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May 03 2012

(SPOILER) Roger Ebert reviews The Avengers. He gives it three out of four stars. ETA: And The New York Times interview can be found here (h/t to C. A. Bridges)

While he finds the movie quite similar to the other Marvel films, he concludes

"The Avengers" is done well by Joss Whedon, with style and energy. It provides its fans with exactly what they desire. Whether it is exactly what they deserve is arguable.

Ebert is the greatest living film critic, and one of my personal heroes. This review also drips with condescension. If it wasn't for the star rating and the last couple of sentences, I would have had no idea this was a "positive" review.

The "joys of sex" part is unbelievable.
^ Agreed. Despite the number of stars, he seems to think very little of the kind of people who would enjoy this movie.
Ebert has issues with the fantastical gods and worlds that Thor introduced to the universe, so going forward he's always going to have problems. Still it's an odd review. Almost a recap.
Not sure that somewhat harsh and slightly judgemental snark towards nerds at the end was really needed, but yeah not too bad a review I guess if you just look at the rating.

[ edited by asaneismRnuTs on 2012-05-03 13:59 ]
I used to enjoy Ebert as a critic, but I think his critical powers have declined with age. Either that, or I'm just not enjoying his writing as much anymore.

But the AV Club gave the movie an "A-" which was a relief. I tend to trust their opinion about majorly geeky things.

http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-avengers,73396/

[ edited by dottikin on 2012-05-03 14:18 ]
The bit about Black Widow doesn't make sense. And neither does the subsequent sentence about Hawkeye. He doesn't seem to realise that superheroes aren't necessarily super-powered.

I didn't particularly love the film but this review makes me want to.
I like Roger Ebert a lot and usually look to his reviews for guidance on which films to spend my money on, but after viewing the movie tomorrow night I will be pondering how he could conclude that The Avengers deserves the same number of stars as Daredevil.
ALL superheroes are superpowered! That's what it means! Like, you know, Superman! Or Batman! ...wait.
I get really confused with that too. I always think superhero implies superhuman.
Yes Jaymii, Ebert has always had issues with the fantastical and humor mixed with Drama. Of course those two elements are what Whedon does best. His medium high rating is probably given because he respects what Whedon did with this film, despite not liking this type of film.

Then he invoked "The Human Centipede" which literally made me Laugh out loud.

Ebert- "At one point, an Avenger flies into the mouth of this leviathan and penetrates its entire length, emerging at the business end. You won't see that in "The Human Centipede."
I've got to agree with dottikin. I'm impressed that Ebert is still cranking out reviews after all the personal trials he's had the past few years, but...sheesh! He was always a highly intelligent and very snarky critic. The thing that always drew me to his reviews was the wonderful way he constructed his reviews. I could usually tell after reading an Ebert review (whether he liked it or not) if I'd enjoy a film. Now he just sounds perplexed and cranky, not just in his The Avengers review but in most of his recent work, and I'm not sure if anyone is getting anything out of what he's producing. Although "Go get laid!" is probably the best grumpy-old-man complaint ever.
I too have been dissapointed by his recent reviews, he hasn't put as much thought as he used to.
He is the pale shadow of what he once was, in my opinion. He still can give a good review when he is really passionate about a movie, but his decline is very, very sad. IMHO.
It was a good review, in the sense that he gave his opinion, and it revealed any biases that went into that opinion. Like Jayne's Hat said, he has issues with mixing the fantastical, humor, and drama. I don't share some of these biases, so I'm unlikely to have the same opinion of these type of films. (That's why I liked the old "Siskel & Ebert" show. I might disagree with what each of them said individually, but if they both liked a film, that overlap could be trusted.)

"These films are all more or less similar, and "The Avengers" gives us much, much more of the same." I'm sure that can be applied to any sort of movie that you aren't particularly interested in (including art films and classic b&w films that Ebert enjoys).
Boy, this is really something. The good reviews get lauded here, the less good ones see poeple not only attack the review but the reviewer. Ebert is to movies what Robert Parker is to wine, the best of the best. He is internally consistent in his approach to movies; and he is the most human and humane of all movie reviewers currently alive.

