Comments on The Avengers and The Pirates!

I recently pulled a double feature, which in my case means that I went to the movies twice within a seven-day span. I’m not going to do a full blog post on Marvel’s The Avengers, since I have absolutely nothing new to say that hasn’t already been said within the first 24 hours of its release. I also went to see The Pirates! Band of Misfits. I find it difficult to focus my thoughts around the latter. I supposed I need to see The Avengers in order for me to find a reason to justify my score on Pirates!

The Avengers is a really easy film to review. Everything is out in the open. The cards had been laid out on the table for years. Marvel Studios basically went all-in on this production – starting with the five prequels to introduce us to our heroes. Obviously, the goal of the five films was to make money, but I believe the real purpose was to give the actors a chance to get into their roles, flesh out their characters so that they are completely comfortable, and can hit the ground running by the time they all get together in this film. (Except for Mark Ruffalo, who replaced Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.) Marvel’s ambitions were as large as the movie’s villain, Loki. And unlike their antagonist, they succeeded. They received critical praise from all corners, and more importantly, they received the box office ticket sales. Terms like “epic” and “classic” are overused and abused in today’s day and age, so I use them sparingly. It is way too soon to throw out the “c” word, so it is fairly safe to say that this blockbuster is indeed an epic. Knowledge of the Marvel-verse, and the prior films do help a lot, but such knowledge is not mandatory to enjoy the film. After making such a big deal about being a contrarian, I’ll try to nitpick, in order to keep my iconoclastic cred. Therefore, I’ll say this: it is not a mandatory 3-D experience. Watching it in 2-D is just as fine. And if you are truly against comic book movies, then it is possible for you to wait until it comes out on Blu-ray and DVD. It’s not perfect, but it sure is one hell of a ride, and a rare exception of an event that lives up to all of its hype. I can’t be a nay-sayer on this. My Grade: A

Unlike Avengers, Pirates! is not trying to appeal to everyone. Aardman Studios are not into making blockbusters. And that is my quandary. I can’t figure out how wide of a net they are trying to cast. Is this just for the Brits? Is it primarily for children, with a few jokes thrown in for the adults? Is it for the grown-ups, with a few jokes thrown in for the kids? If we are supposed to pay attention to all of the jokes in the background, why are we supposed to ignore all of the anachronisms? I was going to rant about the fact that they mention that the story takes place in 1838, and they make no mention of the whaling industry, but I found out that is part of the next book (which also will be animated by Aardman. Although it has very little in common with Avengers, Pirates! does share the very high level of production values, and the effort and details in Aardman’s claymation is right up there with all of the digital animation and effects used in Avengers. Out of all of the nitpicks I have with this movie, the one I can’t brush aside is the title change here in the States? “Band of Misfits” implies a level of incompetence and ineptitude. The crew, from what we see, is full of skilled sailors, and quite capable of following orders. Sure they are a ragtag lovable bunch of rapscallions, but I would hesitate to categorize them as The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. The original title is “The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists.” What is wrong with Science?! Are Americans that hung up about evolution that we have to hide the fact that Charles Darwin is a character in the film? (I still have not understood why the first Harry Potter film was renamed.) I find it hard to believe that fundamentalist Christians are going to have their faith shattered by a claymation cartoon!!! On a personal note, I always give points for any Clash reference, and this movie uses “London Calling” as the BGM for a montage scene. It is harmless, and charming, but it’s also kind of forgettable as well. My Grade: (a solid gold doubloon) B.


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