Review: Marvel’s Avengers (Gameplay movie)

Avengers 2020 cover art.png

A question I get asked a lot is why I’m not a gamer. I fit the profile after all. I should be a gamer. But I haven’t owned a system since the Wii and most of the games I play on my PC are casual games. I’m not in that world.

And there’s a damn good reason. I don’t have the motor skills to be a gamer. Gaming is about reflexes, timing, memorizing complex combinations and executing them fast. It’s not something I will ever be capable of. I’ve dabbled here and there but I’ve rarely completed any game.

I say all this to explain that this is not a review of Marvel’s Avengers. It’s a review of a well edited movie combining gameplay and the cutscenes to form a cohesive watch. I’m not going to comment on the much maligned gameplay. I can tell it’s only so-so even from my end. (I have played Arkham Asylum!) I was commissioned to write on the story and that’s my focus.

The story begins with a disaster at an Avengers publicity day. San Francisco is all but obliterated and Captain America is presumed dead. The disaster releases the Terrigen gas creating waves of “inhumans,” one of whom is Kamala Khan. 5 years later, Kamala is involved in a resistance fighting back against the all powerful AIM which promises a cure for inhumans but, is, well, AIM. A tip leads Kamala to seek out the remaining Avengers. Gradually Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, and the not so dead Captain America reform to fight back against AIM.

This is a complicated experience to review. Because I quite enjoyed watching the movie. It was fun. It told an interesting story and I happily went through the 5h15 with no real boredom. But this is also a very deeply flawed story and I think it’s flawed because of choices that were made. This is a technically solid story. It’s just a lot of very bad decisions.

The good first. It’s definitely a decently written script. Every character has their voice. Cut scenes are solid. There’s a lot of emotion here. I like the voice acting though with my relatively limited experience, I shouldn’t know all these voices already. AIM and MODOK are unimpeachable picks as villains. I think what you have here is a good example of a dark future story.

And that is an utterly absurd choice for a major title Avengers game when we don’t have another game like this aside from Ultimate Alliance. For the first big swing at trying to do an a-list Avengers game, this is not the plot to go with because it never hits the note you expect. It’s a bleak, moody story that has the heroes as outcasts in hiding. And that’s not all the brand. I’m probably bringing up 2012’s movie a bit early in this review but that got it right. The fun of this is seeing these characters unite fairly early. By the end of the first act, the main crew is set. That’s what this should be and given that the lineup is almost identical to that film it should have been the model.

This not only keeps the team apart for a lot of the game and makes them very mad at each other during it, it makes what I call the Justice League error. It keeps Captain America out of the story until the very end just as that kept Superman out. It doesn’t work because it keeps the soul of the team out of the story while we wait for their agonizingly obvious return. For these stories, we need those characters there and exemplifying what we came for. Again, the movie smartly put a lot of faith in Chris Evans embodying Cap and actually the franchise was smart never to kill him off for the reason of us knowing it wouldn’t stick.

None of this makes it bad. It just makes it feel at a point remove. This just doesn’t feel like an Avengers story. And what it does feel like is a very different thing. And I need to pause because I’m gonna jerk this a bit. See it’s not really an Avengers story because they do feel out of focus and disassembled. But this is a really great Ms. Marvel story.

Yeah I thought a lot about was this being more of a Kamala Khan story a good or bad thing and I decided it’s tricky but I love Kamala so I’m going with it’s good as it is. This is a story about a fan reacting to her idols. It’s about realizing she belongs there. Her story is as perfect as it can be. And that’s what held me through this experience. I loved following Kamala’s energy and hope even through another goddamn dungeon crawl.

I can see why this isn’t a success. Again I can tell the graphics are far below grade and the combat is mostly hit something. It’s not the story it’s billed as. It misses the mark. But is it bad? I had a good time watching it and I was moved by the story. That’s what I was asked to judge. I have so judged it.

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