Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just Awesome Cinema: The Avengers (2012)(Include Spoilers!)

One of my best friends came up with an interesting but lewd analogy that would be better left unmentioned for our more tender-eared Vidkids.  Instead, I will apply a more well-worn analogy in its place: if the proceeding Marvel Films before it was the ingredients, then The Avengers is the sweet, sweet festive cake with delicious icing on top. And candles. And sparklers. And an action figure tap-dancing to Camptown Races on top.

Welcome to the ultimate superhero action film.

Notice I said action film. Many people usually like to compare notes on what is the greatest superhero film ever, not realizing that in most cases, its like comparing apples to oranges to bananas and pears. For example, it would not be fair to compare Iron Man to Batman Begins; different stories, different focuses, and in some cases, entirely different genres(Iron Man's science fiction versus Batman Begins's crime drama). We have both The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spiderman hot on the heels of this early summer blockbuster. I'm sure you're going to have some scholarly film critic compare all of them as if they are all the same thing. It would not be fair, and it would be an exercise in overgeneralizing.

But you're not here to debate the naivete of film critics, right? We're here to talk about the ultimate payoff film, The Avengers!

I consider the Marvel Films proceeding this film to be one huge film series. Instead of separate franchises, I consider Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, to be sort of analogous to Star Wars or Kill Bill; i.e. episodes in a huge film saga, as opposed to just separate pieces that only fit together on a whim. Of the proceeding five moving pics, one would need Thor and Captain America the most to understand what unfolds in the Avengers film. The Tesserect originates from Captain America, while main nemesis Loki arose from Asgard in Thor.

Of course, I should not discount the others. Hulk is self-explanatory, while Black Widow originates from Iron Man 2. Hawkeye appears in Thor, and the gem of the Avengers Initiative itself sprung from the very first Iron Man, at the end of the credits. Man, I personally love stuff like this, building a fictional universe; as a cinephile, I would rather be rewarded with film features like this, then the lazy way of Hollywood these days, which is slapping 3-D on a film and luring in the gullible.

The film itself, which stars an all star cast, shares the most "flavor" with last year's Captain America: The First Avenger. It's the "anti-gritty", "anti-Dark Knight" film, a cinema story that relishes in four-color superhero tropes and superhero comic-book trappings. Marvel(pardon the pun) at the awesome SHIELD Helicarrier, the ultimate superhero headquarters! Get lost in such superhero team-up moves as the Repulsar Blaster meets Cap's Shield, reflected into alien faces! Cheer as Hulk uses Loki like a throw-rag! This, along with the proceeding Marvel Films, are pictures for the adult and child, and for the child within the adult! It is an awesome contrast to the more serious Dark Knight Saga of DC/Warner Bros, which is geared towards the adult more than a child.

I'm not saying that there can't be room for both types of storytelling. But, I'm sure the 2003 Hulk failed in a lot of people's eyes because it seemed more intent on telling an "adult" story, as opposed to simply telling a Hulk story. The same with Superman Returns(ironically, I like them both.); what can be learned from The Avengers is that, well, people want to have a good time. They want escapism. Not every film has to be an "adult" exercise in stylistic cinema techniques, self pity, contemplating your navels...a good 'ol fashion funfest can be just what the cinema doctor ordered as well.

Anyway, the film itself begins in a Shield compound, where SHIELD members Nick Fury(Samuel L. "M*****F***" Jackson), Maria Hill(Cobie Smulders), and Phil Coulsen(Clark Gregg) are alerted to a disturbance of the Tesserect, seen at the end of Thor. Dr. Erik Selvig(Stellan Skarsgard)(from Thor) and Hawkeye(Jeremy Renner), the archery-using Shield Agent, are on hand as well, to see what manifests from said Tesserect: the villianous Loki(Tom Hiddleston), who, with the aid of a mysterious sceptre, set about dispatching SHIELD agents, brainwashing a few key ones, and making off like a bandit with the Tesserect.

Left with no other options, Nick Fury assembles his team: the sensual, but dangerous Black Widow(Scarlett Johassan), the calm and surprisingly collected(to a degree)Bruce Banner/Hulk(Mark Ruffalo), the out of time Steve Rodgers/Captain America(Chris Evans), and the always cocky and arrogant Tony Stark/Iron Man(Robert Downey, Jr.), (complete with AC/DC music!). Gathered together on the SHIELD Helicarrier, they are initally assembled to battle Loki. But after his capture, they set out to track down the Tesserect itself, using a program that tracks the gamma radiation it is setting off. It is only later, when Thor(Chris Hemsworth) arrives in the most spectacular fashion, that we learn the scope of Loki's plans, which involves an alien army called The Chitauri invading the Earth!

As I mentioned before, The Avengers shares more in common with last year's Captain America. Both are perfect summer blockbuster films, with enough substance to steer them away from accusations of being simple "popcorn fare", but lovably drenched in four-color comic book fantasy that provides wonderful escapism. It seems that all the films in the Avengers saga have great casts, and this one was no exception; besides the main leads and the villain, Clark Gregg, as Phil Coulsen, grew on me as a character. This film adds another dimension to him as a Cap fan, an audience surrogate.

This film also follows the comic, believe it or not. Back in the Silver Age, Loki was the very reason that the Avengers(in the original book, included Wasp and Ant-Man) assembled in the first place...and Hulk was used as a weapon by the Teutonic god. However, the Avengers film saga(all the films within the "Marvel Cinematic Universe") draw elements from both the 616(i.e. the regular Marvel Universe) and the "Ultimate" Marvel Universe. Thus...the Avengers of these films are a composite of the 616 Avengers, Mark Millar's Ultimates, and Brian Micheal Bendis's New Avengers(which is still 616). The "black" Nick Fury originated from Ultimates, Maria Hill originated from New Avengers, Hawkeye and Black Widow are a mixture of Ultimates and regular Avengers...

You're better off not complaining about who is not in the movie, etc...and enjoying it for the awesome spectacle it is.

And don't forget the stinger, the scene after the closing credits. There is a certain, ahem, "mad" twist there.

Next up is Iron Man 3. I can't wait. I want more Avengers movie "episodes".

Keep them coming, Marvel.


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