2012-05-04

The Avengers – An Excellent Assembly

by Yo Snyder

The credits rolled, and the theater thundered. Then there was the
usual little bonus-scene-Easter- egg that Marvel movies like to toss in
at the end, and the theater thundered again, even louder. There were
cheers and applause and audible expressions of amazement and adulation.
So yes, they did it. Joss Whedon and his crew accomplished the
impossible and the created the ultimate superhero movie – a comic book
movie with not just one hero, but with with six of them all in one
movie. Against all odds, The Avengers turned out to be really
good; and the fanboys are rejoicing in the streets. It would have been
so easy for a film like this to derail (how many other superhero films
have flopped because of too many villains, or just too many characters
period?), but Joss Whedon is the master of the ensemble cast, and while The Avengers
does wobble at times, he maintains the balance, keeps things on track,
and delivers one of the best Marvel movies to date, and one of the
funnest action flicks to come along since Fast Five.

Part of this is due to the fact that we don’t have to waste any time
on origins. I mean, yeah, this is the origin of the Avengers, but
there’s isn’t any need to explain who these characters are or where they
came from. This means those who are coming into The Avengers
without having seen any of those other films may be a bit at a loss as
to who Thor is or what his connection with Loki is, or why everyone
keeps calling Captain America an “old man” when he clearly isn’t, or why
Tony Stark initially wasn’t supposed to be apart of the Avengers, or
what the deal is with his armor. Well, if you want to get those details,
that’s why Marvel invested in those five other movies leading up to
this one. It’s a strategy that I think really paid off; it allows this
movie to just “get to it” and tell the story it needs to without having
to waste any time giving background and introductions to these other
characters.

This approach doesn’t work perfectly, however, as
Hawkeye just sort of shows up, has some key scenes, but we’re never
quite sure why he’s so significant since he hasn’t had his own movie as
of yet. It’s kind of sad, really, because some of my favorite parts
where the scenes with Black Widow and Hawkeye, and there’s actually a
lot of good stuff to mine there, but there just isn’t enough room or
time to do so in this film. Maybe a prequel Black Widow/Hawkeye film
will eventually show up. That’d be good stuff, because even though
there’s plenty of super heroics going on here, I liked the espionage/spy
stuff we go with these two, and wouldn’t have minded more of that.

One of my favorite parts relating to these two “minor” characters is
some of the background we get on Black Widow. She talks about how she
has a “very specific” skill-set, and there was a time where she wasn’t
so concerned about how or why she used it. Because of that, her ledger
is now dripping in blood, some of it innocent, and all her efforts with
SHIELD and the Avengers is to try and help wipe that ledger clean. What
about your ledger? It’s probably not dripping red like Widow’s, but does
it have any blemishes, any at all? Because if it does, well that
doesn’t bode well for our eternity.

God’s standard is nothing
less than perfect; perfectly unblemished. Can anyone do that? LeBron
James may jump a whole lot higher than me, but we both fall well short
of the moon. To get there, we both need help. To wipe that ledger clean,
which is something we just can’t do on our own, we all need help. Enter
Jesus Christ. He died on a cross and rose from the grave to do for us
what we couldn’t do for ourselves; wipe the ledger clean. He took ours
for his own and bore it on the cross, and then offers to give us his
perfect ledger in return. It’s perfection by proxy, you might say. It’s
what a loving God wants to do for us; “‘Come now, let us reason
together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall
be as white as snow…'” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV 1984). It’s the help we need
to do what Black Widow so desperately wants; wipe the ledger clean. 

Don’t worry though, The Avengers knows exactly what kind of
movie it is, and exactly what its fans are expecting; and it delivers.
It knows that there’s a comic book rule that whenever superheroes
team-up, they first must fight each other and then overcome their
disputes to fight their common enemy. So, if you’ve ever wanted to see a
live-action battle between Iron Man and Thor, or Thor and Hulk, or
Captain American and Iron Man and Thor (Thor seems to get into a lot of
fights with his fellow heroes), Hulk and Black Widow, and an almost
brawl between Captain America and Iron Man; well, you’ll get to see it
here; and it’s awesome.

This movie also knows that its based on a
comic book, and that means above all, it needs to be fun; and it is.
The trademark Whedon wit is quite evident here, but it never overwhelms
the film to the point where it feels like a Whedon version of the
Avengers, but rather an Avengers story with the Whedon touch. There are
some great laughs and some fantastic dialogue between these characters.
Then again, most people don’t want to see these guys talking, so The Avengers
also delivers the big action moments; and I mean BIG. It’s an awesome
spectacle when the film unleashes its final act. Again, the Whedon touch
is evident here. Even though we all know these characters have sequels
to their own films to star in, and a sequel to this movie to star in,
and therefore aren’t in any real peril, they still get put through the
grinder and don’t have an easy time of it. What they face truly feels
dangerous, as it should, even for Earth’s mightiest heroes. You really
feel like the stakes are high enough and extreme enough to make these
larger-than-life characters pull together and work as a team, and you
also feel that there is the slightest chance that they just might not
all make it through, and certainly won’t make it through unscathed. Epic
stuff, and again, exactly what this needed to be.

For all the
speculation and debate over who the aliens in this film were, they
certainly don’t play much of a role, but then, none of the villains do.
Loki is here to stir up some antagonism among our heroes, which of
course is the very thing they eventually overcome in order to unite (or
assemble, if you prefer). And the aliens, well, they’re just there to
invade the Earth in order to give the Avengers a credible threat to
unite (or assemble) against to fight. Then again, the villains didn’t
need much more than a “we’re here to conquer the world” plot because
this movie is more about the Avengers coming together and becoming a
team, and all you need when you have that many characters assembling for
the first time is a basic plot to help move things forward. So don’t
worry about who the aliens may or may not be; they’re just there to give
our heroes something to punch, and that’s all they need to be, right?

It’s
clear now that Marvel’s master plan was actually quite ingenious. While
Warner Bros. and DC continue to struggle to get any character to
succeed outside of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, let alone a
Justice League movie, Marvel and its partners have created fun, breezy
movies that all led to the creation of one of the best ensemble super
hero movies since X-Men 2. The Avengers is epic, it’s fun,
it’s funny, and it has heart. It’s a sci-fi movie, a super hero movie, a
spy movie, and an action flick all rolled into one. It wears its comic
book identity on its sleeve with giant aircraft carriers that can fly
and turn invisible, giant flying alien worm invaders that wear armor,
cosmic powers, and heroes in brightly colored garb. If that’s all just
too “unrealistic” for you, then The Avengers is not the movie for
you. However, if that all sounds like a lot of fun, and it is, then you
know where you and your friends need to assemble; at the local theater
for one of this year’s biggest (and deservedly so) adventures.

Score: 6 of 7