Saturday, June 02, 2012

"The Avengers"

I went to see The Avengers again today.  I learned something important during this, my second viewing:  if you spend two hours and twenty-two minutes grinning, your face hurts for a while.  Teeth kinda ache a little too.

What can I say about this movie to make you, my faithful readers, understand how magnificent it is?  Where do I begin?

I hear music.

Where do I begin
To tell the story of how great a film can be,
A film I think that every boy and girl should see,
The simple truth about the joy it brings to me --
Where do I start?

Okay, I won't actually rewrite the entire theme to Love Story.  But only because I probably don't have time -- I am using precious and rare child-free time to write this.

I'm not as familiar with the Avengers as I am with the X-Men, Spider-man, Batman, and Superman.  All I knew about the Avengers prior to this movie, I gleaned from the occasional issue of the Spider-man Magazine that involved Spidey teaming up with one or more of this team.  My favorites were the ones that teamed Spidey with the Hulk, and of all the characters in this new film, he's the one I know the best. But let me hasten to add that I've never seen either of the Hulk's other movies (don't intend to), nor have I seen the four movies that led up to this one:  Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Captain America:  The First Avenger (2011), or Thor (2011).  Planning on seeing those four soon.

But enough rambling!  Because I haven't gotten to the good stuff yet!  And oh, what a motherlode of good stuff there is!  And much of it is due to one person:  Joss Whedon.

I love this picture of him.  Joss Whedon, our fearless leader, casually holding Captain America's shield while looking just like one of us, in sneakers and a faded shirt.  Only, of course, Joss isn't one of us.  He's the criminal creative mastermind behind so many genius things, from the well-known (Buffy and Angel and Firefly) to the oh-really-he-wrote-that-too (Toy Story).  His writing never fails to please me on nearly every level, from his quirky and fully realized characters to his never-predictable plotting to his zingful and twisty dialog.  And finally, finally, finally, someone has given Joss Whedon a whole lot of money and toys and set him loose to wreak havoc.  And by havoc, I mean blowing pretty much every other superhero movie ever out of the water.  And out of the sky.  And off the face of the earth.

I'm not going to recap the movie here.  You should go see it yourself, if you haven't already.  Go see it again, if you have.

Instead, I'm going to gush about the characters and themes for a bit.  Those are two things I enjoy most about any story (Plot?  What's a plot?), and they are what I 100% love about The Avengers.

What we have here is your standard Joss Whedon group of misfits and loners who need to learn to work together in order to avert impending doom.  Captain America (Chris Evans) spends more time wishing he'd died in WWII than figuring out how to live now.  Natasha Romanaoff/The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is an assassin who's a whizz at interrogation, not integration.  Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a spoiled little rich boy who alternates smarting off with showing off.  Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) specializes in archery, which is not what you might call a team sport.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is an alien deity bent on saving Earth even if he has to hammer the whole planet into smithereens in the process.  And Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is more afraid of himself than any one or anything else, and would rather be anywhere but here.

Honestly, these people make most of the X-Men look positively well-adjusted!

One of the themes Joss Whedon explores over and over and over is creating your own family.  The three TV shows I know him best for -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly -- all involve disparate characters who probably wouldn't have anything to do with each other ordinarily, but thanks to the situations they wind up in, they forge friendships and surrogate families that bind them together long after the weekly danger has been averted.  The same thing happens here:  by the end of the film, the characters have bonded into, if not a cohesive whole, at least a functional set of friends.

Which brings me to another favorite theme of Joss's, the flip side of the friendship coin:  enemies.  Except in the Whedonverse, they're oh-so-often the same side of the coin.  Your friends can become your enemies, and vice versa.  On Buffy, season two's main villain?  Buffy's boyfriend Angel.  Season six's main villain?  Buffy's best friend, Willow.  Recurring villain Spike, on the other hand, wound up as one of the White Hats.  Here in The Avengers, who's causing all that murder and mayhem?  Why, none other than Thor's (adopted) brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  And our supposed ally, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), is being much less than forthcoming with the team.  Not to mention the fact that except for the two humans, Romanoff and Barton, the rest of the team can't stand each other for the first two-thirds of the movie.

Speaking of humans, we come to another theme Joss loves to explore:  heroism.  What makes someone, to quote Zoe from Firefly, a "big d**n hero?"  Is it superpowers?  Is it destiny?  Is it ancestral lineage?  Why, no.  Heroes, in the Whedonverse, are heroes because they are willing to make sacrifices.  They're willing to sacrifice their honor, their possessions, their reputation, their friends, their families, and even their own lives, all to save helpless, ordinary people who will generally be unappreciative, if not downright ungrateful.  Season five of Buffy culminated in Buffy Summers leaping into a portal between earth and a demon dimension to seal it up and save the world; The Avengers culminates in Ironman rocketing into a portal between earth and an alien dimension to seal it up and save the world.  Both Buffy and Tony Stark began their character journeys (several seasons/films earlier) as spoiled, popular, self-absorbed, pretty people -- both wind up willing to literally lay down their lives for not only their friends, but the whole world.  Big d**n heroes indeed.

I'm running out of time here -- I'll have to discuss things like acting and favorite lines and scenes that make me giddy in another post.  For now, I will just say that I loved this movie so much, that it's so completely good and awesome and delightful, that I actually kinda want to take my parents to see it.  Because it's an old-fashioned adventure story disguised as a spangly new supermovie.  Monsters and magic may abound (they're two of Joss's specialties, after all), but the real power of The Avengers is how personal it makes the mayhem.  The real 3D special effects here are the three-dimensional characters.  Somebody, please give Joss Whedon more money and toys so he can make a sequel!


  1. Okay! I'm game. But who's going to babysit????

  2. Hmmm. Great-Grandma? We'll see what we can work out :-)


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