The Best Lack All Conviction: “The Avengers,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and Crafting the Cinematic Villain
Blockbuster season is the time in the cinematic calendar when studios and directors are given the freest license to paint with broad, unsubtle strokes, and 2012, so far, has been no different: if we leave aside the refreshing ambivalence of The Hunger Games, this summer’s fare has offered up plenty of stark, dualistic storylines pitting the forces of good against those of evil. None of them, however, have quite managed to hit. The Avengers, despite its record-shattering march into the rarified air of box office history, relies far more on pageantry and witty squabbling to entertain than on any genuine sense of peril. Snow White and the Huntsman, meanwhile, tries to complicate its fairy tale villain by giving Charlize Theron lots of space to monologue about how men mistreat women, even as the movie sticks to a conventional fairy tale structure of good overcoming evil. Prometheus, out this past weekend, doesn’t even have a recognizable antagonist, unless one wants to shoehorn the huge pale aliens that apparently created its creepy-crawlies into that box.