There’s a tiny little movie that was released earlier this week that I think you guys should take the time to see, it’s called “The Avengers”. What? It made over $200 million domestically in its opening weekend and been praised both amongst the critics and fan boys alike? Well, I’m a little late to the party aren’t I? Originally planning on writing a review for Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” I realized there wasn’t much that I could have said that hasn’t already been. It’s good, pretty damn good in fact; it combines the Marvel superheroes with such grace and realism that it’s not just “hey, lets get all these guys in the same movie”, every character has a reason to be there. For future reference, this is what a summer blockbuster should be like. With all this many people are declaring it the greatest superhero movie made to date. This is where I take issue. Greatest? What makes it so easy to declare as better than any of its predecessors? More importantly, what is people’s obsession with declaring the greatest when it comes to film?
“The Avengers” is an excellent addition to the superhero genre, a tip of the hat to Marvel Studios for being able to create all of these stories within the same universe so that they can combine like this. That alone is a feat that makes it different than other superhero films. However, isn’t it entirely possible that this is just a heat of the moment issue? In July “The Dark Knight Rises” releases and it will have it’s own reasons unquestionably as to why it should be considered the greatest superhero movie of all time. “The Amazing Spider-Man” probably would like to stake it’s own claim as well.
But it isn’t just the heat around “The Avengers” that have brought about mentions of the infamous g-word. A hot topic among many online critics, including one Roger Ebert, is the greatest films of all time. Right now it feels like some sort of pissing contest between people: “Those are what you consider to be the greatest films ever made, ha, I’ll show you what a real greatest list looks like!”
The worst part of all of this is that we will never be able to determine what the greatest film is; it’s just not possible. This isn’t sports; Wayne Gretzky is considered the greatest because no one before or since has been able to match his stats, Barry Bonds is considered the home-run king (I know, I know, steroids, but just trying to make a point) because he has hit more than any other baseball player in history. These are definitive, set in stone, facts about these players that put them in a higher pantheon than anyone else. That is not the point with movies.
The great things about movies, and all art for that matter, is that every single film made could potentially be the greatest film to someone because it simply appeals to their tastes, their personality, that mysterious instinct in our gut that tells us that we like this more than anything else. It doesn’t matter how much money it made, how many awards it has won, or how innovative the film is, somebody out there may be willing to fight for tooth and nail on why it is their favorite film.
That’s the point. Film is art, and you debate art, it’s merits, it’s faults. You debate it amongst friends, family, in a classroom, and moments after the credits roll. “The Avengers” may be the greatest superhero movie ever to some people, it may be the greatest movie ever to some others, and good on them for thinking that. But the discussion is never ending.
Maybe an element of the sports world can be taken and put to use here. Many fans of baseball believe that Bonds’ record should be marked with an asterisk to mark that there is a difference between what he did and the likes of Ruth and Aaron did. How about any time critics use the word greatest to describe a film there is an asterisk by it to denote “in my opinion”.