He gave the movie 3 out of 4 stars. And apparently that is not enough. In the 14 comments above mine, he is called condescending, snarky, has his critical powers called into question, is called cranky and perplexed, and is accused of not putting thought into his reviews and of being a a pale shadow.

Heck, what is going to happen to the critic who writes a really negative review?
Right now that the front page is back under control, it would be appreciated if we focussed on the review. Play the ball, not the man. Otherwise, stompy feet will called for.
@ Simon: The link to the interview points to a wrong URL -- but thanks for editing it in!
[Edit] And for fixing it.

[ edited by Xhil on 2012-05-03 17:32 ]
Wait, what's wrong with being snarky?
I love some of Ebert's reviews, and hate others. He gave Kick Ass 1 star! Why why why! You missed the point Roger! But he also gave deserving films 4 stars.

Ultimately, I like his reviews for his prose, which he rightly won a Pulitzer for.
Ebert has gotten praise here too. It's just discussion of the review. I've found lately that he's better when he's more expansive on his actual blog.

Also should be noted that, when tweeting this review, he said: "My three-star review of "The Avengers." Huh. Reads more like 2.5 stars to me..." Which I quite like.
Simon SMASH??

As usual I think if we find other reviews, we should just post them here on the comments and Simon, another mod or Xhil, can add them to the entry as they appear.

This is EW's Owen Gleiberman's (who I tend to disagree w/ a lot, but weridly has the a positive review this time around) and there's also video discussion between him and the other main EW reviewer Lisa Scharwbaum (who reviewed Serenity, I think, back in 2005).

Here's the link for Orlando Attraction Magazine review of the movie, by someone who's clearly a Joss fan.
Dana5140, the review could have accompanied a four-star rating and it still would have been offensively condescending. And, again, I'm someone who has admired Ebert and his work for almost my entire life.
Ebert says, "These films are all more or less similar..." and has that snippy bit at the end about desiring and deserving, so I went off and read his review of "Cabin" for the first time. He seemed to miss quite a bit.

I once again give thanks that I am so easily pleased. I think I have a lot more fun that way.
Ebert obviously doesn't like these types of movies. I can tell it from the review. In fact the review was more a note on the genre than the actual movie he's reviewing.

3 stars and '"The Avengers" is done well by Joss Whedon, with style and energy.' Seems to be the only actual review of the movie.

The whole tone of the piece was condescending and there was no need to jab at a perceived stereotype or even lifestyle choice of "nerds".

[ edited by beckyboo on 2012-05-03 17:43 ]
I have respected Roger Ebert up until this review. He compared it to a Westminster Dog Show, a first grade report card, and "The Human Centipede". He talked very little about the movie itself. WOW.
The thing is...Ebert loved Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and even Iron Man. I was expecting a fairer assessment.
Fair defined how? What would a "fairer assessment" consist of, for a critic offering you his thoughts on a movie? That his thoughts just agree with yours?

Respect forever lost over a single movie review? Y'know, Ebert gave Anaconda 3 out of 4 stars. I think it is one of worst movies ever made. I should simply no longer respect him?

Again, what will happen when the inevitable blow-back and negative reviews come out?

ETA: Here ya go, a mediocre review: http://www.boxofficemagazine.com/reviews/2012-04-marvels-the-avengers

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2012-05-03 20:08 ]
Again, I find the review enormously condescending. Whether or not his thoughts agree with mine is irrelevant. A.O. Scott's review, also linked above, is one I don't particularly agree with, but I don't come away thinking that Scott has nothing but disdain for the type of people who would enjoy this kind of movie.
You can do whatever you want, Dana5140. So shouldn't everybody else be able to?
Fair defined how? What would a "fairer assessment" consist of, for a critic offering you his thoughts on a movie? That his thoughts just agree with yours?

