Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Avengers Assemble

With 2012 being the end of several calendars I sometimes look at release dates for movies I want to see and hope that I make it along with the rest of the world, of course. And so I have officially made it to see the Avengers movie. I like the fact that the title is "Marvel's The Avengers" since there is also a tv show with the same name I am very fond of. Marvel had a habit of ripping off tv series titles and putting them out as superheroe teams. Examples would be "The Champions" and "The Defenders". With Stan Lee's wife being British I am sure "The Avengers" was the first. I read issue one as a reprint. I started collecting with issue four, which featured the return of Captain America.

 The movie stays true to issue one in that the reason these heroes connected and teamed up was Thor's half-brother Loki causing mischief. With a whole series of successful movies these characters have been thoroughly updated from the early sixties comic books to 3D and even Imax in movie theaters. Little could I forsee such events as a teenager lo those many years ago. But reading Stan Lee's stories, getting totally involved in the Marvel universe, I knew I was a part of something special. From recent films Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Black Widow, the Hulk all seem like old friends now. And that is comforting, especially when the world is facing annihilation from both an angry Norse God and from outer space aliens

. It is amazing that these superheroes along with those of the older DC line form a mythology for the modern world. Ueshiba Osensei was very influenced by the adventures of Susano, Amaterasu, Izanagi, and Izanami in the Kojiki and Nihongi. I have always found an almost spiritual sense to comics and to superheroes in particular. My favorite of the Avengers line up was by far Thor. Stan Lee tackled the problem of how to create Marvel's version of Superman by making a mythological god a superhero. And in a turn of events I could not have seen in the sixties we now see technology(Iron Man) and science(Captain America) turning ordinary humans into god-like beings. And the Black Widow, originally an Iron Man villain, was turned into a spy ala Emma Peel, thus connecting the British show to the comic book. Scarlett Johansson does an excellent job in the role of Natasha Romanova. Her opening scene where she fights off several men while being bound to a chair is one of the strongest scenes in the whole film.

 I think the Hulk is much better in this team oriented concept than he has been in two separate films. Somehow this archetypal incarnation of pure rage is sight for sore eyes when he is fighting on our side. The Hulk works the delicate balance of being both a monster and a hero. This film allows the character to be a great balance of both. And there is a great use of humor around the character that was missing in both his feature films.

Chris Evans Captain America might have been the best super hero film of last summer. It surprised me how well they adapted the character to the big screen and how he fit in. And he more than holds his own with the other heroes.

I think they underplayed Thor in order to give the Hulk more play. Thor by himself could have dominated actionwise the whole film. So this was probably a good move. The relationship with his half-brother Loki is a complex one. Thor's hopefulness for his brother's redemption allows Loki time and again to create more mischief. Loki was always the god of mischief and not the god of evil so this is perhaps understandable. He is an ongoing force/energy in all of us and just won't go away.

Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man could easily have dominated the film as well and arguably does anyway. It is amazing how close we have come to Tony Stark and Gwynneth Paltrow's Pepper in the space of two films. It is nice that they seem to be doing well. In fact arguably the Iron Man character re-vises both himself and his purpose to an extent none of the others do in the course of the film.

So two thumbs up. It has already broken box office records and so by all means see it. Joss Whedon of Firefly and Buffy does an excellent job with this project.

I am including a video of Aikido of San Jose's demo at the recent Cupertino Cherry Blossom Festival:


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