NOTE: I will be posting a full, detailed review of “The Avengers” later this weekend, after I have seen it for a second time with better presentation.
“Dr. Banner, now would be a pretty good time to get angry,” says Captain America (Chris Evans) to Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner at the precipice of the fantastic, action-packed climax of Marvel’s “The Avengers.”
“That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry,” Banner replies, right before running towards a giant mechanical creature, transforming into the Incredible Hulk, and tearing it to shreds.
It is at this point where we finally see the full line-up of “The Avengers” in all their glory, the camera swooping around these characters in a full, circular profile of a comic book nerd’s cinematic fantasy.
Yet, something was off. Captain America posed in a costume that appeared to be more of a rusty red, dark gray, and blackish blue rather than the expected, bright colors of our American flag. The typically blinding red cape of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) looked to be anything but, and the Hulk—who should be a vibrant, violent shade of green—looked more like a large collection of feces with muscles.
Why am I describing such a murky, ugly vision of something that should be popping with the lively colors of a comic book?
Because this, unfortunately, is the movie I was shown.
I must apologize to my readers that I cannot give “The Avengers” the full review it deserves, primarily in the visual department. Issues regarding the presentation of films in the Boston area have been addressed—time and time again—by countless members of the reviewing press, and after over a year of problems there has barely been any resolution.
And I am fed up. Like Dr. Banner, I am angry, and it is an anger that has reached its peak with this particular movie. For the visual extravaganza it is being marketed as (trust me, it most certainly is), it was a downright shame that I couldn’t really see what all this pop and sizzle was about. “This should look spectacular,” I thought. Sadly, this was an experience far from the realm of spectacle.
At the Regal Fenway Theater in Boston, critics, fans, and moviegoers alike are all subjected to dimly lit, foggy, and often out of focus images (especially in the case of films projected in 3D). The digital age is changing the face of film, but the aforementioned ignorance of poor projection practices are making this technological advance absolutely moot.
Just to show that I wasn’t the only Boston area critic who found a problem with the presentation, here are reviews from the Herald and the Phoenix, both mentioning how the 3D seemed off. And just to clarify that this is hardly a new issue, here’s a review of December’s “Young Adult” from The Improper Bostonian, complaining of similar issues in the same exact theater.
And let’s not forget Boston Globe critic Ty Burr’s fantastic article outlining and critiquing these projection issues. Only problem is that article was published almost a year ago.
It is a situation that can easily be remedied, though nobody seems to be doing anything about it.
In fact, rather than worrying about how their film is being shown to people, Disney executives seem to have a bigger issue with the neurotic notion that working members of the press will pirate their film—hiring security goons to wand us down and ask us to place our expensive cell phones in a brown paper bag to be retrieved once the film has finished.
Who at Disney thinks an iPhone has the storage to record a two and a half hour movie? And how are these phones expected to capture images that require 3D glasses and a special lens to view properly?
I’m sure if anything were to happen to a member of my family and they were unable to reach me in an emergency, they would all be comforted to know that it was because Disney assumes I’m going to record and upload blurry images of people in capes to YouTube.
The worst part is that I actually had the opportunity to see the film again—politely requesting the chance to see it for a second time at a scheduled screening with better projection in a better theater. I was told that, since I had already seen the film, I was not allowed access to a second viewing so the “filled to capacity” screening could consist of people not yet given the opportunity to see it.
Imagine my surprise when Twitter and Facebook alerted me later that night that not only had some of my fellow colleagues seen the movie for a second time, but also there were empty seats in the theater.
I do not appreciate being lied to, especially when I was simply trying to do my job in the best way I possibly could.
And regrettably, I have been told that readers don’t care about these problems. They just care about the movie. Frankly, if I were spending upwards of $12 for a ticket to shoddily presented movies stemming from easily preventable incompetence, I would demand my money back instantly. The movie and its presentation go hand-in-hand, and the average moviegoer is getting ripped off.
Know the facts, know your theater, and say something if you see a problem. There is no excuse for laziness or ignorance in any job—which is why I personally am trying so hard here to get these points across.
I wish I didn’t have to resort to such complaints in what should be a wholly positive review of “The Avengers”—a sharp, exciting, blockbuster achievement with smart, snappy dialogue and endless momentum. I’m excited to see it again, in a theater where my money will actually be worth the bright, pulsating, visual energy this movie so blatantly has.
I truly regret that all these circumstances hadn’t gotten in the way of some of the most fun I’ve had at a comic book movie in some time. The sad part is, every single issue could have been avoided. Where are the superheroes of film exhibition when you need them?
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.