I saw The Avengers yesterday since everyone I know has been raving about it for weeks saying it was better than every other big budget comic book summer blockbuster (because it had a good script and good cinematography). I thought it was very good for a comic book movie, pretty good overall. It was entertaining, but at the same time disturbing. It took several hours after viewing to figure out what I found unsettling about it, and I’d have to say (slight spoilers) it was the battles that took place in NYC between giant metal evil snake things and the heroes.
Of course it’s all computer generated and this is a movie, but it was distracting to see aliens and their ships constantly brushing up against buildings supposedly filled with office workers, knocking down buildings in some cases. While the comic book hero team was trying to save one or two buildings full of people, you’d see a dozen more get damaged. In the end the world gets saved but there’s no mention of all the damage and lives lost in the final scenes. It felt weird, like a minor side plot point that was previously mentioned was never mentioned again.
I hadn’t felt conflicted with entertainment since last summer’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The movie was tough to get through and a total assault of the senses in the battle sequences. It was like watching a difficult war movie (think: Platoon or Thin Red Line) and I couldn’t wait for it to be over (I nearly walked out halfway through).
With Transformers, the influence was more obvious as the director used constant visual references to 9/11. There was a burning city with smoking skyscrapers, buildings went down after collisions with robots, and there were people diving out of planes (in wingsuits) shown in vertical poses next to buildings like iconic horrifying photos from September 11, 2001.
I never thought I was all that affected by the events of 9/11. I was on the West Coast, slept through the first crash and only got to see the second building collapse live on TV after reading everyone’s reactions on MetaFilter. I never experienced it in person with my own eyes, just through media from thousands of miles away.
Seeing these movies and remembering the horrifying events of that day, I can’t sit and watch a movie with CGI monsters battling in a city full of people and not think about the substantial collateral damage happening. Part of my mind knows this is all done on a computer and it’s fake robots in fake fights with a few extras running around on the ground and no one was hurt and this is all fiction, but a larger part of my brain remembers the horrifying images from TV that are permanently burned into my brain and I can’t really enjoy movies that mimic them in any way.