Remember when the Tribeca Film Festival hosted the World Premiere of "New York Minute," the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen vehicle? The U.S. premiere of "The Avengers" at BMCC Tribeca on Saturday falls into place as Tribeca's 2nd most egregious bow towards movie stars regardless of their merit. And that's sad. I can think of countless other major films in need of visibility who would have no doubt been aided by a gala slot. What does "The Avengers" gain from a Tribeca gala? It's already one of the most anticipated movies of 2012.
First of all, in purely technical terms, a film like this shouldn't be playing at Tribeca. The BMCC's theater is basically a junior high auditorium, an unlikely atmosphere for a Hollywood premiere of this scale. The screen is tiny, and the audience in the rear might as well have seen this big, bombastic superhero epic at home on a TV with tinny speakers and running commentary from a talkative aunt. Marvel is planning to break box office records here. Even though I didn't love the film, I still believe it warrants a gala premiere on par with its aim as the be-all-and-end-all of superhero blockbusters. Perhaps the film would have won me over, at least on a visual level, in a more cinematic space. I mean, come on. They even left some of the lights on in the theater.
Obstensibly, as Robert Downey Jr. put it when introducing the film, the reason for this Tribeca premiere was to honor New York's "real heroes," the 9/11 first-responders, who sat in the front row and received a standing ovation. It was a dignified moment we've come to expect from Tribeca, which took it upon itself to launch a new downtown cultural tradition in the aftermath of the WTC attacks. But "The Avengers" is, if anything, a film that plays with our emotions about 9/11 with about as much dignity as "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" did. "The Avengers" bases its show-stopping showdown in midday Manhattan to exploit New Yorkers' 9/11 memories. The enemies swoop down from the sky, kill thousands of innocent New Yorkers and blast off the faces recognizable landmarks. Instead of writing superheroes who use their strengths to fight for good in Marvel's expansive fictional universe, Whedon breaks the fourth wall, brings the story into our world and aligns the superheroes with the NYPD. I'm guessing he was attempting to give "The Avengers" a departure from the fabulously entertaining comic book frivolity of its first two acts and wrap up with some quick and easy real-world drama, but it's not really a ploy I liked being dragged into, even when there's some distracting jokes.
Full disclosure: I don't know the first thing about superhero movies - The last one I watched all the way through was "Spiderman 2" - so I actually don't know whether this sort of reimagining of 9/11's carnage is commonplace, but it didn't really sit right with me. I'm happy to suspend my disbelief if an comic book movie earns it, but that doesn't mean I'll surrender my bullshit meter as well.
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