No one's arguing that a good review has to agree with the reader's opinion.
Yeah, the review was fine, and he did enjoy the film, but his "ha ha comic nerds don't have sex! And they live in their mom's basements and play with toys!" attitude was a bit tiresome. It's like the high school football bully trying to avoid the implication that he might have something in common with those he picks on. But that's just Ebert. He has his worldview and chooses not to step outside of his box. His statements on if videogames or movies can be art are kinda funny (to his mind, neither can, because "art" is rigidly defined to him).
I usually enjoy his reviews but in this particular case I have a hard time making out what he actually thinks of the movie. It's 90% recap and 10% closing statement that only says it's well done, but not what he likes/dislikes about it. It doesn't really say all that much for a review.
@Dana5140: Ebert can write some of the finest reviews, but he's also written some clunkers. (Sorry I don't have specific examples, but they are there if you keep an eye open.) He's gotten his facts wrong, although never at the Rex Reed "vampires circling the moon" level. His worst reviews are of movies when he thinks there is a plot hole, but the movie does discuss it. (He must have been distracted during that part of the movie). He will then spend the whole review not being able to get over something that wasn't a fault in the first place.

That makes him less than perfect, but then again, who is?
Besides Joss, I mean. ;-)

To agree with some other posters, I was hoping Ebert would comment more on the movie, and not so much on the genre in general, then he did. So be it. (He did the same for "Serenity". Gave it 3 stars, but the review made it clear that the movie didn't enter his strike zone.)
https://twitter.com/#!/ebertchicago/status/198144199323959296

Ha. Don't know how to embed links.
I think there are things in the film Ebert either didn't understand or didn't pay attention to. I still rate the guy, because he's Ebert. But it didn't seem to me as if he liked the film at all.
Several critics have made that assumption re: Black Widow, redders, which I find preposterous. Despite the insane Transformers comparisons I keep hearing, this is in no way, shape, or form a Michael Bay movie.
Dana5140, unfortunately we know how a negative reviewer would be savagely attacked(!). And I seem to recall that Ebert gave a really insightful and good review to Serenity which the fans picked at and complained about. It could be that he likes Avengers and just can't stand us.
Frankly, I don't think he knows us at all. He has by his own admission said he has never seen Buffy.

I find the comments of AO Scott today relevant, as he commented on Samuel L. Jackson's tweet attack. AO Said this: ""If I'm going to dish out criticism, I should be able to take it," he tells E! News. "But I must say that I was touched at how many people on Twitter had my back, and more importantly how many were eager to defend the idea that honest and independent criticism has a place, even when the targets are superhero blockbusters and big movie stars."
@embers: Really? I read the printed review for Serenity (which is available onine), and don't find it particularly insightful (or good, in the sense of praising the film). He spent the first third of the review talking about foley artists, in general. Then wondered why a cargo ship would look like the interior of a loading bay. No comment about a first time director. (Ebert usually comments on that, and whether the person shows potential.)
I found it ludicrous how Ebert didn't understand Black Widow's role in the film when it's made perfectly clear. Considering how much insight Ebert can bring to his reviews, it strikes me as a failure to engage with the story. Maybe he couldn't take it seriously? I'm not sure how else to make sense of missing something so basic.

Maybe the Kids React should explain Black Widow to him. I'm betting they got it.
Eh, I've come to accept that when I watch a movie, I'm looking for different things than a critic.

I watch a movie to have fun. I'll watch a fun movie, way more than I will watch a critically acclaimed movie. I can't tell you how many oscar winning movies that I've watched, that I know were good. But I shall never watch again.

Meanwhile I've seen The Monster Squad dozens of times.

Taken is my favorite example of this. I LOVE that movie, I saw it twice in theaters. Out of curiosity, one day I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes. Less than 50 percent reviewers liked it.

