To Rain Dog... The modern breed of blockbuster has no "there" there. But we pretend otherwise, based on the aesthetics of Popular Commercial Filmmaking, which is something of a genre now (just as "good movies" are a genre). Aside from "what are your favorite parts" there's nothing to chew on in "The Avengers" other than the child-like moral of working together and making sacrifices for the greater good.
This is a naked commercial cash grab, given a steady, clear-headed approach by Joss Whedon, a guy who didn't build the boat, but brings a certain sane stewardship to his position. Good for him, good for Marvel. But are we rewarding The Avengers for what it is (predictable action spectacular) or what it ISN'T (stupid, sexist, racist, incoherent).
The definitions of BAD movies has changed. It used to be a question of skill level, as entire generations of filmmakers didn't have film schools, or the proper tech, or even VHS/DVD's to study. Filmmakers weren't cinephiles, for the most part - they directed based on instinct, on passion. That resulted in some pretty idiosyncratic stuff, unusual, unpredictable far. Sometimes, these movies would even have naked commercial appeal, despite being crooked, sideways.
Now, every yokel behind the camera for a studio film knows HOW to make a movie, but they don't know WHY. That results in the impersonal, style-less blockbuster than "The Avengers" announces is GOOD cinema. Few film people can find a single sentence, positive or negative, from a critic talking about this film's values that goes beyond hyperbole.
This has become the ACCEPTED vocabulary, for better or worse, and in most cases, worse. Stuff like "Inception" is considered "personal filmmaking" despite specifically borrowing the visual language of a number of different action films. And as the film world expands, I cannot help but think it's moving forward in only one direction, the one allowing bigger box office receipts every weekend for empty-headed spectacles.
In the other direction, there are smaller films, which of course will always keep getting made and keep showing up on Netflix. But the margin for error is much more limited - great films no longer have their outlets, they're merely being willed into existence by fluky occurances, determined once-in-a-lifetime filmmakers, and ocassionally a fairy godmother (Megan Ellison?) with a philanthropic heart. The market is shrinking for these films, loudly, noticably. Indie distributors rise up every once in awhile, but there are just as many that die on the vine. And we're not talking fly-by-night operations, but shingles like Clooney and Soderbergh's Section 8, a money loser they closed right before they ran out of luck, with an entire ledger of interesting, adult fare that lost money.
I do think the film world is finite, and with exciting new voices picking up cameras every day, I don't know if it can accomodate smaller, more distinct, unusual films in a world where you slap a cape on someone and guarantee an opening weekend of nine figures. Of course, it's not so literal that the latest Abbas Kiarostami film is going to lose funding because someone wanted to bankroll more superhero films. It's because of the continued endorsement not only of empty-headed blockbusters, but big films made that devalue individualism, personality, experimentation, which will lead to sacrifices being made on the business end.
In other words, right now there is room for The Avengers, and great movies made for adults. I worry how long this will last, and no, I don't believe in the trickle-down affect that allows Disney to take more risks because stuff like The Avengers makes $200 million.
Oh, and by the way, an official fuck you to the first person who replies to this with some snarky tl;dr joke.