I am actually getting pretty tired of all these superhero movies. Most of ‘em are Marvel, for one thing, which was never my thing. Since the lead time is so long on these suckers and one bad apple can kill a franchise, nearly every damn one of ’em has an “origin story”. They tend to rely on dodgy and homogenizing special effects. Also, the tropes of the genre have infected most other genres, turning up where you wouldn’t expect, like in Dark Shadows.
But they’re also often the best movies made in the year, however, so there ya are. Or rather, there I am, with The Flower and The Boy watching the latest smash ’em up directed by no less a figure than Joss Whedon (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Firefly”).
Well, it’s good.
I’d say that The Dark Knight Rises has got its work cut out for it to be the comic book movie of the year, but I’m not sure Dark Knight is even really a superhero movie. (Batman’s not a superhero, and Nolan seems increasingly determined to avoid most of the tropes of the superhero genre, in something akin to irony.)
This really is.
The story doesn’t really matter. The world is imperiled and earth’s mightiest heroes must come together to save it. Well, the mightiest heroes in the Marvel universe that aren’t already licensed out to other studios. Which is why the whole thing is kind of odd, from a marketing perspective: Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Thor aren’t the A-List. Black Widow and Hawkeye aren’t even on the B-List!
But Whedon does an excellent job delineating the characters. Granted, these guys are drawn in broad strokes and have long histories, but there’s a scene where the slutty chick from “How I Met Your Mother” says something to Captain America about Thor being a god, and Captain America says, “There’s only one God, ma’am, and he doesn’t look like that.”
Because, you know, that’s what Captain America, frozen in time in WWII, would say. There’s a somewhat meta-reference to the fish-out-of-water thing as Captain America and Thor seem to be competing vis a vis who’s more out of the cultural loop.
And the movie is filled with nice touches like that, that aren’t really touches but maintaining continuity of character, in a knowing but respectful way that makes the movie lively, upbeat entertainment.
There’s no doubt that he’s behind the strength of the two human heroes, Hawkeye and Black Widow. They would’ve been disposable in just about any other writer/director’s hands, but their relationship is central and Black Widow in particular has a number of pivotal roles and surprising turns.
Whedon also fully embraces the insanity of comic book logic, much in the way Sam Raimi did with his Spider-Man movies (particularly the second one).
The Boy, who isn’t inclined toward these things, said he didn’t think it could’ve been any better, and not in a backhanded way. The Flower loved it. You can’t really ask much more of an action movie than that it makes you care enough about the characters to make the action interesting, and this mostly does.
With eight big characters (the six heroes, Nick Fury and Loki), you’re going to be pressed for time. All the actors from the previous movies are back, with the exception of The Hulk being played not by Edward Norton but by Mark Ruffalo, who is possibly the only better guy for the role of the wan Bruce Banner. The new character, Hawkeye, is played ably by Jeremy Renner (of The Hurt Locker and The Town).
It’s said that this movie started as an in-joke as the stinger for Iron Man, but on the strengths of the movies about the other three heroes became a reality and it’s something of a minor miracle that it paid off at all, to say nothing of this well.
So, tired as I am, I’d go see Avengers 2, if Whedon directs.