Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Avengers, In 3D & On The Imax

From the early 1960’s to the early to mid 1970’s my mind was partially molded by comic books. My grandfather was one of the culprits who had his kids and ultimately me reading them. My grandfather was a man with a 3rd grade education but one of the smartest men I ever knew. Later in life he memorized a word a day, but the love of reading all started for me, through him and my uncles, with comic books. Most of them were war and western formats. There were all of the historical television western characters such as; The Rawhide Kid and Ghost Rider. There were soldier characters like Sgt. Rock and Sgt. Fury. They opened doors to other comics, especially at first, the horror genera. Those included at first books like Grimm’s, Eerie and Creepy, but later on others like The Phantom, Spiderman. One of the things I found out was I got more bang for the .12 cents or so I spent with a new book coming out, The Avengers.

The Avengers was a comic by Marvel Comics that incorporated stories of the Marvels Hero cast, all in one book. I could read about my favorites over the years, working together and sometimes against each other, there was especially two of my favorite characters of all time, Captain America and Thor. Later on another favorite, The Black Panther joined the cast and the early work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who created the series would go on to live forever, in fact, so much so that one of the best, if not best super hero movies of all time would come out of the creation.

I had the opportunity to see the new movie The Avengers on opening night. I had heard good things about the movie but fully expected it to have a hard time living up to the hype. The story incorporates heroes from recent movies including Ironman (Robert Downy Jr.,) The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo,) Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans.) Included are new characters in the series including a more extensive role for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson,) The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson,) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner.) With every good comic book story you also need a good villain; we have a returning villain here, the brother of Thor, Loki played by Tom Hiddleston. With so many characters, including some rather important ones not mentioned, one would think it rather difficult to make a movie involving all of them with all of the differing story lines and keep the story cohesive and more importantly, enjoyable without the egos and attitudes shining through. That last point helps bring out the real genius of this movie, which is the direction and writing. In 2 words it is quite simple, The Avengers is Freaking Awesome!

I saw The Avengers in 3-D on the IMAX. Many often ask, and for good reason, if it is worth the extra cost. I would say that for 3-D absolutely, and if not getting motion sickness easily, yes as well to the IMAX experience. If having difficulty with motion sickness though, there is so much action that the IMAX experience could be a little difficult; I found the action constant and very enjoyable though. This brings me to another aspect of this film I want to make sure to mention; the excellence in filmmaking.

I was concerned as to the ability of director Joss Whedon’s ability to keep all of the egos in the film satisfied, while at the same time telling a congruent story that had meaning beyond just action sequences. To be quick to the point, it is likely the direction and scripting of The Avengers was the critical point to making this movie so fantastic. No greater sequences show this better than the non verbal, non action sequences of Chris Evans who plays Captain America. The viewer can see and relate to the inward struggle of his character in the acceptance of things that have transpired over the last 70 or so years his character was asleep and frozen in ice. He has lost love, friends and the world is not the same. While this is seen in verbal communications, it is clear and driven home in his non verbal work. It is the type of work by an actor that earns many award nominations. I won’t be surprised if that is the case here. I must also comment on the totality of the movie, from the action, to the CGI effects, they are there as well and along with story everything about this movie is entertaining and has value beyond entertainment value; there is value such as the importance of friendship and the need of many coming together. There truly is strength in numbers, especially when those numbers have direction and a unity.

There are points and times in The Avengers that we see disunity, self consumption and self seeking attitudes that create difficulty. While there are characters which try to bring everyone together from the start, we also see characters that need a change, a transformation if you will. It is only after the death of a respected and liked character that The Avengers realize their need to come together. Just like in real life, it is often only after the sacrifice or death of another that we take life seriously. This is especially true in the important things of life. It is easy for the characters to be self absorbed, after all they are super heroes of sorts, (some are merely human with unique and special skill traits). It is in the humanization of the characters that we can relate to the characters on screen. It is their ability to overcome and ultimately their willingness to sacrifice their lives for others that we learn to respect them and find an appreciation for them.

One of the primary themes of the film is the concept of Loki seeing himself as a God. Now note here I will also designate my view of a god which will refer to a human or lesser god and God (note capital letter G) which refers to a real and true God. Many religious groups may have issue with the sub story of brothers Thor and Loki seeing themselves or being presented as Gods or demigods. I challenge they are presented as gods with limitations and weaknesses, especially Loki, but I think it is clear Thor also realized this about himself. There is a scene, one of my favorites where Natasha and Captain America are talking and Natasha, speaking of Loki, states; “But he is a God!” Captain America responds, “Ma'am, there's only one God, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't look like that.” There is another great and audience applauding moment when this scene plays itself again with Loki and another character, The Hulk. The audience I was with cheered and applauded. In that moment there is a measure of hope for me. Is it possible that people may be more open to the monotheist concept of God than we sometimes give credit for? If so, and I believe these moments give credit to that, one begs to ask the question; which version of God among the many religions? I challenge, it is in the person of Jesus we see this portrayed and seen to perfection like no other.

In looking at the comment from Captain America, “...there is only one God , and I’m sure he doesn’t look like that.”, and looking at The Hulk’s comment later on of Loki being a ‘puny god,’ one has to ask, what is it that makes Jesus unique and worthwhile? For me the simple answer is not just his mighty power, although that exists, but it his perfect love. Many times, Stan Lee, the creator of The Avengers, has been questioned as to his faith as a result of the moral messages that come about from his stories and characters. There is a video titled; The League of Super Churches which is clearly a Christian piece. There is no doubt that at the very least, Stan Lee has taken a position to show morality themes. Many of those, such as Peter Parker AKA Spiderman and here, Captain America, fall into that category. There are obvious attempts to point toward God and an acceptance and awe inspiring appreciation of God.

I loved The Avengers; it is a perfect movie, with a perfect purpose, and a perfectly positive message. I can only hope that any subsequent follow-up will be as good and this one is so good it will be hard to surpass it or equal it. The only possible draw back is that people should really watch the previous stories of, The Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. There is so much background in those stories the viewer needs to know, especially from likely the least favorite of the recent movies in the group, Thor. I have mentioned in the past and even coined the term several years ago, you really need to make sure to stay until the end of the movie, meaning wait until the credits are done. This one does something a little different; it has a hepiloguej in the middle of the credits but another at the very end of the credits. Certainly the one in the middle of the credits has more meaning as it keeps the movie close to the original concept presented in the comic book version of The Avengers and opens up the door to the sequel that will follow in some form. While The Avengers can be an enjoyable movie without viewing the previous films and their respective hepiloguejs your viewing experience will be enhanced and you will truly see and appreciate the developed story line.

The Avengers is a movie well worth the cost. I plan on seeing it again, and am even willing to pay the full price if need be. I doubt I will see it in 3-D again as I have had that experience but will certainly see it in Digital format. I expected the film to do good on opening weekend; I didn’t expect it to do as well as it did though. After seeing it, I think it will have some legs that will carry it on with the word of mouth being as good as the hype. The Avengers is a rarity in film and another rarity as to my ratings of theatrical films. On a scale of 1 – 10, for the perfection of story, action, and morality, I give a very rare 10

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