'm sure for obsessives there are dozens and dozens more. This is one of the examples where my often cited curse of the narrative is working in the opposite direction. Just because the narrative of Star Wars isn't terribly ambitious, and its morality is clearly delineated between the white hats and black hats, doesn't mean it isn't an interesting or even quality cinematic artifact. The simplicity of its purpose and its basic goals of entertaining an audience through spectacle shouldn't stop us from seeing this. It's there. It's very much a 'film'.
I'm referring to you saying "Star Wars is a movie that is hardly above the kind of criticisms I'm sure Minio would level against it." Obviously any of us can say some version of "yeah but in this case it worked." Or "in this case it was better." That's a perfectly reasonable response, just one that doesn't leave the discussion anywhere to go.

For the record, I don't think Star wars has a lot of artistic depth, but I love it anyway and see it as a prime example of why films don't always need to in order to be very enjoyable and very valuable.

Where you were when you saw something, and specifically your age, absolutely shapes what has value to you. Star Wars meant something to me in those early years. And then I branched out to more esoteric things as I grew older. And the things I learned from more 'difficult' viewing allowed me to come back and re-evaluate. It allowed me to see the films obvious limitations, but also the ways in which how it presents its images to us goes deeper than simply 'star fighters in space'
Maybe so, but we can't ever run that experiment again. As I alluded to earlier in that comment about podcasts and art prompting reflection, it's my experience that intelligent and thoughtful people can find depth in most things if properly motivated. They can intellectualize what's primarily an emotional reaction. And I'm not even saying that as a criticism, exactly, because I do that a lot and get a lot out of doing it, even if it might be kind of a mirage.

As for those who are growing up with The Avengers, I've already kind of alluded to what happens when they grow older and what they might have to say about it then. For those that become obsessed with film, and all the ways it functions, I look forward to them finding something in Avengers that I can't see. I'm not above having my mind changed.
If what I'm suggesting (not even saying!) ends up being true, I don't think you would have your mind changed even if they do find such things, because I'm not sure that's how it works. I think each generation gets what it "needs" from something like this and it's a totally different thing each time, which is why it can be simultaneously true that the newer version is not at all like its previous counterpart, but still very much an example of the same kind of thing.

There's a little bit of something Chuck Klosterman wrote once, where he said, thereabouts his 20s and in the late 90s, he heard someone say that Pamela Anderson was their version of Marilyn Monroe, and how this made him mad even though he realized eventually it was true. It made him mad because he obviously regarded Marilyn Monroe as having some kind of dignity and elegance that Pamela Anderson didn't, but then, that's the point: his generation's Marilyn Monroe could not achieve the same cultural status in the same way, because the culture was different. She was absolutely the next Marilyn not in spite of not being too much like her, but because she was not too much like her. She occupied the same cultural space, but had to take a different route to get there.

Same thing here. Yes, The Avengers is not Star Wars. If it was it wouldn't be anything other than forgettable and derivative. It is something else that serves a similar function to another generation, but in order to serve that generation, it must do something different. It must hit some inspirational pleasure center that its predecessors weren't even aiming for. And I suspect the interconnected universe thing (though maybe some of the "holding the center together amidst all the infighting" stuff, too) is that new thing.

I don't think it's particularly hard to see that innovation as being incredibly influential in a few decades. In fact, I think this kind of jujitsu's some of the criticism of it: people complain about its influence in taking over multiplexes and all these sprawling interconnected stories (allegedly) crowding out the Real Films, but that does seem to least concede that it is deeply influential.

But as for now, any defence of it has seemed deliriously weak. To the point that I imagine it will probably be a different superhero movie we haven't even considered here.
Very plausible. Maybe I'm only half-right, or a quarter-right, in that none of this is remembered this way, but is The Velvet Underground that inspires some other more serious superhero film. I'm eager to find out.

Established critics have always been slow to come on board changes in what is considered 'meaningful'. Most critics live in dread of being wrong, or being laughed at. Star Wars would have been a nightmare for those kinds of chin strokers. If it was actually great, it would have rendered many of their philosophies on film outdated and redundant. Which, if they actually cared about the art, they would eagerly embrace and adapt to. But, for many, whose names we no longer recall, they didn't.
Agree. And obviously this is very hard to see when we're in the middle of it. Sometimes it's a seminal cultural event that people will be talking about in a century, and sometimes it's pogs.



