Some thoughts on superheroes. Or, the one in which I somehow manage to mention Star Wars, D&D, and Stargate SG-1, totally betraying what I did in high school.

So, Mr. Claire and I saw The Avengers on Saturday, and I enjoyed it, I really did. It was highly amusing at the same time as being highly improbable. But it’s a superhero movie, which is by definition improbable, so it can ask you to believe that a giant, green rage-monster can plummet miles to the earth from an invisible, floating aircraft carrier under attack by a God of Norse mythology and survive, and you take it in happily and eat your popcorn.

Some observations:

-Iron Man is the best Avenger, for obvious reasons, the foremost of which is simply: attitude.

-Hawkeye is the worst Avenger. I kept referring to him as Robin Hood in my head. Which is really not fair to Robin Hood.

-Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing about this film. Or any film with Robert Downey Jr. in it, and some without him in it, as far as I’m concerned, but especially this one. He is responsible for almost every witty and amusing line of dialogue, which could be the writers really loving on his character, or the studio knowing that without his constant comic relief distracting us from what’s actually happening in the movie, it would be one constant eye-roll.

Robbie D, as I call him in my dreams, is also the source of almost 100% of the good acting. He does the smart-ass know-it-all character frequently in his movies (see: Sherlock Holmes), but he does it so so well, and I am therefore fine with it. When he was on screen, despite whatever craziness and poor plotting was going on, I was happy.

-Samuel L. Jackson is the worst thing about this movie. His over acting is remarkable. One of his eyes is out of commission because he’s Nick Fury and has an eye patch, so he works extra hard with the other one. Tyra Banks would be proud.

-The invisible, flying aircraft carrier is just too much. I, like Captain America when he hands over the $10 bet to Nick Fury, just don’t believe it.

-My first thought when the portal opens and we get our first glimpse of the alien army was: Is that a giant space turtle? Cause that’s what they look like, especially from the front. Some kind of flying sea turtle worm. They look more like something I’d keep in a terrarium or feed to my pet lizard than the first line of an alien attack.

To their credit, though, these flying armor-plated sea cucumbers were marvelously good at destroying Manhattan by clumsily knocking into buildings with their tails.

Observe.

-Speaking of destroying Manhattan, I’m getting weary of how often this happens in movies. When will Hollywood get sick of attacking New York? I understand why it’s always New York–New York being the symbol of everything America, especially post-9/11–but really, guys, the more you do it in every disaster movie ever, the more it loses its power.

-I imagine Robert Downey Jr. acts exactly like Tony Stark in real life. Or, I hope he does. I love me a cocky, irreverent smart-ass with no respect for authority, especially when he’s a genius. This is the root of all the bad relationship decisions I’ve ever made.

-Gwyneth Paltrow has some sexy sexy legs, though I am confused as to why she never wears shoes in this movie. It is not because Tony Stark is doing some Feng Shui leave-your-shoes-by-the-door thing, cause Tony Stark wears shoes the entire time. Paltrow even gets into the elevator to go to LaGuardia and fly to D.C.–without shoes. Are her shoes downstairs? Maybe. I hope so. Though I guess being shoeless would make getting through airport security slightly faster.

-Is the Tesseract product placement for the American Express Blue card?

Unlimited sustainable energy, and cash back.

-I actually forgot The Avengers was directed by Joss Whedon until the end, when his name came up in big letters, because it’s just not very Whedon-y. It seems less like a movie directed by the man responsible for Firefly and more like every single other superhero movie I’ve ever seen. Except for the fact that he kills off one of the most loveable characters–Phil Coulson–which is a trademark Whedon move. (Wash!! Nooooo!) So that was disappointing.

-How does Scarlett Johansson act Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Black Widow the exact same way? I love her and could look at her all day cause she’s gorgeous, but she’s like a less emotive Kristen Stewart. The only thing she can do well is frown beautifully, so beautifully, which at least gives her a leg up on Kristen Stewart, who just kind of snivels.

