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Supers on the Screen: The Avengers

As I said in my last post, The Dark Knight is not a typical superhero movie. And I’m totally okay with that. Let’s face it: most of the time, superheroes aren’t meant to be particularly intelligent or philosophical. They’re just supposed to be fun. Take The Avengers, for example.

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I had really low expectations for this particular franchise-building movie when I went into the theatre a couple summers ago. I had seen all the films leading up to it except Iron Man 2, and they were, for the most part, mediocre. There were things I liked about each, but most of them were plagued with plot holes and rushed storylines, and none had the classic, put-together feel of, say, the Spider-Man trilogy. And putting all those superheroes together in one movie seemed like a really bad idea. I mean, Iron Man and Thor working on the same team? How could that possibly work?

Well, it did. The Avengers set a brand new standard for superhero movies. It was hilarious, witty, and triumphantly entertaining, with just enough seriousness to make me believe there was something at stake. And thanks to Joss Whedon, all the different superheroes trying to work together was the best part! Hiring him for that job was a brilliant move. If anyone can fit six vastly different main characters into one story without giving preference to any of them, it’s the man who created the misfit crew of Firefly.

Of course The Avengers has plenty of great action–especially during the Hulk’s rampage scenes and Black Widow’s ridiculously cool introduction–but the dialogue is what really makes it special. Oh, so many one-liners: “He’s adopted.” “Billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist.” “I understood that reference.” “Puny god.” etc., etc. This has got to be the most quotable superhero movie ever.

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I also like how it brings out the best in each of the heroes. They didn’t all get a chance to shine in their stand-alone movies (especially Captain America), but somehow, within this movie’s two-hour running time, everyone gets a few unforgettable moments. Iron Man spouts lots of irony and technobabble, Bruce Banner deals with “the other guy” in a pretty awesome way, Thor gets to be a cosmic golden retriever,  Hawkeye and Black Widow have their romance, and Captain America gets to be the adult in the room.

Their relationships are great, too. Although Joss wisely chose the best villain from the heroes’ previous movies, I don’t think Loki is the most important source of conflict here. The most important conflict is between the Avengers themselves. They spend the first half of the movie arguing–to the endless delight of anyone who likes fast-paced insult contests–but in the end, they’re able to work together despite their differences. Result: the world is saved, and each hero learns something from the others.

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Now that I think about it, maybe The Avengers might be slightly relevant to the real world, too…

More supers to come! Namarie!

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