Obviously any of us can say some version of "yeah but in this case it worked." Or "in this case it was better." That's a perfectly reasonable response, just one that doesn't leave the discussion anywhere to go.

The discussion only ends there if we stop at simply saying 'it's better'. Obviously, that isn't enough. And anyone who is willing to spend a little time thinking about why a movie is 'better' or why it 'worked' is bound to come up with something that can be talked about.


For the record, I don't think Star wars has a lot of artistic depth, but I love it anyway and see it as a prime example of why films don't always need to in order to be very enjoyable and very valuable
The films first indelible image of that enormous space ship, the way in which it is shot, the way in which it creates almost a sense of suspense in the audience regarding 'just how big is this ****ing thing', the sound of it, the sense of space that surrounds it....is a deeply, perfectly artistic moment. And the movie is filled with such things.

Is it deep? Well, not thematically. But we can find depth in the surface of the films imagery. Not all great art has to 'mean' something.

I do that a lot and get a lot out of doing it, even if it might be kind of a mirage.
All art is essentially a mirage. It's light through film. It's paint on canvas. It's words on a page. The greatest value of art, in many ways, is its ultimate lie. Its ultimate artifice. And how people, through the alchemy of them interacting with it, can suddenly imbue these things with meaning.

If what I'm suggesting (not even saying!) ends up being true, I don't think you would have your mind changed even if they do find such things, because I'm not sure that's how it works.
My mind has been changed dozens and dozens, if not hundred of times. The vast majority of my favorite films were movies I hated on first viewing. And then, because of some other movie I see that change the way I think about movies, or something I read that I can apply to film, or something someone tells me about this very specific movie I hated, that maybe I missed that first time, opens it up to me.



I didn't like Leone Westerns until I listened to people describe his use of the human face as a landscape. I didn't like Nashville, until I understood not to watch all of its characters to see where they were going, but just to observe them where they are. And not to worry whether or not I hated all of the songs, but to view each performance as extensions of the characters. Just two examples off the top of my head.



I'm never shut off to the redemption of any movie, ever. As far as I'm concerned, if my mind can't be changed by someone offering me a different way of looking at something, I've failed as a lover of art. Every time I watch a film a second or third or fourth time, it should be a completely new experience. Because I myself should be a changed person with every viewing.






There's a little bit of something Chuck Klosterman wrote once, where he said, thereabouts his 20s and in the late 90s, he heard someone say that Pamela Anderson was their version of Marilyn Monroe, and how this made him mad even though he realized eventually it was true. It made him mad because he obviously regarded Marilyn Monroe as having some kind of dignity and elegance that Pamela Anderson didn't, but then, that's the point: his generation's Marilyn Monroe could not achieve the same cultural status in the same way, because the culture was different. She was absolutely the next Marilyn not in spite of not being too much like her, but because she was not too much like her. She occupied the same cultural space, but had to take a different route to get there.
It's always pointless to do the 'it's the new...' anything. Ever person or piece of art that effects culture, does so with a combination of factors that are completely unique to it. Some of these factors come from within, and some come from the existing culture outside of it. The only comparison Monroe has to Anderson is they occupied a status of sex symbol and were blond. Outside of these completely superficial comparisons, I'm not sure why we would even think of the two in the same way. Yes, the culture that created each was very different. But so were these two very different people.


Same thing here. Yes, The Avengers is not Star Wars. If it was it wouldn't be anything other than forgettable and derivative. It is something else that serves a similar function to another generation, but in order to serve that generation, it must do something different. It must hit some inspirational pleasure center that its predecessors weren't even aiming for. And I suspect the interconnected universe thing (though maybe some of the "holding the center together amidst all the infighting" stuff, too) is that new thing.
My problem with Avengers isn't that it has the same function of Star Wars. Or that it is too derivative or not derivative enough. It's that it is completely faceless. Wooley keeps referring to the fact that it is a success because 'it does what it set out to do perfectly'. And while I personally think this is debatable, if we take this as fact, it is also a part of the problem. The films feels built upon pretested notions of 'what makes this kind of film work'. It just hits all of its marks, like the good doggy it is. And in focusing on this to the exclusion of any kind of cinematic personality, it becomes a machine. In Scorsese's words a 'rollercoaster', in mine a shovel. It's reason for existing is to film an absolutely clear function. And it goes about this process like a robot. It is the example of the kind of film AI could likely put together. There doesn't feel like there is a person in there anymore. It's a collection of reflexes that have been previously deemed as successful.


