Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Verdict Is (FINALLY!) In

I had to see it twice, but I finally have thoughts to share on The Avengers.  Spoilers below the decidedly NOT spoilery (but very funny) video.


I have a fun little story to tell.  Actually no, it's not that fun. But it explains a great deal.

The one movie theater that I love going to is the Jordan Landing Cinemark.  This place is a pretty spiffy theater while still being fairly reasonbly priced - the seats are roomy, the staff are friendly and they make their snack bar hot dogs out of unicorn tears.  No, really - they are that good (it's the one time I can justify paying $4 for movie theater food).  This theater is also attracts - shall we say - more higher-class clientele.  I have never had a bad experience going to a movie at Jordan Landing.

Until last Monday night and The Avengers.

I've talked about this before - In the lead-up to this movie, I was as excited as anybody (excepting, perhaps, the people who grew up reading Marvel comics. But that’s a whole ‘nother ballpark).  I have thoroughly enjoyed the Marvel superhero movies and I’ve loved all the continuity that’s gone into these stories. But most of all, I love the characters and seeing where these superheroes come from.  It's a real treat for me, as someone who isn't steeped in Marvel Comics lore, to have a glimpse into these stories and feel like I can be welcomed into the universe and know what's going on without the burden of having to know the source material inside-and-out (which I would love to do, but there's a crapton to read through - never mind having to get it all in the right order).

Sadly, I was delayed in seeing The Avengers, but I had a good reason.  My aunt passed away last week and her funeral was on Saturday in Nevada.  I spent Friday traveling, Saturday at the funeral and with family and coming back home, Sunday passed out on the couch in a pile of travel-worn goo with no desire to go anywhere or do anything.  But I figured I could go see it Monday night after I got off work at 9:00 at night - hopefully the audience would be small and I could enjoy my experience.

Well, turns out the late Monday night showing was a horrible idea.  In short, this is what I had to endure:

- The idiot teenagers who had probably sneaked out of the house so they could canoodle with their boy- or girl-toys in the back of a darkened theater while alternately snickering “OMG his boots r sooo gay!” (meaning Captain America in the dressed-down version of his uniform). Oh, and they kept laughing even after the jokes were over and done with.  Do you know how maddening it is when you are trying to watch an incredibly intense battle sequence and you've got the cast of Degrassi behind you giggling over Odin-knows-what?

   - The married fanboys who finally convinced their extremely skeptical wives to go see it with them. The wives then start clucking to each other about some goofy housewifey thing and how ridiculous their hubbies are being but said hubbies wouldn't give them a moment's peace until they counted this as date night... ALL DURING THE FRIGGING MOVIE!! *headdesk*

   - This one doesn’t bug me as much because at least this audience member is interested in the movie. Still irritating, though. But there was also that one kid who was sugared-up on candy and Coke and keeps asking “Why’d Loki stab that one guy?” “How did [insert character] do that one thing?” “I wanna fly!” Love your enthusiasm, kid, but can you wait until you get to the parking lot?

So, when I walked out of the theater, I was not happy about the movie.  I was too distracted by my very rude and annoying fellow movie-goers and I didn't get the experience that other people got when they tweeted how wonderful this movie was.  And I was extremely annoyed by this because I honestly wanted to love this movie.  In fact, last night I came home and wrote up a whole big thing about how I was so disappointed in the movie and how could they screw it up and what is everyone else thinking and I'm so pissed about this... but then I thought that maybe a second viewing would help.  I then decided to go again after work today and see if I liked it better a second time.

(Don't worry - I did end up liking this movie.  Quite a bit, actually.  I later went back during a matinee to see it again and ended up in a much more amenable audience and figured out that was most of my problem the night before).

At first, I blamed it on the fact that I am not familiar with director Joss Whedon at all.  At the risk of having my geek-cred called into question, I have to confess that I have never been on the Whedon bandwagon.  It’s not a matter of me not liking his stuff; it’s a matter of me never actually watching anything of his.  The most I know about Whedon is that he created Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and a great swath of the sci-fi/fantasy fandom thinks he’s God (I am not being critical here, mind you. I'm just saying that I don't have enough experience with Whedon to make that assessment for myself).

One thing I learned here is that Whedon has a very distinct method of storytelling and it's something I had to be prepared for and I wasn't.  He's like Neil Gaiman in that regard - if I hadn't read at least some of Gaiman's work before seeing "The Doctor's Wife," I would not have know what was going on in that story and I probably would have been similarly disappointed.  However, once I understood how Whedon does things, I was totally on board.  One thing I had difficulty with was the humor - more specifically, the timing of the jokes.  Like Agent Coulson quipping "So that's how it works" after he shoots Loki with the Big Ass Gun after Loki's fatally stabbed Coulson.  That was just one of many mood whiplash moments that had me going "Wait - WHAT?" during my first viewing.

