Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of The Marshall Independent.
OK, you know everybody thinks “The Avengers” is great, and it’s made box office history by earning $441 million (more than twice the production costs) in it’s first week after the international release, plus a weekend gross of $200 million in North America.
So what else can I tell you?
I can tell you that unless you go see it for yourself you won’t know just how REALLY GREAT it is!
“The Avengers” is the apex of a story arc of five previous movies, bringing together six Marvel Comics characters to form a superhero team and save the world.
Development on “The Avengers” began in 2005. After many delays Joss Whedon was brought on board in 2010 to rewrite the screenplay and direct.
This is the culmination of the life work of one Stanley Martin Lieber, who went to work for his cousin’s husband at Timely Comics in 1939 as a 17-year-old gofer. He adopted the name of Stan Lee because he had ambitions of writing serious novels under his birth name. Then in 1941 he was allowed to contribute the text filler for Captain America Comics #3, and the rest is history.
Marvel Comics have been turned into movies as early as 1944, as well as cartoons, and TV series. Now Marvel characters on film have caught on in a big way and a new generation of fans has experienced the Marvel universe primarily from the movies.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back from Asgaard, because his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has returned to Earth from exile via the mysterious Tesseract, introduced in Captain America.
Loki is coming with an army of powerful aliens to conquer the world. Fury brings Captain America (Chris Evans,) Thor, and reluctantly Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) on board, and dispatches Agent Natasha Romanov “The Black Widow” (Scarlett Johansson) to fetch Bruce Banner and his alter ego The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo.)
To complicate things Agent Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner,) who has history with Romanov, and Thor’s friend Professor Erik Selvik (Stellan Skarsgård,) have been turned into Loki’s brainwashed slaves.
That sets the stage for a slam-bang CGI battle in the canyons of New York between the superhero team and aliens on flying motorcycles and giant scaly-fish-looking flying battleships.
It shouldn’t work – but it does.
There’s the banter. It’s witty, quick, in character, and they keep it coming.
Tony Stark is at his cynical, wisecracking best. Thor talks like a refugee from Shakespeare in the Park, and Captain America captures the earnest, unembarrassed idealism of the World War II era, but they’ve got great quips and comebacks too.
The characters are a bickering, mismatched bunch brought together by common danger, duty, the Machiavellian manipulation of Fury, and the natural leadership qualities of Captain America.
The super powers aren’t believable, but the heroism is.
And so is the villainy.
Loki announces his return very appropriately, in Germany, “Kneel before me. I said? KNEEL! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.”
If you can’t imagine there are real people who think like that, you’ve led a very fortunate life. But I assure you there are, and they’re more common than we’d like.
Fortunately so are the kind of people like Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) who can’t match the powers of his idol Captain America, but matches his courage and sacrifice. Or tarnished, conscience-stricken, Romanov who is willing to wash out the blood on her ledger with her own if necessary.
And yes, the morally ambiguous Fury, who realizes the terrible danger of using the power of the Tesseract to make weapons, but takes the risk because the universe is after all a very dangerous place to face unarmed.
On the surface the battle seems to be a face-off between demigods Thor and Loki and their respective allies. But the real pairing is between Loki, the master of slaves, and Captain America, who when the chips are down far more powerful superheroes choose to follow, because he is a natural leader of free men.
I could go on, but I won’t. Just see it.