I don't think it's particularly hard to see that innovation as being incredibly influential in a few decades. In fact, I think this kind of jujitsu's some of the criticism of it: people complain about its influence in taking over multiplexes and all these sprawling interconnected stories (allegedly) crowding out the Real Films, but that does seem to least concede that it is deeply influential.
I wouldn't argue the film isn't influential. But a dog turd on a floor can also be influential in clearing a room. Influence isn't irrelevant, but if the influence is more a concept than actual execution, we are still left with a film that offers anything itself of much interest.



Very plausible. Maybe I'm only half-right, or a quarter-right, in that none of this is remembered this way, but is The Velvet Underground that inspires some other more serious superhero film. I'm eager to find out.
With art, you never know. But it is very often the underdog which slowly and eventually slips into the public consciousness as the 'one that mattered'.



The discussion only ends there if we stop at simply saying 'it's better'. Obviously, that isn't enough. And anyone who is willing to spend a little time thinking about why a movie is 'better' or why it 'worked' is bound to come up with something that can be talked about.
Sure, but some strands of discussion are mostly just people trading opinions and then moving on. We can always find something to discuss but I incline towards things that are likely to move "forward" towards some resolution or natural impasse. That's the common thread in most of the things I haven't quoted/responded to. If someone says a film does or doesn't work for them on some level, I can reply, but I can't really rebut, so I usually pass by it and look for a shared premise instead.

Is it deep? Well, not thematically. But we can find depth in the surface of the films imagery. Not all great art has to 'mean' something.
Agreed, but "doesn't 'mean' something'" is what I mean when I say "not a lot of artistic depth."

All art is essentially a mirage. It's light through film. It's paint on canvas. It's words on a page. The greatest value of art, in many ways, is its ultimate lie. Its ultimate artifice. And how people, through the alchemy of them interacting with it, can suddenly imbue these things with meaning.
All true but a little orthogonal to the way I was using it, which was to say that it's pretty easy to find depth that isn't there if we want to and/or are sufficiently thoughtful and creative.

My mind has been changed dozens and dozens, if not hundred of times.
Apologies for my vagueness; I wasn't suggesting you have an inability to change your mind about a film. I'm saying that there are certain types of reactions that are, if not immune to that, certainly a lot more resistant to it. Those "hit you at the right time" or "first exposure to <blank>" types of films. We can never run the counterfactual. Maybe there's nothing more to the MCU, and maybe there is, but I don't think if there is you're bound to discover it at some point, either. The idea I'm floating is that sometimes these things are not really for us, and never will be, and that's okay.

I can't in any way demonstrate to you that this is the case here (and can never really be sure that it is), but I think some of the right criteria are there for it. I'm particularly persuaded by the fact that, while I'm closer to that target group, I'm still a little too old for it, and just happen to have a stronger (but still diluted compared to the younger superfans) reaction to it, which fits the thesis pretty well.

It's always pointless to do the 'it's the new...' anything. Ever person or piece of art that effects culture, does so with a combination of factors that are completely unique to it. Some of these factors come from within, and some come from the existing culture outside of it. The only comparison Monroe has to Anderson is they occupied a status of sex symbol and were blond. Outside of these completely superficial comparisons, I'm not sure why we would even think of the two in the same way. Yes, the culture that created each was very different. But so were these two very different people.
I think "is the preeminent sex symbol of their time" is a fairly significant connection that tells us a lot about the time. But regardless, it's just an analogy to show that things can occupy the same space in their culture despite being a totally different shape. And, more to the point, that they often have to be to occupy that same space at a different time. Which is why I resist anything like a direct comparison about what these films do or don't do.

My problem with Avengers isn't that it has the same function of Star Wars. Or that it is too derivative or not derivative enough. It's that it is completely faceless. Wooley keeps referring to the fact that it is a success because 'it does what it set out to do perfectly'. And while I personally think this is debatable, if we take this as fact, it is also a part of the problem. The films feels built upon pretested notions of 'what makes this kind of film work'. It just hits all of its marks, like the good doggy it is. And in focusing on this to the exclusion of any kind of cinematic personality, it becomes a machine. In Scorsese's words a 'rollercoaster', in mine a shovel. It's reason for existing is to film an absolutely clear function. And it goes about this process like a robot. It is the example of the kind of film AI could likely put together. There doesn't feel like there is a person in there anymore. It's a collection of reflexes that have been previously deemed as successful.
I've never really understood the charges of it being faceless or soulless or not having "personality." It has plenty of clearly definable characteristics. And I think it's doing some pretty clever things on the meta level with archetypes that doesn't get enough credit.

