Review: Avengers XXX 1 And 2

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This pair of superhero extravaganzas from director Axel Braun is, as ever, ambitious stuff – a multi-character epic that riffs equally on the existing Marvel movie franchises and the comic books that spawned them. How successfully it does so will depend very much on how you approach the film.

What’s interesting about these two films – and Braun’s superhero parodies in general – is that they are not actually satires of the Marvel movies themselves – I imagine that when this was shot, Ultron was yet to be announced as the villain of the second Avengers films – but rather their own stories, inspired directly by the comic books.

What this means is that the Braun films are much more authentic visual representations of the original characters – these films are essentially cosplay, if cosplayers got to have a lot of sex during Comic Con events. It also allows Braun to exploit the existence of the Avengers films while not being tied to the characters – so in these films, we see characters that have yet to appear in the official cinematic universe… and who probably won’t in some cases. Certainly, while Marvel has plans for Captain Marvel in 2018, they will presumably be ignoring the original Ms Marvel version, whereas Braun has her front and centre here (albeit it in her second, more sexually provocative incarnation). Of course, this is porn – there is the obvious need for more female superheroes to be included. Still, fans will be happy to see characters like Ms Marvel and The Wasp brought to life, particularly as Rikki Sixx fills out the MM costume impressively in the second film, replacing Lexi Swallow (and also makes it clear why no PG-13 rated film would dare to have a character who dressed in such a way). Sexual fantasies about superhero characters and cosplay kink are what sell films like this. It’s the entire raison d’etre.

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The problem with these films, though, are the same that beset many of Braun’s superhero parodies – there are simply too many characters and too many couplings to get through for the film to develop and sense of direction. The plot is simple enough – Nick Fury (Lexington Steele) gathers together a selection of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to try to capture The Hulk. This group – Iron Man (Dale Dabone), Thor (Brendon Miller), Hawkeye (Eric Masterton), Spider-Man (Xander Corvus). Black Widow (Brooklyn Lee), Scarlet Witch (Danni Cole), Spider Woman (Jenna Presley), Ms Marvel (Lexi Swallow) and She Hulk (Chyna – of course…) bicker, jockey for position and, inevitably, settle differences through the time-honoured method of vigorous sex, before heading off to track down the frozen body of Captain America, leaving the film open-ended enough to justify a second volume. Oh, and Iron Man actually does get round to fighting The Hulk (Jordan Lane) briefly. Good to see someone remembered what the mission was.

The second film sees Spider-Man (Xander Corvus) infected with his black and evil Spider-Man costume by HYDRA agents, while the rest of the Avengers ready themselves to fight Onslaught. It starts mid-story, ends on a cliff-hanger and chucks in a bunch of characters – Red Guardian (Eva Karera), Winter Soldier (Seth Gamble) and others – to keep the fans happy, if confused. The sex scenes are varied, explicit and deliver what most viewers will want. If you are watching this simply as porn, then without a doubt you’ll find it very satisfactory.

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Unfortunately, this entire plot has to be squeezed into a mere 16 – 18 minutes of narrative per film, the rest of the running time taken up with sex scenes. And that’s not really very long to allow any of the characters to really develop. In fact, other than a couple of round-table discussions, there’s little multi-character interaction. So the only way to really enjoy this is to look at this is as a series of individual vignettes featuring your favourite heroes. So if, for example, you’d ever fantasised about a steamy lesbian hook-up between Ms Marvel and Scarlet Witch (of course, I can’t imagine any of you ever have…) then this is probably going to tick several boxes for you – and Ms Marvel also has the sort of team-up with Spidey that you won’t find in the comics.. And if you are the sort of weirdo who dreams of a hook-up between Thor and She-Hulk, then you’ll be very happy here. But it’s notable that with so many characters, not everyone gets into the action – Spider Woman stays chaste (until you watch the bonus scene where she gets it on with Thor, this time played by Evan Stone, is an alternate version of the She Hulk scene), as does Iron Man.

And if you do take this simple as an unconnected series of scenes, then it works. There’s no faulting the costumes – absolutely as good as any of the mainstream versions of these characters, and both Steele and Miller in particular are rather excellent in their roles, looking and feeling authentic.

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But just as I wonder how long the official Marvel films can keep going as empty spectacle without offering more substance, I do wonder if the bubble will burst – or possibly already has burst – on the superhero porn parodies?  To make these an on-going series, then I would suspect it needs something more. I realise I sound as though I’m on a tape loop when I discuss these films, but the fact that the non-sex version of this film runs less than 20 minutes per film is a problem. These are the movies that offer the chance of crossover, of convergence – the way to sell XXX rated movies to people who might not normally buy porn. And yet they are essentially shot according to the rules set down for SOV porn for the last 20 years, with a brief bit of dialogue or plot leading to long sex scenes that essentially bring the film crashing to a halt (even the music fizzles out during the sex, to be replaced by the performers grunting away, entirely out of character). I’d like to see films like this more fully integrating the sex into the story, chopping the length of the sex scenes down considerably and paying as much attention to story as they do to the costumes. I suspect that if they did, the films would have a much wider and longer appeal – right now, it’s possible that the novelty of the superhero parody will wear off once the cult film and comic book sites tire of running stories about them. Of course, in allowing the story to grind to a halt for money shots is what the official Avengers movies do too, and that seems to keep everyone happy, so maybe I’m being too fussy.

If Avengers XXX is a disappointment to me, it’s simply because I think this sort of film has so much potential, and it’s being unfulfilled. My expectations are probably too high, and you should translate my criticisms accordingly. The fact remains that these are the most interesting porn movies being made right now. I do hope, however, that if Vivid keep developing this series without Braun, maybe there is a chance of a fresh start from a more imaginative and technically capable writer and director.

DAVID FLINT

www.vivid.com

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