I’ve been finishing up my latest project, Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest, so haven’t had a lot of time to post. But now that I’m near the end and confident I will meet my deadline, I thought it’d be cool to drop by and say hello.
I saw The Avengers this weekend. Then I saw it again. I don’t generally see movies more than once in the theater, but this was a pretty damn cool movie. I’ll admit that it bugs me that the official title seems to be Marvel’s The Avengers, but that’s just the way things work now. Branding is all important, and with Disney now at the reigns of Marvel Comics, it can hardly be surprising. I’ll also admit that I am not a fan of many of Marvel’s business practices (or of many other companies, now that I think about it). But you have to pick your fights, and I decided to go ahead and see the film.
It was fantastic. It was pretty much everything I would want from a superhero epic. Far truer to the original source material than I would ever have imagined, and also just a great fantasy adventure film on its own merits. If you haven’t seen it yet, and you need a push to go, then I highly recommend it.
For me, Marvel’s previous superhero films have been a mixed bag. Putting aside all the films from other studios, I still haven’t been terribly impressed by most of them, even the ones I enjoyed. Iron Man was good. Iron Man 2 was clumsy, poorly plotted, and with a terrible final villain. Captain America was fun, but never really payed off with all its cool ideas and the ending was, once again, rather anti-climactic. The Incredible Hulk was probably my favorite of the films because it has a solid showdown at the end where Hulk clashes with the Abomination. Though the Abomination really doesn’t look like he does in the comics, which I now find less forgivable considering how true the other films are to the look and feel of the original material. But I can overlook it. Thor was amusing, but (say it with me now) the ending felt a bit rushed.
In case it isn’t obvious by now, I like my superhero films (and action films in general) to have a big payoff at the end. I’ll put up with a lot if it leads to an awesome battle at the end. I sat through Avatar‘s boring parts because eventually a space jaguar battles a robot and dragons fight gunships. The first Matrix is dreadfully paced, but it makes up for it with a kick-ass kung fu showdown.
In this way, Marvel’s films have all stumbled previously. It is a mistake The Avengers eagerly corrects. This is a truly epic adventure that dares to be every bit as fantastic and action-packed as it should be. We’re talking flying fortresses, alien invaders, space dragons, Thor battling Iron Man, Thor battling Hulk, Thor battling Loki. (Hmmm, realizing how much Thor fighting is in the film and that’s a good thing.) The final showdown isn’t over in two minutes. The bad guys are genuinely formidable. The threat to our world is justified. And our heroes’ victory is earned through sheer determination and awesomeness.
Did I mention how much I liked this flick?
Special mention goes to the Hulk, who finally gets a movie where he can demonstrate just how formidable he is. The film finally give him a chance to unleash his full fury in a way I never expected to see.
Inevitably, The Avengers will be compared to other superhero flicks, past, present, and future. I would compare it most favorably to The Incredibles, still my favorite film. Both are superhero films that create compelling characters and still find time to have joyful superheroics in a way that most superhero films have rarely done. I don’t know if The Avengers dethrones The Incredibles for me (probably not), but it certainly earns a special place in my heart.
Comparisons are part of human nature, but they’re so often arbitrary. Already, there are debates on how the new Batman film will stack up against The Avengers. Yet aside from both being films based on comic book superheroes, they don’t seem to have much in common to me. The Avengers is an epic adventure and pure, unadulterated fantasy with no apology offered. Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises will inevitably be an entirely different animal. Aside from being about superheroes, the films are clearly designed to scratch very different itches.
Now, I’ll admit I’m not a fan of The Dark Knight for reasons I’ve already written about. I will no doubt love The Avengers while probably not even bothering to see The Dark Knight Rises. I have little taste for Nolan’s brand of overwrought, un-fun version of Batman. Yet that’s not an attack on the film itself because many people obviously do. It’s not my bag, but neither is The Notebook or Saw. Those films have their fans, and just because I don’t count myself among them, I don’t dismiss them as worthless.
It’s a debate that is largely pointless, like arguing over your favorite color. It’s great to share our perspective, but it’s not going to change anything. Just as I can’t fathom why so many people hated the Green Lantern movie or why so many others love the Star Wars prequels. It’s not a logical choice. It’s an emotional one. And while I’m all for a healthy discussion, it’s all too easy for these to become false right-or-wrong arguments, as if everything in life can be ranked and collated into a rigid hierarchy.
If you asked me if The Avengers is superior to most every superhero film that came before it, I’d have to say yes. But that’s because I’m a guy who likes it when a giant green man punches out space dragons and when a man is so good with a bow and arrow, he can actually save the planet. Some people prefer their superheroes a bit more down-to-earth, a bit more mopey, a bit more talky. That’s their call. I don’t have to understand it. I only have to respect it.
So let’s do our best to remember that when the inevitable comparisons begin.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,