I'll also make a necessary distinction between the MCU at its best and at its worst, or what it is now compared to what it was. I know so, so many people who will argue fervently about its value, but think it's come to embody all the things some people said it was the whole time. I won't dispute for a second that there are lots of moments, and even entire films, that are all the things you're saying above.

I wouldn't argue the film isn't influential. But a dog turd on a floor can also be influential in clearing a room. Influence isn't irrelevant, but if the influence is more a concept than actual execution, we are still left with a film that offers anything itself of much interest.
The "influential" stuff was in response to this:

It is the kind of miracle of a film that can't be repeated simply because another film (by default of being an enormous theatrical success), is hardly going to change the out look its audience has on the world. Star Wars changed how people saw movies.
I think the MCU has clearly changed how people see movies, and viewed purely from the perspective of "how does this change how people relate to the art form?" I think it's clearly changed things more. How valuable that change is is another question, but this is me seizing on something like a shared premise, per the above.



I guess the problem I have with the inclusion of The Avengers is that the qualities that make it distinct, namely that shared universe element, seem predominantly driven by corporate strategy rather than artistic ideas, to keep people engaged with the brand and coming back for more. Have as little happening in any given movie so that we can build up to the next, and once we get there, just do call backs instead of containing the legwork within a single entry. Make the movies as devoid as visual style as possible so that they cohere to the overall franchise. At a certain point, these translate to bad storytelling choices. And I think itís distinct from other serialized storytelling, in that itís no longer considered worthwhile to have things happen in any individual entry. Other than that, what does it have? Mechanically written quips that might as well be generated by algorithm? Ghostbusters had quips but those played off the tension between the charactersí ordinariness and the grand scale of the events they find themselves in. The big splash images? Zack Snyder did those and with more feeling, and I donít even like Snyder. Technical innovations? James Cameron and Michael Bay both heavily deploy CGI, but it doesnít feel totally weightless in their hands (even if Iím iffy on the overall films). The big emotional stakes rest on our affection for a character who spent the last dozen movies delivering exposition, and weíre supposed to care now when the movie awkwardly brings up his baseball card collection?

We can compare this to Star Wars all we want, but Star Wars synthesizes its influences into distinct visual ideas and plays with some degree of spontaneity. The Avengers synthesizes a bunch of annual reports and income statements. And itís bad spectacle to boot.



Registered User
I guess the problem I have with the inclusion of The Avengers is that the qualities that make it distinct, namely that shared universe element, seem predominantly driven by corporate strategy rather than artistic ideas, to keep people engaged with the brand and coming back for more. Have as little happening in any given movie so that we can build up to the next, and once we get there, just do call backs instead of containing the legwork within a single entry. Make the movies as devoid as visual style as possible so that they cohere to the overall franchise. At a certain point, these translate to bad storytelling choices. And I think itís distinct from other serialized storytelling, in that itís no longer considered worthwhile to have things happen in any individual entry. Other than that, what does it have? Mechanically written quips that might as well be generated by algorithm? Ghostbusters had quips but those played off the tension between the charactersí ordinariness and the grand scale of the events they find themselves in. The big splash images? Zack Snyder did those and with more feeling, and I donít even like Snyder. Technical innovations? James Cameron and Michael Bay both heavily deploy CGI, but it doesnít feel totally weightless in their hands (even if Iím iffy on the overall films). The big emotional stakes rest on our affection for a character who spent the last dozen movies delivering exposition, and weíre supposed to care now when the movie awkwardly brings up his baseball card collection?

We can compare this to Star Wars all we want, but Star Wars synthesizes its influences into distinct visual ideas and plays with some degree of spontaneity. The Avengers synthesizes a bunch of annual reports and income statements. And itís bad spectacle to boot.

Harsh. But there's justice in it. I just don't know that I'd want you to give my eulogy.



Victim of The Night
...As I alluded to earlier in that comment about podcasts and art prompting reflection, it's my experience that intelligent and thoughtful people can find depth in most things if properly motivated. They can intellectualize what's primarily an emotional reaction. And I'm not even saying that as a criticism, exactly, because I do that a lot and get a lot out of doing it, even if it might be kind of a mirage.