I don't bemoan them for their opinions. But I'm glad I don't have the thing in me that prevents me from enjoying a movie that fun to watch.
Let me quote Ebert himself on this issue:

But forget ratings systems altogether. What inclines me to tilt in a more favorable direction? I submit the following possibilities:

1. I like movies too much. I walk into the theater not in an adversarial attitude, but with hope and optimism (except for some movies, of course). I know that to get a movie made is a small miracle, that the reputations, careers and finances of the participants are on the line, and that hardly anybody sets out to make a bad movie. I do not feel comfortable posing as impossible to please. Film lovers attend different movies for different reasons, all of them valid; did I enjoy "Joe vs. the Volcano" more than some Oscar winners? Certainly.

2. Directors. There are some who make films I simply find myself vibrating with. I will have difficulty in not admiring a work by Bergman, Altman, Fellini, Herzog, Morris, Scorsese, Cox, Leigh, Ozu, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Keaton...and to borrow an observation from my previous entry, I haven't even reached directors under 60.

3. I feel strongly about actors I admire, watching their ups and downs and struggles to work in a system that often sees them only as meat. Example. I opened my review of "The Women" this way: "What a pleasure this movie is, showcasing actresses I've admired for a long time, all at the top of their form. Yes, they're older now, as are we all, but they look great, and know what they're doing." Yes, I really believe that. I interviewed Candice Bergen for the first time in 1971. God, she was wonderful. I mean as a person. She was one of the most beautiful women in the world, and she married Louis Malle, and was happy. Louis Malle was beautiful too, if you know what I mean, and a great filmmaker. She fell in love with both her head and her heart. I felt a particular pleasure in seeing her and that whole cast together.

4. Once the scent of blood is in the water, the sharks arrive. I like to write as if I'm on an empty sea. I don't much care what others think. "The Women" scored an astonishingly low 28 score at Metacritic. "Sex and the City" scored 53. How could "The Women" be worse than SATC? See them both and tell me. I am never concerned about finding myself in the minority.

5. I have sympathy for genres, film noir in particular. I am almost capable of liking a movie simply for its b&w noir photography. I like science fiction. Ed Harris has a new Western coming out named "Appaloosa." I'll like it more than the Metacritic average. You wait and see.

6. In connection with my affinity for genres, in the early days of my career I said I rated a movie according to its "generic expectations," whatever that meant. It might translate like this: "The star ratings are relative, not absolute. If a director is clearly trying to make a particular kind of movie, and his audiences are looking for a particular kind of movie, part of my job is judging how close he came to achieving his purpose." Of course that doesn't necessarily mean I'd give four stars to the best possible chainsaw movie. In my mind, four stars and, for that matter, one star, are absolute, not relative. They move outside "generic expectations" and triumph or fail on their own.

7. I have quoted countless times a sentence by the critic Robert Warshow (1917-1955), who wrote: "A man goes to the movies. The critic must be honest enough to admit that he is that man." If my admiration for a movie is inspired by populism, politics, personal experience, generic conventions or even lust, I must say so. I cannot walk out of a movie that engaged me and deny that it did. I must certainly never lower it from three to 2.5 so I can look better on the Metacritic scale.

I cringe when people say, "How could you give that movie four stars?" I reply, "What in my review did you disagree with?" Invariably, they're stuck for an answer. One thing I try to do is provide an accurate account of what you will see, and how I feel about it. I cannot speak for you. Any worthwhile review is subjective. If we completely disagree, my words might nevertheless be useful or provocative. If you disagree with what I write, be my guest. If you disagree with how many stars I gave it, you can mail your opinion to where the sun don't shine.
I've read that before, Dana5140. I don't think it has any bearing on the issue at hand; in fact, it seems as if we're having two different conversations.
Dana... we don't always concur but I am in complete agreement on Ebert. He is not Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, or Mr. Beaks from Ain't it Cool News and he doesn't need to be. The man has dissected more movies than I'm aware of in existence. Is he always right? Of course not and he'd tell you that.

The man gave the film three stars. Why not four? Probably any number of reasons and it's really probably just his preference. This seems like a rather spartan review compared to what he normally does, but I can also see where this is the type of movie that would get it.