-I am super glad that Tony Stark makes fun of Loki’s magic scepter as “the glow stick of destiny,” because that thing was ridiculous and the movie needed to acknowledge that.

-In the opening scene where Loki is receiving threats from the cowled alien overlord with the really ugly maw, was anyone else getting a strong Palpatine/Darth Sidious impression? Cause I was. Avengers/Stars Wars crossover, anyone?

-I usually don’t go for the burly, super-Aryan types, but man, wasn’t Thor just dreamy? Like seriously. His eyes are full of nobility and kindness, and his arms are full of muscles. His acting is also not awful. Whenever he showed emotion, I wanted to give him a big hug and rub my face in his beard. I am a sucker for beards. This is a known fact.

Mr. Claire at his beardliest, before he cut it for summer, also demonstrating how he is too tall for Europe (this is a grocery store in Paris), as I imagine Thor would be.

-The ending, when Iron Man flies the nuke up the shaft of light into the alien portal and sacrifices himself, is very reminiscent of the end of Independence Day, when Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon flies his armed plane up the shaft of light into the alien ship and sacrifices himself. Except the version in Independence Day is better, because instead of pulling a trademark Hollywood pussy move and having Iron Man miraculously fall out of the portal at the last second and survive, Cousin Eddie actually sacrifices himself and really dies, and he yells “Up yours!” as he does it. (See video clip below.) Not that I’m not super glad that Tony Stark lives, as he’s the shining light in a sea of intense mediocrity, but Independence Day takes it to a real place, while The Avengers just kind of cowardly fakes you out.

Apologies for the clip obviously having been filmed in someone’s living room on their crappy TV. It’s the only one I could find that gets to the good part quickly. But see? Isn’t that the exact same scene?

-Robin Hood and red-headed Scarlett Johansson are really not so great at being superheros. Sure, Ginger Scarlett can mind-trap a motherfucker into inadvertently telling her everything she wants to know, and she can also fight really well while tied to a chair, and Robin Hood can win all the Girl Scout merit badges for marksmanship, but they are pretty useless when it comes to actually fighting things on the scale of an alien invasion, as proven by their role as basically crowd control while Iron Man, the Hulk, and Thor kick alien ass. This is because they’re spies, not super heroes, so this can’t be held against them. They’re just out of their element.

-Captain America is pretty useless, too, maybe because he is about 70 years outdated. His power is putting his impervious shield in between himself and the bad guys and telling other people what to do. He’s basically a super delegator.

-All of this leads me to the conclusion that you either have to be able to fly (Iron Man, Thor) or jump really far and grab onto buildings (The Hulk) in order to be an effective superhero. You must be able to defy gravity in some way. Being grounded is for humans. That moment when Captain America leaps out of the plane after Iron Man and has to stop to grab a parachute? He must of been feeling very inferior. That’s hard on a man. Especially one wearing a spandex American flag.

-You know you’re a dork when your first thought upon hearing the word “Asgard” is the ancient alien race from Stargate SG-1.

Thor the Asgard from Stargate SG-1.

Thor the Asgard from The Avengers.

I’ll take Thor #2.

-But now for the only thing in the whole film that actually presented a real problem for me. The rest is just nit-picking an otherwise enormously entertaining film, but this one thing really annoyed me. I’ll believe all of it–that the invisible helicarrier must be powered by a nuclear reactor cause there’s no other way they’d get enough power to run those humongous rotors and lift that thing, that the Hulk must have crash landed on the Jersey shore in order to get to Manhattan by a beat-up motorbike that looks like he stole it from the set of Slumdog Millionaire in time to participate in the final showdown, that Robin Hood has a magical quiver that automatically replenishes his arrows since he never runs out (this exists in D&D)–but I will not believe the Hulk’s second transformation.

