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Movie Review: The Avengers

May 042012
 By , May 4, 2012

the avengers

The Avengers — a film review by Gary Chew

I stopped reading comic books in about 1950. Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel were my favorites. I was stoked when George Reeves as Superman and Adam West as Batman made it to pictures that move instead of merely being drawn (frozen in time) onto those colorful panels on paper.

The narratives changed little. The good guy or guys and the badass or asses who wanted to take over Metropolis, Gotham City or the Earth were always there to give the story the conflict it needed: right and wrong clearly delineated.

Oh, if only that would be how it really is.

Mark Ruffalo is Bruce Banner ... or The Hulk.

It is about the same with “The Avengers,” a new film with action-packed serialized baggage just blowing into town at a number of cineplexes. Hand it to “Buffy Dude,” director Joss Whedon, to sweep through the hackneyed parts of any superhero story and give almost anyone the feeling that he or she is being well-entertained.

The magic is in the humor of the dialogue. I think Adam West’s Batman got the bat, rather, the ball rolling really well on television. The series’ silly lines subliminally told the viewer, “You know all this can’t be true, but we can’t change the thrust of superhero stories, so we’ll just add droll humor to keep the genre alive.”

Boy, did it work. And it really works for “The Avengers.”

Various genres are given running time. They’re well-represented by Whedon and his cast and crew.

Just to mention a few — you’ve got your gods of the ages types conflicted among steely, techno-sci-fi flying machines and other whizzing gadgets and heavy armament; charming, hip, upper class banter between Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his erudite lady, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, in cameo). The iron guy has work cut out for him watching out for the super villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston),who seems right for Shakespeare, too.

the avengers

Chris Evans as Captain America, with Robert Downey, Jr as Iron Man, out of uniform.

It has been a hoot watching Robert Downey, Jr. blaze his trail…and swell he’s moved into the making of blockbusters. His continued edgy, hip persona was needed in the land of the really big flick. It brings back memories of his earlier outings. I suggest that Robert Downey, Jr. is the standard best to emulate by guys who want to present as being terribly hip and nonchalant for a lady.

That’s a compliment. Meanwhile….

“The Avengers” is hot and cold, non-stop violence so well-crafted and pieced together, you actually get what might be called, “kick-ass segues” from one fight scene to the next as their respective resolutions are held in abeyance while yet another clash reaches an even higher pitch somewhere in “another part of town.” All of them depict force so brutal and so nearly completely bloodless, you must laugh at it to stay interested.

But don’t we just love comics?

That Hollywood Walk of Fame fatale, Scarlett Johansson is back as Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow (obviously once a hardened Communist). Mark Ruffalo plays smart guy Bruce Banner, known to many as The Hulk, a big green guy who’s in need of a Valium, bad. Jeremy Renner, as Hawkeye (not of M*A*S*H), looks more gifted shooting a bow and arrow than Erroll Flynn did on a horse in Sherwood Forest, which actually was a grove of trees near Chico.

How could this not be a super superhero flick without Chris Evans as the indefatigable Captain America, who, some have indicated, might still be a virgin? Can’t corroborate that, but I can report that Evans is in the movie.

Then there’s Thor…

the avengers

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Do you remember Thor? The guy who wrote, “If I Had A Hammer.” That role is handled smoothly by the burly Aussie, Chris Hemsworth.

The whole team, which can be succinctly called the Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.), is bossed about by the man himself, Nick Fury, who’s played in that special Samuel L. Jackson kind of way. (Think “Pulp Fiction” character Jules Winnfield barking commands from the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise.)

Nobody does it better, not even — I hate to say it — William Shatner.

Director Whedon makes clever spirals among the several flavors he’s mixed into “The Avengers,” but some scenes among the major characters that get the details and connections organized for the narrative to push on get awfully chatty. It’s like putting on the brakes of your chariot or rocket ship.

The screenplay was written by Whedon from a story by Zac Penn. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby wrote the lyrics for the neat “too marvelous for words” word balloons seen above the characters in those enduring Marvel Comics pages.

I detected in Alan Silvestri’s thundering music score some of the same series of tones I remember hearing when I first saw “Exodus.” The words that came to mind were lyrics put to the main theme of “Exodus,” “This Land Is Mine.” (Maybe Silverstri is a fan of the film score composer, Ernest Gold.) But there are only twelve separate music tones in any piano’s octaves, so how could that be a valid complaint?

It isn’t, because “The Avengers” is a damn funny movie.  I laughed all the way through the first half of it. As I was leaving the cinema, though, I heard a sort of disgruntled, mature gentlemen remark, “Heck, I thought ‘The Avengers’ had this sexy British detective lady in it called Mrs. Peel. I want my money back.”

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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