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Bringing the Party To You: The Avengers (2012)

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If you have been following the long trail of Marvel comic book hero films: Ironman (2008, 2010) , the Hulk (2008), Captain America (2011), and Thor (2011) – The Avengers is what you’ve been waiting for.

The heroes whose back stories you’ve seen in the movies — and if you are of the right generation, read in the comic books of your youth — come together to … well, take a guess. Let’s not always see the same hands. You, in the back! You’re right! A gold star to you.

They are going to save the world. These are the superheroes to do it. All of the names and faces are familiar from previous movies, with the exception of a new Hulk who is just what the doctor ordered. Hulk-wise.

This is the first fully realized not-so-jolly green giant. He isn’t selling vegetables, nor is he — as the Hulk — the mindless muscle of earlier versions. He is closer to the comic book Hulk who retained enough front brain information to make him more than the personification of blunt-force trauma. He is believable, or as believable as Hulk is ever likely to be.

Of course the movie has first-rate computer generated graphics, effects, and a top-quality soundtrack. We would expect nothing less from this team. There’s more than enough of every kind of violence, explosions, lightning, weird machines from outer space, inexplicable magic and power by good guys and bad guys to entertain anyone willing to let allow him or herself to be entertained. Over-intellectualized spoil-sports are welcome to find something else to do.

To sum it all up in a nutshell, the bad guys come through a hole in the universe and the Avengers, all incredibly handsome and brilliant heroically protect the people of Earth from destruction and domination by the Evilest Empire ever. If that were all, it would be enough, but The Avengers is more than violence and special effects.

As characters, each of the Avengers has a unique back story. Each one has a distinct personality, much of which you’ve glimpsed in the various movies leading up to this one. They are witty enough to make me laugh in the midst of mayhem.

The script is crisp, the actors can act (whoa, how did that happen? That never happens!) and it all comes together in a very satisfying action movie that is perhaps the quintessential superhero movie — so far. They did it right. It seems too short.  It leaves you wanting more.

More we shall get. As long as we gobble up whatever this franchise cranks out and it continues to be enormously profitable, we will have more. There are at least 2 more “sequels” scheduled for production during 2013  and 2014. I expect that’s the tip of a large iceberg.

Although it remains to be seen if the producers can keep the group together and retain the quality they’ve so far produced, but there’s no reason to assume that they can’t and won’t. They’ve found a winning combination: intelligent action heroes fighting life and death battles and not behaving like mindless morons. Good scripts, good actors, quality CGI.

Marvel has nailed the formula. What is surprising to me is that so many studios have not put it together the equation that will give them a hit every single time. Pretty simple. Good actors, good technical crew, good script, good director, interesting (and fun!) story. It’s a box office guarantee …  the winning combination. Any producer could apply it. So why don’t they?

Movies should not be dull. Personally, I can live without philosophy or a message. More than enlightenment, I want to be entertainment. I want to be excited, to laugh, to applaud.

I want to have fun at the movies. Like we used to in the good old days.

I’m tired of critics. How many of you got a thrill watching The English Patient? Or The Hurt Locker? Too many critically acclaimed films are boring. Dull as dirt and about as memorable. These movies have become laugh lines on late night comedy shows. No one watches them, at least not voluntarily. You’d actually have to hold a gun to my head to convince me to watch any of them. Critics love them, but audiences stay away in droves. They lack the single quality every movie must have to be a called good. It has to be entertaining. Professional critics seem to have missed this detail.

Heroes

Guy Williams as ZorroLife has been singularly bereft of heroes lately. Perhaps I’m just getting older and life is making me more cynical but I think it’s the world that’s getting more cynical. It seems to me there has been a continuing trend on TV and the movies that has accelerated in recent years to create heroes who are not entirely heroic, but rather more human. Less black and white, more gray. Despite how reasonable this approach may be, I prefer my heroes heroic.

I like my superheroes really super, solidly and clearly on the side of justice. There’s plenty of room in literature, film, theater and television for ambivalence and flawed heroes. At least in genres where my heroes fight evil to save the earth or a some piece of it, I want a clear and unambiguous line between good and evil. Life isn’t really like that, but that’s what escapism in the movies and on television is all about.Santa_Claus_1

Give me a masked hero, preferably on a horse, wielding a sword. I can make do with a six-gun if he only shoots them in the hand (the Lone Ranger never actually killed anyone).

Today being Christmas, my first question is whether or not Santa Claus counts as a superhero. I think the answer will depend on the age of the person answering the question. Probably “yes” below age 6. A solid “maybe” through around age 9, followed by a short period of  “I don’t think so.” I remember when my granddaughter was at the “switchover” age. She was reasonably sure there was no Santa Claus, but she figured she ought to hedge her bets, just in case.

She definitely didn’t want to alienate Santa should he turn out to be the bestower of gifts. Thus she “sort of believed,” but sort of didn’t. It was funny watching her work her way through her first major philosophical dilemma.

Personally, I’m a weenie for masked men. I’m a sucker for horses even without a rider, so it can’t be much of a surprise.  Depending on the level of heroism involves, I can compromise on the mask too. But LOTS of extra credit for the horse and if it is a particularly magnificent steed … ah, be still my heart.

I am almost as passionate about superheroes. I favor capes. Although I waited patiently, none of my heroes ever came to take me away. I love my husband and an orange 1970 (1969?) Dodge Challenger convertible, although not a horse, was certainly a better than average ride, but I did long for the mythos and might of my comic book and screen heroes and super heroes. Although I’m significantly more creaky than I used to be (maybe a buckboard rather than a saddle?) I’m still ready and waiting.

Superman was filmed in color, though I was well into my 30s before I saw it for myself. Until then, I never had a color TV so I remember all those early shows as black and white and am frequently surprised to discover they are actually in color. Zorro made my heart flutter and The Lone Ranger made me weak in the knees. Despite the fact that to this day, I cannot fathom how come no one recognized Superman when he wore wire-rimmed eyeglasses, I loved him anyway. Batman too, though Supe was really My Guy.

Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

I had some small issue with the whole phone booth thing since in New York, where I grew up, they had glass sides, so they were not exactly a private shelter. Why didn’t he just do it at super speed so no one could see? Who needs a phone booth anyhow?

I am glad that movie makers share my love for the super guys who filled the dreams of my girlhood. I was the only girl … hell, the only kid … I knew who had Lone Ranger wallpaper. Not on a computer. There was no such thing. No, I had it on my walls. Lone and Tonto, endlessly riding in a small circle around the same little patch of ground … “Hi yo Silver! The Lone Ranger Rides Again!” I always thought Tonto got rather short shrift and I thought his horse, Scout, was every bit as cool as Silver, but I would have settled for any kind of equine.

He could graze on our lawn, live in the otherwise unused garage, please mom? I’ll take care of him. You won’t have to do a thing.

She was immovable. How could I lead the fight for Justice without a horse? I tried flying, which worked for Superman, but all I got were scabby knees and elbows. No matter how hard, no leap got me over a single tall, or even medium-sized building.

So, return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when Silver and Scout, Trigger and that fabulous black horse that Zorro always rode carried my heroes, with and without masks. I absolutely positively will NOT see the latest remake. Johnny Depp in heavy makeup and way too many feathers as Tonto? Hell, Jay Silverheels was at least a real Native American. Couldn’t we do as well in 2012?

We could use a few heroes now, could we not?

Maybe they are still out there … we just don’t seem to see much of them anymore.