But the second go-round, I was expecting the humor so I was able to better pay attention to the characters and story (helped that the audience wasn't guffawing for five minutes at every little deadpan snark).  In fact, the humor actually enhanced Tony Stark's character, which I did not think was possible.  Tony is hands-down my favorite of the Avengers because he does possess a dark sense of humor and he can pull-off snark in a very natural way.  Plus, his brand of snark actually serves a purpose - I loved the scenes with him and Bruce Banner (the Hulk) looking for the Tessaract and Tony just keeps poking the proverbial bear with the stick (all the while knowing exactly what he's doing).  That's the other thing I love about Tony Stark - he's the scientific genius who can rattle off equations and technobabble, but still keep his "Mr. Cool" billionaire persona.  Also, Tony's interactions with Steve Rogers (Captain America) are pure gold.  Tony and Steve are near-perfect foils to each other - Tony's the dark, sarcastic genius of the bunch while Steve is the All-American Boy Scout who follows orders yet still commands respect, which I love (he is the legendary First Avenger, after all).  It would have been so easy to relegate Cap to be the idealistic idiot wearing spangly Spandex, he became the leader of the Avengers almost by accident and it worked so well.

Also - I have to give mad props to Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.  I tried watching both Hulk movies prior to seeing The Avengers - yeah, I couldn't do it.  They were both kind of long and boring and I just couldn't care.  I'm going to try to Edward Norton movie again, but really, I don't think I need to.  I think I know enough of the Hulk's backstory and his personality just from watching The Avengers.  Really, this movie did for the Hulk as a member of a team what two whole movies of the Hulk as a solo-act did not do.  That either speaks volumes in favor of Ruffalo and Whedon or it speaks to the incompetence of the guys in the other movies (personally, I like to keep things positive, so I'm going with the first one).

Chris Hemsworth is an awesome Thor and Tom Hiddleston is a fantastic Loki.  I am such a fantasy geek - you tell me something's magic and I will buy it (as long as there are set rules and you stick to them).  Everything for me doesn't have to be totally grounded in hard-core, proven science (or even plausible science fiction).  My opinion from when I saw Thor has not changed - the concept of Asgard and the demigods is such a treat.  I get that Thor is a very different hero from any of the others and it takes a certain kind of writer to bring that to bear in this ensemble cast and this is another area where Whedon gets it right.  I love that Thor and Loki are given opportunities to explore their family relationship - Thor gives Loki a chance to quit his Earth-domination crap and come home.  Thor also feels a responsibility to the Earth and wants to stop Loki from causing problems.  But Loki's been slighted and he's going to cause as much havoc and mayhem and he's going to have fun doing it (Hiddleston's performance when he's yanking everyone's chain while being held prisoner on the SHIELD aircraft carrier is wonderful.  He's another one who does the deadpan snarker very well).

I want to touch briefly on Black Widow and Hawkeye - I want their origin stories.  I don't know if those movies are in the works (or maybe just one for the both of them, since it's made evident that their paths cross early-on), but that is something I dearly want.  Maybe it's a tad unnecessary at this point, but I don't care - I WANTS IT, PRECIOUSSSS!!  They are both fantastic characters - either apart or together and I want to see more of that.

(Oh, and every single time someone said “Tessaract,” I kept thinking of the Tessalecta from Doctor Who. Which is completely different).

This is getting insanely long, but here are some of my favorite moments that deserve special mention (there were so many good ones that it was hard to keep this a reasonable length):

- The Hulk beating the ever-loving snot out of Loki.  Especially after Loki started in on his "I'm a god and you will bow to me you stupid human-thing" speech.
- The old man in Germany standing up to Loki when everyone else has bowed down.
- Iron Man patching "Shoot to Thrill" by AC/DC into Black Widow's jet's PA system.
- Loki in a suit. I know he's the bad guy and all but... damn...
- Agent Coulson explaining to Thor that he got Jane Foster somewhere far away from all the bad stuff happening and Thor being appreciative about it (okay, my little sappy female heart got a little mushy there)
- Anything Agent Coulson does or says (his total fanboying over Captain America was really sweet)
- Nick Fury telling the shadowy SHIELD board of committee director-leader-people that their idea to nuke Manhattan is a "stupid-ass decision."
- And I'm sure I forgot a few, but I'm sure someone else will point them out.

Anyway, Whedon did a pretty good job with this movie (though to be perfectly honest, I would have seen this no matter who the director was - but Whedon was an excellent choice).  The cast was great and the story was put together well and I don't know what else to say about it other than I want another one.  Like, right now. Because that was way too much awesome to be confined to one movie.  There must be more. MOAR, I say!

PS - I still would recommend seeing a movie at Jordan Landing if you're ever in town.  It's not their fault a bunch of ninnies all went and saw the same movie on the same night and ruined my initial experience. But if I find out who those kids were, I would not be opposed to toilet-papering their houses.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry you're initial viewing wasn't great. I'm glad you ended up enjoying THE BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE EVER!

    As far as Joss Whedon goes, you know I am a HUGE fanboy. If you are looking to dip your toe in the Whedonverse here is my suggestion. Start with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog. Then move onto Firefly and Serenity. Those are the major ones that you need to keep your geek cred. Once you see Firefly, you will understand why Whedon was the PERFECT choice to write/direct this movie.

    You should definitely give Edward Norton's Hulk movie another chance (don't bother with the Ang Lee, Eric Bana version). If for nothing else it fits into the universe that Marvel has established in the movies.