There's a little bit of something Chuck Klosterman wrote once, where he said, thereabouts his 20s and in the late 90s, he heard someone say that Pamela Anderson was their version of Marilyn Monroe, and how this made him mad even though he realized eventually it was true. It made him mad because he obviously regarded Marilyn Monroe as having some kind of dignity and elegance that Pamela Anderson didn't, but then, that's the point: his generation's Marilyn Monroe could not achieve the same cultural status in the same way, because the culture was different. She was absolutely the next Marilyn not in spite of not being too much like her, but because she was not too much like her. She occupied the same cultural space, but had to take a different route to get there.

Same thing here. Yes, The Avengers is not Star Wars. If it was it wouldn't be anything other than forgettable and derivative. It is something else that serves a similar function to another generation, but in order to serve that generation, it must do something different. It must hit some inspirational pleasure center that its predecessors weren't even aiming for. And I suspect the interconnected universe thing (though maybe some of the "holding the center together amidst all the infighting" stuff, too) is that new thing.

I don't think it's particularly hard to see that innovation as being incredibly influential in a few decades. In fact, I think this kind of jujitsu's some of the criticism of it: people complain about its influence in taking over multiplexes and all these sprawling interconnected stories (allegedly) crowding out the Real Films, but that does seem to least concede that it is deeply influential.
Well, I'm down with all of this.



Victim of The Night
I guess the problem I have with the inclusion of The Avengers is that the qualities that make it distinct, namely that shared universe element, seem predominantly driven by corporate strategy rather than artistic ideas, to keep people engaged with the brand and coming back for more. Have as little happening in any given movie so that we can build up to the next, and once we get there, just do call backs instead of containing the legwork within a single entry. Make the movies as devoid as visual style as possible so that they cohere to the overall franchise. At a certain point, these translate to bad storytelling choices. And I think itís distinct from other serialized storytelling, in that itís no longer considered worthwhile to have things happen in any individual entry. Other than that, what does it have? Mechanically written quips that might as well be generated by algorithm? Ghostbusters had quips but those played off the tension between the charactersí ordinariness and the grand scale of the events they find themselves in. The big splash images? Zack Snyder did those and with more feeling, and I donít even like Snyder. Technical innovations? James Cameron and Michael Bay both heavily deploy CGI, but it doesnít feel totally weightless in their hands (even if Iím iffy on the overall films). The big emotional stakes rest on our affection for a character who spent the last dozen movies delivering exposition, and weíre supposed to care now when the movie awkwardly brings up his baseball card collection?

We can compare this to Star Wars all we want, but Star Wars synthesizes its influences into distinct visual ideas and plays with some degree of spontaneity. The Avengers synthesizes a bunch of annual reports and income statements. And itís bad spectacle to boot.
I don't think, at all, that the shared universe of the corporate strategy are what make it unique, at least not in the main. The thing that makes The Avengers great, and yes it does draw on the shared universe, is two-fold. One, that the action is completely secondary to the characters. Who gives a shit if Hulk punches a space fish-thingy? When I saw the trailer and saw those things, I was horrified. "Oh my god, they blew it!", I said, after being so invested through some merely ok films that were bringing my childhood to life. But then when I saw the movie, I realized they didn't blow it at all. Because the movie was not remotely about space fish-thingies, it was entirely about these characters and the space fish-thingies just gave them something to physically do, when all of the real doing was in developing their relationships and finding the common ground necessary to work together. That's all the movie is about. These characters didn't need to be super-heroes at all. Which of course was what was always so great about Marvel Comics that DC took so long to get and still almost never got right and then couldn't get it right in the movies either.
People don't love Spider-Man because he spins a web, any size, catches thieves just like flies. They love him because he's Peter Parker and that character is incredibly relatable to millions of people. For me, it's Steve Rogers/Captain America, for many others it's Stark's insecurity, for so many it's the misunderstood monster of Banner/Hulk, and then you have Natasha as the heart of it all, with so many personal demons to slay through the self-sacrifice she was now engaging in. Hawkeye was bullshit though. But still.
That's why DC can't get it right. That's why Fox couldn't get it right. That's why Sony is just barely getting it right (nor really, IMO). Frankly, that's why Marvel is failing now. Because, like almost any good movie, it was never really about whatever the plot was nor was it remotely about action, it was about people.
Then you throw in what they actually pulled off and the obviously massive, historical influence of it, and yeah, it's every bit at the Star Wars/Indiana Jones level.