The discrepancy between the Hulk’s total lack of self-control in the aircraft carrier scene and his Go team! cooperation in the aliens-attack-Manhattan scene is just too extreme. One second, he’s all RAGE RAGE HULK SMASH and trying to kill Ginger Spice Johansson because he wants nothing more than to pound everything out of existence, and the next he’s suddenly a  more aggressive and roided-up version of the Jolly Green Giant, fighting alongside the Avengers, saving Iron Man from plunging to the earth, and moaning in pain when Tony Stark’s power button doesn’t come back on–in short, exhibiting definite anger management skills. And also intelligent thought and even non-rage emotions.

This makes no sense in the framework of everything the movie has taught us about the Hulk. The Hulk is uncontrollable. They built a super-cage to contain him. Bruce Banner exiled himself because he was a danger to others. And then we cut to a new scene and he’s all half-Quasimodo half-Shrek. I almost expected him to carry Tony Stark to the top of Stark Tower and start screaming, “Sanctuary!” If the movie had given us just one half-assed scene in which Dr. Banner makes a breakthrough and figures out how to control the Hulk, just one!, then I’d be totally fine with it. But it doesn’t.

This is a case in which the story breaks its own rules–a huge fiction no-no. You can do whatever you want in your own fictional universe–rain falling upwards, singing breakfast sandwiches, whatever–but if you start breaking the physics of your own world, everything goes topsy-turvy and your audience falls off the edge. I’ll swallow the superheros, the helicarrier, the idea of the Hulk in the first place, even the ridiculous flying armadillo-slugs, but when you establish that HULK SMASH ALL THINGS without discrimination and he can’t be controlled, you can’t all of a sudden make him a functioning part of a team, taking orders from Captain America, cooperating with Thor, and saving fellow Avengers. NO. I’m sorry. My suspension of disbelief is snapped.

-That being said, I thought Mark Ruffalo’s performance as Dr. Banner was pretty darn good. He brought an empathy to the character that Edward Norton’s performance was lacking. Like Thor, I wanted to hug him a lot, but for different reasons.

All in all, The Avengers was a totally worthwhile movie. Robert Downey Jr. was awesome as usual, and Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) gave good performances while Chris Evans (Captain America) wasn’t remarkable but was totally fine, and by their powers combined, they more than picked up the slack left by Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L., and Jeremy Renner. There were some glaring plot holes, such as the Hulk problem mentioned above, but it was an overall fun movie and I laughed a lot, so I guess I can forgive it some poor writing. It was also a visual smorgasbord of special effects and explosions and gymnastics from attractive people in skin-tight costumes, so that was good, too. We didn’t see it in 3D because it’s cheaper in 2D and putting those 3D glasses on over my normal glasses makes me dizzy, but I’m sure the 3D version is even more of an optical theme park ride. If you’re watching it 2D, there are parts when you will think, “Yes, that shot was obviously tailored to be awesome in 3D but in 2D just looks awkward,” but you’ll get over it and enjoy it anyway.

I have to ask, though: that first shot of Captain America in the gym, when he’s boxing and the camera pans in on his back in what is basically a dramatically lit showcase of Chris Evans’s masterful ass–is that part in 3D? I sincerely hope that part was in 3D.

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3 thoughts on “Some thoughts on superheroes. Or, the one in which I somehow manage to mention Star Wars, D&D, and Stargate SG-1, totally betraying what I did in high school.

  1. Tony Stark is the man, and definitely the best part of this movie.

    I was glad that The Avengers didn’t try to take itself too seriously. Some superhero movies do that (and yes, I do mean The Dark Knight). This was a feel-good movie that was a lot of fun to watch.

    • Yes! I think that’s why I forgave it its flaws and frequent ridiculousness in the end. Because it wasn’t trying to win Oscars and change lives, it was simply trying to entertain–and it totally succeeded.

      Also, so true about Dark Knight.

  2. Pingback: Speaking of the Avengers. . . « claire writes stories

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