Superheroes? In New York? Give Me A Break: The Avengers (2012)

So I know this month is dedicated to women in film and I intend fully to still post at least one film a day from within that broad umbrella, but I have been viewing a streak of rather solid films along with the ones being posted about and I thought it would be a shame not to include some of them in between as well, especially considering that I am currently on break and need everything imaginable to avoid from actually having to write a paper that is due when I get back to school.  Furthermore, there are still and handful of movies I need to see from 2012 before properly making a list of my favorite films.  While The Avengers certainly could have been a contender in pretty much any other year of films, it will certainly not make to my top film list of this year, however, that is not to undermine its excellence by any means.  The Avengers stands as an excellent example of a superhero movie that is both wildly entertaining and also filled with philosophical reflections and more than a few political ideologies, yet, while they are made very present, unlike the far less successful The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers manages to allow viewers to come to such commentaries on their own, as opposed to wasting an already lengthy runtime attempting to shove them down their throats.  Yet, Joss Whedon, in his infinite wisdom, is careful not to invest too much interest in any single ideology and, in fact, shows the positive elements, as well as the very negative portions of any given situation.  Furthermore, having failed to see any of the franchised characters films prior to this, I only had their collaboration to go off of, and I found the introductions to each character to be absolutely captivating and succinctly executed, providing even the most unfamiliar viewer, such as myself, with the necessary information on their positive traits as well as their flaws.  The best part about all of this positive execution is that even if it were not to be present the magnitude and commitment with which the action sequences are shot is so stellar and fresh that it could have been entirely watchable on these grounds alone.  The Avengers stands as a promising outlook onto what the blockbuster film can and should be and is quite deserved of its financial success.

The film begins with work being done at an underground facility run by the top secret globally financed  agency S.H.I.E.L.D. whose work with the Tessaract, a highly powerful cube made of some impenetrable space materials, has caught the attention of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) a demi-god from the planet of Arsgard who sees the item as a means to take control of, and subsequently destroy the earth.  He begins taking over the plant by putting its employees under control with a mind-altering specter, taking control of both the Tessaract's main engineer and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) a highly trained archer who works for shield.  This all occurs despite heavy efforts by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop Loki, yet when Loki gets away and it is made quite clear that global destruction is his plan, Fury demands that the collective known as the Avengers be assembled to challenge Loki.  This group includes a vast array of personalities, whether it be Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) an ex-assassin turned S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who finds herself troubled by a criminal past, the gamma ray physicist whose temperment has led him from simply being Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to that of The Hulk, as well as the aptly named Captain America (Chris Evans) who stands as America's first superhero, which is solidified by his being frozen underwater and only recently revived to be part of The Avengers.  The group also includes the "genius, playboy billionaire" Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) whose technological skills allow him to be Ironman, a nearly invincible fighting machine.  Finally, considering that Loki is their main enemy, the group also includes Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Loki's adoptive brother and protector of both Asgard and to some degree Earth.  Further along the line they also pull Hawkeye from Loki's power and bring him back to The Avengers.  Suffice to say, this group must learn to play nice together, between dueling egos and past injustices, they eventually come together, but even their heavy degree of unity is challenged by the sheer power of Loki and his army of alien beasts.  This eventually requires a heavy moral push on the part of Fury and the sacrifice of a few officers in the process.  Fortunately, the group does eventually overcome Loki and safe the earth from being consumed in a large black mass.  All of them go their separate ways having grown from the experience, however, as a sequence after the closing credits suggests, it is far from their last bout together.

The film makes it blatantly clear that no individual within The Avengers is completely void of problems, whether it be Tony Stark creating a shell of a life of decadence to protect from the very real fact that he has shrapnel inches from his heart that could kill him at any moment, or Bruce Banner whose quest to advance humankind resulted in such frustration and disappointment that he can no longer control his mental state, or Black Widow whose negative past life has become so prominent that navigating through the current world proves nearly impossible.  Even the seemingly forward thinking Captain America suffers from relevance issues in his inability to relate to a contemporary world that does not embrace his jingoistic ideologies, let alone look positively on the image of the American flag.  One could read each of the members of The Avengers, including the demi-god Thor, as ways to approach issues in the world, Thor of course representing the placing of one's hopes in a higher power, Captain America as a putting hope in a group ideal, or Stark as a means to use money to escape the real issues of ones life.  However, as the narrative created by Whedon shows, none of these answers work with any degree of success when placed on their own, yet when a combination of these come together it helps considerably and they can take on even the most seemingly insurmountable of forces.  It reads nicely as a coming together narrative of diversity, even if the group is noticeably occupied by white bodies, something that will hopefully change in the years to come, as it relates to comic book heroes.  The brilliance comes not in this commentary, however, but in the reminder that in many instances this occurs through a shared ideal, one that transcends personal vendettas, and, often, this shared idea has been fabricated by some half-truth, in the case of The Avengers, it is overselling the sacrifice of an officer on the part of Nick Fury that really pushes them into action.  The film clearly asks viewers to consider if such exploitation is justified and, if so, who is to be praised, the superheroes or the man who put them into action?  If all this were not enough, it also critiques the way in which power is controlled by a council of shadowy figures, which seems to be more and more a truth in a world of global wars and back room political dealings.

Key Scene:  As great as "that one scene with The Hulk" is, I have to show favor to the Stuttgart scene, because it is a direct counter to the normal tradition of superhero movies and was much welcomed on my part.

This is certainly worth buying, although I would personally wait for it to drop in price before doing so, considering that it was mass produced, it is only a matter of time.

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