‘The Avengers’

Altogether Now

This has been without a doubt the biggest build up since the Harry Potter movies and Lord of the Rings kicked off in the market place in the same year. A revamped Hulk, Two Iron Man movies, a Thor movie directed by Kenneth Brannagh and a cursory Captain America, they finally made it to the starting line having only lost Ed Norton along the way. The remarkable cast threaded together by Samuel L. Jackson appearing as Nick Fury in all these movies has included Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, which might be a record of sorts.

It opened last week in the USA and immediately vaulted to the second largest opening since the last installment of Harry Potter and has eclipsed just about every superhero movie ever made including the highly esteemed Christopher Nolan’s Batman second Batman movie.

The film is like one long fevered geek-fest with scant respect for physics, logic, and rationality, but it all hangs together and goes so fast you don’t have time to ponder anything. Just, take it all in baby and cogitate afterwards.

What’s Good About It

If you like the big hamburger-with-the-lot meal set with the drinks and fries super-sized, and like adding some high-calorie, low-health dessert on the side, …this is your movie!  I admit, I do. This movie is not a meal at the Michelin three-hats restaurant. And as burger-with-the-lot movies go, this is most excellent. Clocking well over two hours, and it’s still not enough. You stumble out of the cinema with a giant adrenalin rush like you’ve had three cans of a caffeine drink.

The action is thumping, the scenes are resplendently colourful, with the patina of the best comic books thrown at the screen. Captain America’s blue with white and red trim against Iron Man’s red with gold trim oozes Americana in the way Detroit motor show does, but also comes a long way from Christopher Reeve’s Superman with its brazen post-industrial, post-cyberpunk design.

What’s Bad About It

There isn’t a teaser after the trailers like there was with the Iron Man movies.

Okay, it’s a guilty pleasure to so throw yourself into something so devoid of intellectual challenge. This is not the film to look for it, but you do think after a viewing, “have I become so dumb that this film gives me so much pleasure?”

It’s a film with such a strong delineation, there is no real nuance to savor. Black is black, white is white, Red White and Blue are Red White and Blue. I guess it’s appropriately bold ad simple but even allowing for it, this is pure comic book rhetoric dressed up to be a movie. It’s about as deep as a puddle left behind by rain on a summer’s day. in that sense this is nothing like the second Christopher Nolan Batman movie.

What’s Interesting About It
We live in an age of comic book movies that are so extravagant that they eclipse most other attempts at entertainment. Take for example the Mission Impossible IV movie I gave a crit on only yesterday. That would have been a top effort by a studio back in the 90s, and it even had some heart stopping suspense in parts of it. It’s a good movie, but it’s got *nothing* on the extravagant action in this film. in turn, this film makes ‘Mission Impossible IV Ghost Protocol’ seem a lot more mature than it it really is.

Now, Mission Impossible in its fourth movie is also a property that comes out of television and it has some sort of cultural weight to it, but thanks to Tom Cruise’s mishandling of the franchise, that cultural weight is blow away by the cultural weight of these comic book movies. When you think about it, some of these characters have been knocking around earning more and more story and market place power in comic books since the 1960s. It’s arguable that the most important characters in fiction would equally include Hamlet, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Spiderman. The question is, which of the Bard’s characters has Spiderman knocked out to be in the top 100? Prospero, maybe?

Marvel’s got a lot more stories to tell before it exhausts itself, and if this film is  any indication it’s going to keep smashing Hollywood product at the box office for some time yet.

What’s Hollywood going to do about this? Or has it given up developing its own franchises?

Iron-y Man

Marvel has  a beautiful way of giving us heroes who are also deeply flawed as human beings. It contrasts greatly to the DC stable with their emotionally controlled characters Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. batman has been making the most  mileage in the movie market place for DC, but that has been by pushing the aspect of Batman being wound a little too tight. None of DC Comics’ main heroes come with things like emotional baggage, hangups, and personality issues like say, Iron Man.

Robert Downey Jr. has been adding his nervous twitches on to the weird quirks of Tony Stark, who at the core is the Tin Man in Oz. (Hulk then must be Scarecrow without the brain and Nick Fury just might be the cowardly Lion). If Iron Man was a kind of extended metaphor for the American Military Industry Complex, then in this film he is clearly as he carries a nuclear weapon across dimensions through a portal. The MIC invites enemies because it is mischievous in nature.

If he didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be so many conflicts. As it is, he gets into a lot of adventures for our entertainment.

Captain America As Anachronism

Captain America is always going to be a troubled character in any time outside of the 1940s. Marvel have milked this effect for years but when you finally see it on screen, all you feel is a weird sadness for a guy who is never going to go home and is destined to fight for America until something very well kills him. It’s pretty bleak. If the Marvel movie that brought him to the big screen was a bit light, then this film only pushes that memento only slightly forwards, but Chris Evans’ portrayal of the character adds a great deal of angst. The funny thing is, I don’t remember angst as being part of Captain America.

Third Hulk

Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner is actually an inspired bit of casting. He brings the right amount of quiet desperation and earnestness to the role. not that Ed Norton was bad as Bruce Banner, but Mark Ruffalo brings a lot more pain and less callowness to the screen. Bringing the Hulk to the screen has been tough for Marvel. They did one with Ang Lee directing and starring Eric Bana which was a great ‘film’ but a terrible ‘movie’. It had so many nuanced performances and stylistic explorations but it definitely was not what the doctor ordered. The Ed Norton installment was a better movie but still lacked any semblance of having an emotional high. Maybe it was good that both those iterations got left in the dust with the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. I wouldn’t mind seeing a stand alone Hulk movie with him.

Scarlett Johansson As Scene Stealer

I know she wanted to be in the Avengers as Black Widow and so they wrote her in extensively but, I could have done with less of her this time around. Considering the villain this time is Loki, they should have spent more time on Thor. Instead we’re treated to 3 long sequences where she is beating the crap out of Russian interogators, avoiding getting killed by the Hulk, and beating up Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

It’s interesting what she likes playing. There’s ‘Lost in Translation’, a raft of Woody Allen pictures, ‘Iron Man2’ and now this film.

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