Joss nails picking a tone and sticking with it for the whole film. If it's your cup o' tea, it's great. If it's not, it's still pretty enjoyable.

The Widow anecdote really only served to highlight he's not a comic book guy. All he basically said was a bunch of critics tried to figure out if she had any superpowers and didn't see any. If he doesn't know the canon, I'm not sure how that's unreasonable. There's no exposition scene they explicitly cover it because it's largely unnecessary to the plot. The movie shows you what they can do.

My only real complaint about this review was the sparse analysis. That said, this is a popcorn munching flick, not Melancholia. On some level I doubt he feels to give much more than his recommendation which is exactly what a three star rating is.

[ edited by azzers on 2012-05-04 09:47 ]
Actually, just because someone brought up the Daredevil review from 2003, it is ALSO spartan and actually when I read it, just as condescending.

Curious why Ebert doesn't seem to be taking this with the level of seriousness we think he ought to? Here's Ebert describing Daredevil's ability to land.

There is an explanation for this ability, but I tend to tune out such explanations because, after all, what do they really explain? I don't care what you say, it's Superman's cape that makes him fly. Comic fans, however, study the mythology and methodology with the intensity of academics. It is reassuring, in this world of inexplicabilities, to master a limited subject within a self-contained universe. Understand, truly understand, why Daredevil defies gravity, and the location of the missing matter making up 90 percent of the universe can wait for another day.

But these are just the kinds of idle thoughts I entertain during a movie like "Daredevil," which may have been what the Vatican had in mind when it issued that statement giving its limited approval of Harry Potter, as long as you don't start believing in him.


That's not me excusing Ebert, that's just me saying... no he hasn't changed. We're just mad that he's doing it to a Joss movie instead of Mark Steven Johnson. If only we'd had the foresight to complain then... none of this would have happened!
I think this is perhaps the best word on this issue I have seen. From Jim Emerson's blog:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2012/05/avenge_me_avenge_me.html#more

in it, he says this: "By the Norse god of thunder! He compares "The Avengers" to one of the greatest, most enjoyable movies ever made! How is that a "negative" review? Because his description doesn't have enough superlatives attached?"

And, quoting the review in Salon: "If you belong to the significant quadrant of the population that feels a powerful, tidal impulse to belong to this pop-culture moment, and hence yearn to believe that "The Avengers" is terrific, explosive, awesome fun (or other language of your choosing), please don't let me harsh your vibe. I mean that seriously; what kind of person would I be if I begrudged others a good time at the movies? But it's my job -- and, I guess, my inclination -- to stand outside those tidal currents and view these big spectacles dispassionately, as far as I can. What I see in "The Avengers," unfortunately, is a diminished film despite its huge scale, and kind of a bore. It's a diminishment of Whedon's talents, as he squeezes himself into an ill-fitting narrative straitjacket, and it's a diminished form that has become formula, that depends entirely on minor technical innovations and leaves virtually no room for drama or tragedy or anything else that might make the story actually interesting."

ETA: I ask the mods- I think there is an important topic here, in how fans respond to reviews. Would this be better posted as a stand-alone thread for its own debate?

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2012-05-04 12:28 ]

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2012-05-04 12:31 ]
Not really. I'd like to us actually to talk about the movie instead of getting hung up on "he said, she said".
I do agree that Joss has been straight jacketed narratively. Marvel mandated a bunch of things that had to happen including the climax of the movie. As such The Avengers lacks any of those classic Whedon-y "pull the rug from under the viewer" moments that make you wonder how on earth the protagonists are going to get out of. Narratively it is fairly straightforward.
Life for Joss will never be the same. If he continues on this road, he will be constrained like he never has before.
Or he finds a happy medium. Making movies like The Avengers to get the exposure (and the money) that he can then use to push his more personal projects. It doesn't have to be one way or the other. Joss is one of those people that never slows down and pretty much never stops working so I'm certain that he can find the time to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Again, we're straying from the actual topic here.

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