Sunday, May 6, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers, an Expected Summer Spectacle

     News broke today that The Avengers, Marvel's newest film that features all of the superhero fan favorites (at least in the Marvel universe) of the past few years, became the highest-grossing opening weekend film of all time--the first film in the history of theater-going to break the seemingly unattainable barrier of $200 million dollars during its first three days. Like The Hulk breaking his foes into little bits, it smashed box office expectations. It's no huge surprise: the marketing for it has flashed across every type of screen for over a year, reaching a fever pitch throughout the past few weeks. But in film, money doesn't necessarily mean quality. (Does anyone remember Paul Blart: Mall Cop?) Luckily, The Avengers will meet your expectations: it's an occasionally great, always-entertaining summer blockbuster that won't change anyone's mind about superhero films (one way or the other), and it will satiate any geek's hunger until Prometheus lands in June and The Dark Knight Rises flies into cinemas in July.
     By now, most anyone can name the main members of The Avengers. Their stories are separate until an end-the-world plot brings them together at breakneck speed. Tony Stark's Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still a "billionaire, playboy, philanthropist" who dishes out humorous and sarcastic quips faster than he blazes across the sky. Captain America (Chris Evans) is still dealing with visions and the nostalgia of his past life--he's only at peace when he's serving his country with the utmost honor. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) had returned to his distant planet, but Earth is under his protection so he returns with Shakespearean fervor when the metaphorical shit hits the fan. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) has been laying low, seemingly a pro at anger management, never letting the green "other guy" enter into Smash Mode. The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is still performing expert martial arts maneuvers in her tight leather suit--don't ask me how the crotch doesn't rip out on that thing. Newcomer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) rounds out the pack with some impressive archery skills that would make Katniss Everdeen moan with orgasmic ecstasy.
     These are superheroes with super powers, all with different skill sets that prove useful at convenient times. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the leader of SHIELD, an organization that seemingly stops Earth from being destroyed, brings these large personalities together for one reason: Thor's adopted brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has come to our home planet to steal this thingamajig called the Tesseract, a never-ending source of energy that he wants to use to open a portal to other dimensions or universes (or does it matter?). It's safe to say that what enters through this portal won't be what a military soldier would call a "friendly". Ultimately, they look like monster reptiles that ride easy-to-shoot-down-and-destroy flying spacecrafts. So the Avengers come together to--what else--avenge Loki and his maniacal smile.
     Though the film has some damn impressive battles and gorgeous special effects, much of The Avengers run time is spent examining the tension-filled relationships between our beloved heroes. Their home base is a giant aircraft carrier that can sprout hovercraft wings and fly around and become invisible (don't ask). As one can imagine, personalities clash and insults are thrown and deflected like stray bullets off of Captain America's shield. These folks could learn the old lesson that there is no "I" in "Team". The film is funny and corny, but that's part of the fun: it's hard not to chuckle at Downey Jr.'s never-ending sarcasm, Thor's ancient terminology, and Captain America's unwillingness to participate in the more hurtful and personal banter. Eventually, an event happens that obviously brings The Avenger's close, and it sets up the long and great action-packed finale of the film. They finally learn the lesson that most children know: working together towards a goal is much more efficient. Luckily for the viewer, it's also fun to watch.
     The Avengers is directed by Joss Whedon, the creator of the television version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the visual presence in many nerd's nocturnal emissions. He does a great job with the balancing act of showcasing each character's personal journey, humor and power. The problem with the film is that it doesn't surprise: the basic frame of the story has been told in each of the individual Marvel films--the two Iron Man movies, Thor, and the worst of the bunch, Captain America. Introduce the hero. Introduce the villain. Ultimately, save the world. Now that Marvel has upped the ante and brought all of these characters together, will anyone care about the plight of Iron Man or Thor when their individual upcoming sequels are eventually released into theaters? That's a stupid question. Of course they will. Me: I'm looking forward to the next Avengers film, hoping to be surprised.     (B)

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