The Avengers (2012)

“The Avengers” TheAvengers2012Poster

There will not be any film breaking the records set by this film any time soon.  It has broken 22 of them so far, including the fastest film to ever gross $1 billion worldwide.  It did that in 10 days.  Think on that for a minute…

Seriously, the closest records to this film’s grosses at the Box Office are “The Dark Knight” and the last of the Harry Potter filmsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”.  If you are any movie studio other than Marvel & Disney, you can just assure your investors that you MAY recuperate your losses in production & distribution for this Summer’s releases – and that’s all.  Why?  Because “The Avengers” is blockbuster gold!

A “blockbuster” is defined (according to Dictionary.com) as “as applied to film or theater, denotes a very popular and/or successful production. The term was originally derived from theater slang referring to a particularly successful play but is now used primarily by the film industry.”  To further note: “The etymology of the term is uncertain; some histories cite it as originally referring to a play that is so successful that competing theaters on the block are “busted” and driven out of business; others claim a derivation from the nickname of a type of World War II-era bomb capable of destroying an entire city block.”  The “other theaters” on the block could be referring to all other so-called big releases of the Summer (which typically starts Memorial Day weekend).  Anyone releasing a film this Summer had better hope that the buzz of “The Avengers” has died down by July.  As for the reference to a WWII bomb that levels whole blocks: that sounds like an accurate analogy of what this film will do to the (ahem) competition this Summer.

Why am I talking so much about blockbusters?  Well, a little history is needed to explain my point of view.  The 1st film to ever be tagged a “blockbuster” was “Gone with the Wind”.  It set the Box Office record for most money ever made off a film by such a huge margin that no one dreamt it could ever be beaten.  Fast Forward to 1976 where we find Spielberg and his fish-tale “Jaws” breaking that record.  That’s right: a shark beat out Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.  As amazing as that was, what happened the next Spring was even more astonishing.  A film that was released in May stayed in the theaters in some areas for more than a year, and it was so successful it opened at Mann’s Chinese Theatre TWICE.  That film was “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” (or as many of us know it, simply “Star Wars”).  It shattered records and raised the bar for what would later be called a success in Hollywood in many, many ways.  What’s so significant about that?  Not to labor the point, but it let the whole world know that the epic good guy vs. bad guy saga was not only plausible, it was profitable.

Now, in this time period, we see “Harry Potter” films grossing huge sums.  It was an epic story, spawned by a wildly successful series of books.  We also the success of another film series like the “Twilight” saga (pardon me while I vomit).  Right up there is a super hero movie, a sequel to a great re-birth of a franchise and featuring a critically-acclaimed performance, “the Dark Knight”.  Notice a pattern here?  These are all escape-films, which are films that are designed to by completely implausible in story and comprised of the fantasy, horror, or comic book genres.  What do you think would top the Box Office records?  The answer is obvious: “The Avengers”.

But why the financial success of a super-hero film that centers on not one but SIX super heroes?  The truth is that movie-goers want entertainment, but they also want characters that they can connect with.  They want a hero film because they like rooting for the good guy – just so long as the villain is vile enough to really despise.  They want the big action and the great special effects, but they don’t want to lose out on the story.  “The Dark Knight” may have won a lot of doubters over to the super-hero genre, but some people felt it was a little too dark and depressing.  They craved a heroic tale, but with something really SUPER in it.  They want a hero that they can connect with, or at least empathize with (look that word up because it’s a fantastic word!).  So, where one is good, six must be better, right?  This is where you have to realize the unique quality to “the Avengers”.  To balance 6 different stories (really that’s what it is) with character development enough to draw people in, that is an impressive feat for any director and/or writer.

Enter Joss Whedon, a man primarily known for his supernatural chick-powered TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.  Sometimes, you just need the right person for the right job.  Sometimes you bail on projects about Amazonian women and bad casting ideas.  Sometimes Ang Lee is not the right choice for a tale about a green monster.  Sometimes, you need a little of that Favreau connection.  Sometimes, you ditch prima donnas named Norton in favor of a nice-guy actor.  And in the case of “the Avengers”, you needed Joss Whedon.  Whedon took on this project and he made all the right choices in my opinion.  And this is one hell of a project too! (Its budget alone was over $220 million.)

