Avenging Superhero Movies
By Kevin Hyde
May 7, 2012
When the first trailer for the mega ensemble superhero flick The Avengers began trickling its way across the Internet a few months ago, it inspired bizarre reactions from some of my friends who grew up reading and loving the Marvel comic books on which it’s based. Instead of giddy anticipation, there was a palpable sense of unease, perhaps even a little fear.
They seemed to be praying (and then broadcasting via Facebook or Twitter): “Please … Please, don’t suck. I don’t ask for much. But please don’t let this movie suck.”
I assume they were petitioning Avengers director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and my guess is that their prayers were answered. Whedon has delivered an exhilarating, heady action extravaganza that might achieve the nearly impossible task of both satisfying the long-time Avengers comics fan as well as the more casual moviegoer just looking for some summer fun at the multiplex.
While the former was the tougher sell, it’s clear the film has found a wide audience, shattering debut box office records worldwide. Less than two weeks into its international release, The Avengers has made more than $640 million. In fact, I don’t know why I’m writing this. Everyone has already seen it.
I didn’t grow up with The Avengers, but I did grow up with “the big summer movie.” As a child of the 1970s and 80s, I was weaned during the emergence of the “blockbuster age of cinema,” when movies like Jaws, the Star Wars Trilogy and Raiders of the Lost Ark changed the stakes and priorities in Hollywood, at least for the summertime. And while I acknowledge that this sadly ended the “Last Golden Age of Hollywood,” that creatively fertile and vibrant cinematic period from the late 1960s to the mid-70s, I hold a special place in my heart for the films of summer and still enjoy a good old-fashioned popcorn movie from time to time.
Unless they involve superheroes.
In recent years I have developed severe, acute superhero fatigue brought on by summers lousy with capes, tights and often boring dialogue in aid of formulaic narratives that inevitably lead to relentless, deafening, climactic action sequences designed to confuse, disorient and trigger minor fits of epilepsy. The thought of seeing The Avengers, a movie about a superhero super group, made me feel like David Banner after a bad haircut. My pallor turned green and I started roaring in second-person sentence fragments.
But The Avengers—Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury—pleasantly surprised me.
Fury is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., an international spy organization devoted to protecting the world from cataclysmic threat. From the outset, he must find a way to unite the mutually hostile Avengers against Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a demigod and half-brother of Thor who comes to conquer Earth with an angry army of aliens. Loki’s motivations are simple. He believes that humans desire to be dominated by superior beings, and he aims to please.
Whedon, who co-wrote the script with Zak Penn based on the comic books by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, injects the movie with plenty of wit, snappy dialog and a democracy of storytelling that could not have been easy to pull off. We have plenty of characters here, many who’ve had their own movies before. The key to his success: It’s equally enjoyable listening to our heroes talk to each as it is watching them use their incredible/amazing/fantastic powers to do battle with the bad guys.
In the end, the film feels like a love letter from Marvel to its fanboys—the ones motivated to prayer when the first previews came out. During a key moment in the film, the Avengers are compelled to unite by the martyrdom of “their biggest fan.” So congratulations Avengers freaks. In pleasing you, it seems Whedon and the rest of the Marvel team has given us all something to relish.
Kevin Hyde is a freelance writer based somewhere between the Southeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States of America. A graduate of Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism, he has worked as a reporter for daily and weekly newspapers, edited regional and national magazines, written on pop culture for an international newspaper as well as several local, alternative newspapers. He lives in a medium-sized house with his wife and two young daughters in a quaint urban neighborhood—not really the suburbs, not really the city. A recovering cinephile (that’s a scary-sounding word for a person who is passionate about film), he is also an amateur songwriter and humanitarian who wears western-style, snap-up work shirts way too often.
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