When I first saw The Avengers a few weeks ago I walked out of the theater having enjoyed myself, but by the end I was tired and, horrible as it is to say, bored. The end is pretty much non-stop action, how could anyone get bored? My theory was that the final fight was too damned long. Today I put that to the test and I was right.
See, the movie's built up on exciting moments. They start out, relatively, small, after that opening sequence. The opening is a teaser, though, and announces right off what kind of movie this is. Then the film slows down. We meet our main heroes, minus the one were were already introduced to, in short vignettes so we understand who they are and what they want. From there the action slowly gets bigger, with nice breathers in between so the audience can relax and laugh which should help to clean the mental palette for the next action set piece. Joss Wheadon, who wrote and directed this movie, understands that the brain needs the break, that's why all his actiony/horrory TV shows used comedy to help break up the tension, if only for a second, to make room in the brain for more excitement. The action also get longer as the movie goes on, but it's short enough that it didn't wear me out.
Until that last fight.
**Here's where I get a little spoilery, in case you haven't seen the movie yet and still care.**
I had my watch with me and turned on the stopwatch to time the fight. I started when the first aliens came through the portal, that seemed a fair place. The specifics aren't really important because I was engaged. I was on the streets with Captain America, flying through the city with Ironman, and smashing armored fish/lizard things with the Hulk. And then, suddenly, I wasn't.
I looked down at my watch. Fifteen minutes had passed. Cap was just about to rush in to rescue people who had been cornered in a bank, or whatever, by aliens. Here's where this fight scene became agonizing. The punching, shooting, zapping, and punching became boring. Yeah, that Hulk scene with Loki made me laugh, but that was way past the point where I wanted something else.
I just thought of the end of Return of the Jedi, where it bounces between the three fights: one on Endor, one around the Death Star, and one in the Emperor's throne room. It's long, but all the fights have such different tones and tickle different parts of my brain that it doesn't get boring. It also cuts from the exciting World War II style space battle to the point on Endor where it look like the Rebels have lost and seem to be surrendering then cuts to Luke and Vadar fighting. Did you see the break my brain got there? During those few minutes on Endor! That sort of pacing kept my mind shifting gears kept my brain active and attentive.
The closest thing to a break during that last fight in The Avengers is when Fury is talking to those shadowy faces. The problem is that it comes to late. Just a few minutes after Fury's conversation that professor doctor guy who was in the Thor movie wakes up and that's where I hit stop on my watch because I correctly remembered that there was no other alien fighting after that. Twenty-six minutes and one second of fight. Ten minutes too much for my brain, apparently.
The movie's still a lot of fun, but the final fight is so relentless.
And I can't even say how I might fix it. My gut reaction is shorter, make it shorter because there are no good subplots to cut away to. At that point the helicarrier is safe and they'd already killed the best character to come out of these linked movies, so I don't want to go there. The best New Yorkers are for is short reaction shots to the horror around them and that's the only way they're useful to the movie.
Maybe the next one will leave me feeling energized in the end rather than bored. I'm rooting for you Mr. Wheadon. We all are.