With Whedon at the helm, “the Avengers” started to assemble.  Robert Downey Jr. joins in as “Iron Man”, Chris Hemsworth brings the hammer down as “Thor”, Chris Evans dutifully shoudlers his shield again as “Captain America”, and they welcomed Mark Ruffalo as “The Incredible Hulk”.  Each is the master of their own franchise.  At this rate, we can easily expect another installment for each hero.  (We now know that “Iron Man 3” & “Avengers 2” are confirmed.)  Ruffalo brings warmth and charm to the tormented Bruce Banner, and who would have thought the Hulk was funny?  RDJ rocks as Stark once more.  As a huge Iron Man fan, I will forever be biased towards that character.  But I also have to admit that I loved Evans as Cap once again.  It’s so refreshing to see a man out of time like this and just doing what he knows to try and save people.  He’s brilliant – both as character and the actor portraying him. They are all great, each in their own way.  The real deal is that all of these guys have the spotlight.  All of them do cool stuff.  All of them have their deep moments on screen.  And it is all perfectly balanced.

Even the supplemental characters, the supporting cast, of Scarlett Johansson (the Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Stellan Skarsgård, and Samuel L. Jackson (Col. Nick Fury) returns.  I didn’t like Hawkeye so much, but that’s because he is henchman for Loki for much of the film.  That and I never much cared for the character in the comics either.  Black Widow?  Eh.  I don’t know if I like her or not in this.  I understand the necessity of the character in the plot, but as a charecter to be included herein I just wasn’t sold on her.  The best parts of this supporting cast though are Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson and Tom Hiddleston as the villain God Loki.  Hiddleston fills the shoes of that oh-so-desired role of a God bent on revenge and willed to destroy a whole planet to accomplish this feat, and he does so brilliantly!  Loki lives up to the comic book version of himself in every way, so fans will NOT be disappointed.  Gregg though is the heart of this film.  His character will reach you in a way that you did not expect.  (Watch other audience members reactions to his character and you’ll see what I mean.)

When Whedon turns up the action for the final showdown with Loki, you will appreciate being in a large movie theater with really LOUD speakers and a great picture!  The action is fabulous!  There is more property damage shown in this film than any film short of “Independence Day” and it is gloriously executed.  Even during these climatic action sequences, Whedon finds areas to include the thought “how would this character act in this situation”.  If you are a fan of the comics (and I admit, my preference was always the Avengers over the X-Men), you will really appreciate this.

The humor of this film really kind of takes you by surprise.  There are a lot of really funny parts to this ensemble piece, and it isn’t just Tony Stark quipping one-liners either!  Clark Gregg is priceless as is the Hulk!  Of course, RDJ has his moments and they are great too!  God, there’s so much humor in this film, it will definitely throw you.  It’s just not what you expect from a super-hero flick.

Oh, the plot – right!  Loki wants to conquer Earth by means of the Tesseract (we’ll just call it the Cosmic Cube, okay?) which he will use to open a doorway to an alien dimension & bring into our realm an army of alien monsters.  The agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D decides to activate the Avengers Initiative to “fight the battles we can’t” and thus begins to pull together Earth’s mightiest heroes.  The plot may seem simple enough, but it is an intricately woven tale that allows us to see Loki doing what he does best and in the process we get to see what our heroes can do to each other.  Somebody said it right: they are like a dysfunctional family.  In the end, the team comes together to battle Loki, and the rest is Box Office history.  The story may sound cliché but in truth it is EXACTLY what it was supposed to be.  It gives patrons precisely what they crave; hence the records being set.

My recommendation: start Summer early.  Go to the theater.  Buy some popcorn.  Sit in the air-conditioned loveliness that is a darkened movie house.  Sit back and enjoy a FANATSTIC tale of heroes banding together to stop the forces of evil and save the world.  It’s an eye-popping, ear-blasting, laugh-inducing, heart-felt super hero extravaganza!!!  Do stick around as the credits roll; there are TWO additional scenes!  “The Avengers” have arrived …and the box office will never be the same.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

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