“The Avengers” had the biggest box-office opening in movie history. Here’s Anthony Lane’s review in the New Yorker:
One of the failings of Marvel—as of other franchises, like the “Superman” series—is the vulgarity that comes of thinking big. As a rule, be wary of any guy who dwells upon the fate of mankind, unless he can prove that he was born in Bethlehem. Superheroes who claim to be on the side of the entire planet are no more to be trusted than the baddies who seek to trash it, nor is the aesthetic timbre of the movies in which they both appear. I remember the joy of reading David Thomson’s entry on Howard Hawks, in “A Biographical Dictionary of Film”; the principle underlying Hawks’s work, Thomson argued, was that “Men are more expressive rolling a cigarette than saving the world,” and his adage rings true far beyond “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” or “The Big Sleep.” All movies thrive on the rustle of private detail—on pleasures and pains that last as long as a smoke—and there has been nothing more peculiar, in recent years, than watching one Marvel epic after the next, then sifting through the rubble of gigantism in search of dramatic life.
If it smolders in “The Avengers,” that is owing to Downey and Ruffalo, two A-grade actors who are damned if they are going to be smothered by a two-hundred-million-dollar B movie. Downey realized, in “Iron Man,” that spectacular pap could be made piquant only if the central icon was a jerk—a narcissist with a roaring cash flow, rescuing not Earth from destruction but, way more important, his own soul from fidgety ennui. Ruffalo, at the other extreme, is all diffidence and glancing timidity; as Banner, he seems embarrassed by the prospect of his own wrath, and there is a wonderful closeup of the sad, apologetic glow in his eyes as he turns green. Banner begins the film as a practicing doctor (not just any doctor but, in line with Marvel’s overreach, a doctor in an Indian slum), and ends as we might have guessed, slinging humongous metal lizards around the canyons of Manhattan.
Nice quote from Thomson. I never read “The Avengers” as a kid and have no interest in seeing the movie. Did anyone go last weekend? Any good?
[Featured Image by Daniel Acuna]