Last night I finally got to see the Avengers, my most hotly anticipated film since Conan. I enjoyed it. The action scenes and the special effects were outstanding–Academy Award outstanding. The acting was superb. The scriptwriters and director gave good lines and plenty of screen time to all the major characters. I suppose I should stop and give a well done bit of applause to all the members of the cast. Here’s a few of them as listed at IMDB.com.
|Cast overview, first billed only:|
|Robert Downey Jr.||…|
|Samuel L. Jackson||…|
I am not a Hollywood groupie, and I don’t keep track of movie stars in my daily life. I have seen Robert Downey and Gwynneth Paltrow enough in other films to recognize their names. I still remember the terrific performances turned in by Chris Evans as Captain America and Chris Helmsworth as Thor, but if you had asked me last night before the film who played Cap and Thor in those movies, I couldn’t have told you. Of course everyone in America knows Samuel Jackson from lots of different films–he does the Nick Fury, leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. routine. However, I thought the actors were very good, even the ones in throwaway bit parts. Tom Hiddleston as Loki really carried the movie. Super heroes require super villains, and he was great, combining arrogance, cunning, and sheer mad egotism in a bravura performance. I think there is a tendency to overlook the bad guys in hero action films, but we members of the audience should give those actors more credit. Without them the heroes have no reason to exist, and nothing to emote against. Think about it. There was one real bad guy in the film–Loki. He took on Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, the Black Widow, and Nick Fury and gave them all they could handle. One vs. seven. I’m not giving away any secrets if I tell you they beat him in the end, but think of the odds. Hero stories are usually stacked the other way–more bad guys than good guys, and in a sense this was since Loki had an army of formidable aliens to back him up, but they were just extras. Loki, and for 2/3 of the movie, Hawkeye who had been mind-controlled by Loki, were the only real bad guys.
The plot can be summarized easily enough. Loki and his army of alien monsters decide to conquer the Earth. Loki’s main problem is in bringing his troops to Earth from their outer space/other dimesnional homeworld. Nick Fury and his agents of SHIELD, including the group he pulls together as the Avengers have to stop him. Lots of combat and property destruction ensue. Much of the conflict occurs on a personal level. Marvel characters are all people first, heroes second. They have their own motivations and lives, and often resent being forced to protect the world from one threat or another, but because they are good guys at heart–at least most of them are–they get over their greivances and cooperate to save the day. Take out all the character vs. character petty antagonisms and the movie is half as long.
The movie really starts with the theft of the Tesseract (also known as the Cosmic Cube in the comics) from a SHIELD base somewhere. Loki takes on the whole base, beats it, and gets away with the maguffin. But it only gets interesting when we switch to the Black Widow, in her crimson underwear, tied to a chair, and being interrogated by an evil Russian general arms dealer. She gets a call from SHIELD saying they need her to “come in” and this leads to an escape featuring the most incredible display of chair fu ever filmed. Jackie Chan would be so proud. That’s the scene I want a picture of, not her in a black rubber suit pointing a pistol.
Thor and Captain America, although no dummies, spend most of their time kicking butt and looking hunky. I suppose the beefcake is for the ladies in the audience, but there is a lot of barely concealed homoeroticism in superhero comics. These guys are just so damn pretty. I like it better when they’re kicking butt.
In the course of the film we learn that SHIELD is really run by a secret cabal who are utterly ruthless. I guess having it just be an arm of the United Nations or the U.S. government isn’t enough any more. We need conspiracies. And the government looks evil enough to the American public without the movies making it worse. Far better to have secret leaders who can’t be traced back to the Republicans or the Democrats or the Communists pulling the strings. Fury is shown to be a devious bastard, but still a man with heart who does his best to protect people.
Thor and Iron Man go head to head in combat about half way through the movie. I didn’t buy it. No matter how good Stark’s technology is, Thor’s hammer should have blasted through it like it was tissue paper. He’s a god. So, suspend your disbelief for this part and just enjoy the smashing and bashing.
The movie ends in an epic battle scene. All of our Avenging heroes fight like heroes. Hulk and Thor do the heavy hitting. The rest take on the alien storm troopers who are quite bad enough to give any normal human being fits. This is the part of the movie I liked best. Bring it on! Take out one gigantic space dragon. Not bad. Here’s ten more of them. Now what are you gonna do, Hulk?
I liked the Avengers and give it 4 stars out of 5. **** If you like superheroes at all, don’t miss it.
One more thing: my personal rant–People are so hypercritical of the movies these days. The Avengers is an amazing achievement as a movie. Can you nitpick it? Yes you could. I’m not going to. Try to see the terrific acting, the great storyline, the amazing special effects (even if it was all done with computer animation), and skip over the implausibilities and impossibilities that glare out of the movie at you. It’s a comic book world, bearing a heavy resemblance to our world, but it isn’t our world. It’s a wilder place than our own universe, and wilder things happen. Accept them! Enjoy them!
Biggest surprise for me: Joss Whedon had his name all over the credits. Wow! He must be on top of the world right now. He is, imnsho, the best storyteller in Hollywood, perhaps in the world. Didn’t know he was a Marvel fan, but I stand in awe of his achievements.
If you have anything to say about the Avengers, the Ghostbusters, or Joss Whedon, please leave a comment.