Tuesday, October 2, 2012


*The following is two thirds of a review for The Avengers that I never finished almost 5 months ago. It didn't feel right finishing it now and it was long enough that I felt I should still publish it. So there you go..... Final line is a little ironic.

Almost exactly four year ago, I was sitting in a movie theater waiting for something I wasn't quite sure I believed. My friends and I had just watched Iron Man, an accomplishment of sorts itself. It had been fun and energetic, faithful to the character and Robert Downey Jr.'s unbelievably charismatic portrayal had been a game changer in the world of super hero movies. Now we were sitting through the credits, as we always do, to show our appreciation for the film as well as hopefully waiting for whatever tacked on little teaser scene the filmmakers had seen fit to add. We had all read on the internet about what we were most likely about to see but like I said, I wasn't sure I believed it. The credits faded out. Everything was quite. Then the scene started. Tony Stark is walking through the darkened halls of his home. Jarvis' security systems seem to have been overridden somehow. He discovers Nick Fury in his living room. Fury is cryptic of course, asking Stark if he thinks he is the "only super hero in the world" and saying that he wants to talk to him about the "Avengers Initiative". That's it, short and sweet but somehow opening up an entire world to all of us. The first thing I thought, the first thing I said to my friends was " This is actually happening. In our lifetimes this is happening". I know, sounds like something someone should be saying about the cure for cancer or legalized same-sex marriage. I don't think anyone other than serious super hero comic book fans will ever be able to understand the feeling we all had at that moment. A feeling that you knew well if you had spent your childhood reading Marvel and DC (and to a small degree Image) comics universes. The feeling that these are actual worlds, with characters that have their own development but often interact with one another. That interaction being one of the most intriguing things to read in modern comics. The closest comparison I can make to a non-fan is if you like a television show and it ends up having a spin-off and they do crossovers. If it's done well, it makes you feel good, feel like you're being rewarded for being a fan, for being loyal.

 I just got home from seeing The Avengers for the second time. I'm going to see it a third, maybe a forth. Anyone who knows me knows how much of a Joss Whedon fan I am and I could probably write a million words just about him and his work so we won't focus on that. We'll focus on the biggest things that make this movie as good as it is.
 First let's look at The Avengers in relation to the high water mark in the comic book movie world, The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan's calling card is his ability to take larger than life materiel and bring it back down to our level. Making it feel like it could exist in our world, like we could hear about it on the news. With The Avengers, Joss has mastered the other end of the spectrum. Years ago, Joss wrote the introduction for the hardcover collection of the DC comics limited series Identity Crisis. Something he wrote has always stayed with me. He referred to the "matter of fact absurdity that is the life of a super-powered person". He put in perfect words there what he has so perfectly accomplished here. The Avengers features high-tech weaponry, monsters, invading alien armies and gods. So many different larger than life elements that don't feel silly, don't feel absurd or overwhelming. This is simply how this world works. Other comic book movies have attempted to pull off being "comic booky" and failed because they made the mistake of blatantly asking their audience to take it seriously. The Avengers doesn't ask, it doesn't need to. It knows that it is absurd, can still be serious about it and doesn't need to pander to anyone. "The matter of fact absurdity"
 Many people were apprehensive about this movie because they didn't think that is was possibly to have six super heroes in one movie and it not be a narrative mess. This was another reason why Whedon was the perfect choice for this job. He has spent his career writing engaging ensembles. Firefly starred nine character for goodness sake. Halfway through the first episode you felt like you had a good handle on all of them. It's no different here. Each hero has just the right amount of scenes bursting at the seams with character development. Everyone has their scene with everyone else as well as several amazing scenes all together. The only problem I had was that there are some gaps in terms of bridging from everyone's individual movies to how they arrived where they are in The Avenger but, realistically , not everything was going to fit.

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