Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Avengers Assemble "Savages"

Tony Stark learns not to rely solely on his technology.

What haven't I said regarding this plot already? They keep rehashing it.

I could talk some more about the repetitive lesson that's never learned, I could criticize this episode's loose definition of "technology" again, and I could talk about so many other redundant things again and again until the cows come home. But, my dear readers, I think it's finally time to review this show's interpretation of Tony Stark as a whole. No punches pulled, no holds barred.

As always, this is all just my opinion and you're free to disagree.

Shoot, that was the wrong picture of Pinkie Pie.
There we go.
I love reading comments from you guys, and I'd actually love to see your opinions on the matter. But if you ask me, the characterization of Tony Stark has been, without a doubt, the biggest misstep of the series so far.

2008 gave us both Iron Man and The Dark Knight. And Iron Man actually held its own. But, once again, I've talked about this at length. My point is that Tony Stark quickly became an insanely popular character, considering that he had been at B-list status before 2008. Naturally, Iron Man 2 was greenlit to premiere ahead of the Avengers film. In fact, the idea of making Iron Man the main character of The Avengers was on the table at one point.

In short, Iron Man is simply the most popular live-action Avenger, thanks in no small part to Robert Downey Jr.'s performance. It made perfect sense to Marvel to make Avengers Assemble focus around Iron Man. He's the first one we see in the premiere, he's the reason the team rallies back together, his house is the headquarters, he gets more episodes focusing on him than the other characters do, Captain America's partner Falcon becomes Iron Man's partner, and even Captain America's iconic nemesis, the Red Skull, starts up a rivalry with Iron Man. Surely, the Iron Man-loving legions of fans would be all over this, right?

Actually, no. A lot of people hate this show in general and Iron Man in particular. But why? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I can think of a few reasons.

1: The Voice Acting
Interestingly enough, for a show that's trying so hard to emulate the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you'd think they would have kept Eric Loomis from Avengers: EMH, seeing as how the man's normal speaking voice sounds just like RDJ. Of course, I've already gone over the things changed between shows in an earlier post.

Iron Man's Avengers Assemble voice actor, Adrian Pasdar, has a knack for voicing smug jerks. Nathan Petrelli, Glenn Talbot, and more. Having said that, he might be doing too good of a job sounding like a snarky bastard. But that's not to say the performance is entirely terrible. I'd love to see this Tony Stark as an evil genius (and I did in Season 2, but I'm getting ahead of myself). Tony Stark is supposed to be a jerk with a heart of gold, but Pasdar's performance is combining with the fact that the character never learns his stupid lesson has basically turned Iron Man into one of the worst parts of the show. Speaking of which....

2: The Repetitive Lesson
A character like Tony Stark needs to be humbled somehow. Pride comes before a fall, and such. That's what humanizes characters like Tony Stark. But what we have is a smug jerk who keeps getting off scot-free. The lesson never sticks, to the detriment of the plot itself and especially the character. And there's a reason for that.

3: Focus Problems
Tony Stark's big "theme" is all about him and technology. In an Iron Man solo show, you could explore these facets forever. But in the end, this is an Avengers show. More than that, it's a show that is afraid to have subplots. After all, that's one of the reasons Jeph Loeb helped axe EMH; new viewers were allegedly having problems with all the continuity.

So each Avenger gets a go-to "thing" for when episode focus on them. Captain America is out of touch, Hulk is seen as a monster, Thor is bound by a foreign sense of honor, etc. And Iron Man's "thing" is that he tends to use his tech as a crutch. Is this a bad plot in and of itself? No. It's completely true to the core of the character. But as I said earlier, Iron Man has more episodes about him than the other characters get. So because the writers aren't doing season-long character arcs, we're stuck with variations on the same theme over and over. The focus is often stuck halfway between being an Avengers show and an Iron Man one, leaving us stuck in a nebulous void that can't quite decide what's important.

And really, that's the problem with the series as a whole and this episode in particular: it just rehashes old stuff. From reusing designs from the Cinematic Universe, to doing standard Asgard plots and standard Atlantis plots, and this show's crippling fear of shaking up the status quo.

"Savages" focuses on Tony Stark's technological handicap, f does nothing to change the status quo or make the stakes feel higher than usual, barely uses most of the Avengers, misuses Thor and Hulk, and brings barely anything visually impressive to the party. If you summed up the whole first season of Avengers Assemble in one episode, this would be it. It's not a terrible episode, per se, but it's not very good and it exemplifies the worst traits of this show.

Next time, something completely unexpected and very refreshing. See you then!

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