Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Avengers - A Movie Review, of Sorts

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Finally saw the Avengers today. Long story short: worth the price of admission. And when I say, "long story", my primary complaint with the movie is that it was too long. At 143 minutes, it takes a cast iron butt to last to the very last scene after the credits. (More about that later.)

The action sequences are top notch. Don't be surprised if at times you find yourself on the edge of your seat. Those few, less than riveting parts, however, had me putting on my editor's hat, mentally cutting scenes to tighten up the movie. Not the best way to get one to suspend disbelief.

It helps if you have seen the movies that serve as prequels: Thor, Captain America, Iron Man I & II, and The Hulk. Those will introduce you to most of the characters, heroes and villains alike. Or, you could merely substitute years of study under the tutelage of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in pulp magazines. Incidentally, you really have to wait for Stan's de rigueur cameo in this one.

Two surprises in casting: one Cobie Smulders, Friday Night Babe and Robin Scherbatsky of "How I met Your Mother", not exactly whom one might expect in an action flick, and one I didn't recognize until the credits rolled, Jenny Agutter, of Logan's Run and Vintage Babe of the Week fame.

I don't want to give away any plot spoilers or laugh lines. There were some laugh out loud moments in the movie, and too many trailers take every funny line and cram them into sixty seconds, leaving you, having seen the best parts of the movie before you ever get to the theater. If you liked any of the prequels, you'll like The Avengers.

The Marvel universe was not the Mayberry RFD of superherodom past. The characters had everyday problems just like the rest of us, and often dealt with their problems and opponents by cracking wise. They were smart alecks, often misunderstood, often got no respect, often were mistaken as enemies by other good guys. In the Marvelverse, it wasn't unusual for Daredevil to fight SpiderMan, Iron Man to fight Thor, and Hulk to fight...well, almost everybody! In typical Marvel style, Iron Man and Thor battle each other to a standstill before ever engaging the enemy. Hulk, who is of necessity CGI, since the Stanislavski method rarely enabled actors to turn green and multiply their own body mass, and his alter ego Bruce Banner both are improvements over earlier Hulk movies and, mirabile dictu, even Lou Ferrigno!

One small thing that I haven't heard mentioned anywhere else, is the fact that the movie does not contain what seems to be Hollywood's de rigueur antipathy to faith. The presence of Norse demigods, which frankly I feared the most when I first heard of the project, was explained in Thor with a variation of Arthur C. Clark's maxim:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
The Asgards are merely an advanced technological society which appears as magic to we lesser mortals. Yeah. Right.

But Captain America has a great line, when he is cautioned about getting in the middle of a battle between "gods". Before he disregards this otherwise sound advice, he says something like, "There's only one God. And he doesn't look like that!" Throw in some motherhood and apple pie, ladies and Cap is the whole package!

Viewers of the earlier movies were rewarded by staying to the end of the credits with a brief scene foreshadowing movies to come. Part way through the credits, we are given a bonus scene foreshadowing the sequel which the outstanding box office virtually guarantees, but for those who wait to the very end of the credits, (I think I was the only one during today's matinee), there is a brief vignette of, shall we say, superheroes "off the clock"?

If you're in the mood for an action adventure movie, that doesn't require a lot of deep thought, but still deals with such things as courage, sacrifice and redemption, you could do far worse than 143 minutes spent in a comic book universe. Four out of five stars.

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