Round up the crew, we’ve got war!
We were teased, previewed, given hints, and shown secrets, and now finally, The Avengers makes it heavily anticipated arrival. Such is the culture of the comic book era we are still apparently thriving in, and a microcosm of the transforming age of the movie trailer. Every few months a new preview is leaked on the internet, going viral within a matter of minutes; it’s almost an event in itself (Fans are treated to two more sneaks, The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises).
This combination of superhero narratives is the final culmination of several two-hour “trailers” that has been hinting at the film’s inception ever since Iron Man in 2008. Other loose ends have included The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man 2. It’s like Disney knew something when they acquired Marvel Studios under their exceedingly bloated brand, foreseeing a devoted fan base to capitalize on. In fact their corporate structure lines up well with most of these superheroes’ values, defending capitalist American idealism from the “evil” foreign nations and their totalitarian regimes. Yes, it seems fitting that Disney is in charge of this franchise, bankrolling its way with antiquated fears while hypocritically demanding praise (the same kind it speaks ill of) when its characters swoop in to save the day.
Of course, in the Joss Whedon directed tag-team action flick, there is much more than just swooping going on. However, most of the fight does take place in the air, a now desensitizing collaboration of alien robotic machinery and explosions, made infamous in the infrastructure-wrecking Transformers series. Most of the film is fighting, which is something to be thrilled about, but be equally irritated by. Because of its predecessors, The Avengers benefits by not having to relay origins and waste the first hour by dragging back-stories. It fills its empty space though with daredevil antics that minutely overshadow its sometimes more interesting conversations and comical quips.
To begin the often-quoted “war,” the film starts with the impending doom headed for the world. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) adopted brother, is an Asgardian prince dubbed in antler helmet and gold scepter, looking for his ascension to the throne. He is after the tesseract, the bright blue cube of self-sustaining energy in order to provide a portal from his world to earth. His mission is to free people from freedom, and subsequently gain total power over humankind. He unexpectedly infiltrates a military base, brainwashes a few key human assets, and takes off with the cube.
In charge of the pursuit is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the eye-patched liaison between world-government and secret Avenger squadron. His slow recruitment to assail the team is helped by Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a Russian spy who dons the sultry leather black suit. Along with other agents comes the big green man, though when he’s not angry isBruce Banner, played by a mellower Mark Ruffalo as well as Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the arrow slinging marksman summoned back from a temporary mind control.
They all board an undercover mammoth aircraft, accompanied by the previously cryogenically frozen Captain America (Chris Evans), now burst into the 21st century star struck, but maybe not enough after experiencing 60 years of technological and cultural change. Robert Downey Jr. also makes his return as Tony Stark, the self-absorbed, tech-savvy Iron Man. He and the Captain share a common goal but differ on their methods, which results in a lot of name-calling and jokes, aimed mostly at the Roarin’ 20s-born patriot. They mimic the consistent levity in Ocean’s Eleven provided by the petty dweebs Casey Affleck and Scott Caan.
Stark provides much of the interesting commentary, mostly because he doesn’t take his job too seriously until he has to. He has the
personality (including some finely tuned moments with his wife, played by Gwyneth Paltrow), which is a nice contrast to more opaque personas, namely the relationship between Widow and Hawkeye who rarely smile or show anything at all. They must all, in typical comic fashion, come together despite their differences and work in unison.
Like in The Magnificent Seven, the type-A personalities must learn to coincide to work for the greater good. Manhattan’s skyline is subject to the ominous portal, and like fighting off bandits from a Mexican pueblo, Thor and Iron Man take on Yul Brynner’s and Steve McQueen’s perilous leadership roles, while letting Hulk shock and awe with his temporal fits of rage-filled, rag-doll smashes.
Hiddleston, who looks like a combination of Marilyn Manson and Michael Fassbender, continues to display Loki’s irrational confidence, which is bound in equal parts fear. Unlike Sam Raimi’s disastrous Spiderman 3, Whedon at least finds a nice flow of action between his superheroes, economically sharing each Avenger’s spotlight and simultaneous moments of teamwork. There’s no real edginess or pain, just chipped egos that promote the constant high speed mentality on which the film must flourish.
There was a solid amount of cheering at my screening throughout the picture, but it felt more like applauses of affirmation, exaggerated sighs of expectation and self-assurance. In this genre, this feeling is understandable and can be quite entertaining, and Whedon certainly makes it so. But I kept feeling that the Dark Knight Rises trailer before garnered more of a chilling buzz, an eager sense of highly-anticipated comic unpredictability. Staying after the initial credits then helped me realize that we keep getting duped and that the The Avengers is really just another long trailer. I’ll buy in this time.