"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Million Dollar Movie


“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]


1 The Hawk   ~  May 8, 2012 8:11 am

I plan on going - as in the case of most superhero movies, I owe it to my 12 year old self - and I disagree strongly with the quoted opinion, in principle. Just - everything about it is obnoxious.

2 Jon DeRosa   ~  May 8, 2012 8:15 am

What did you read as a kid Alex?

If you were lucky enough to pick-up the Avengers from 1979-1980 (issues 181 to about 202) you would have been hooked. David Micheline (the same guy who made Iron Man cool after a decade and a half of sucking) fit New York City around that team like a bun around a hot dog.

I don't expect much from the movie, but I do get a kick out of seeing how they actualize the powers. So far, Spidey in Spiderman 2 and Nightcrawler in X-Men 2 were both worth the price of admission just for their fight scenes alone.

3 RIYank   ~  May 8, 2012 8:32 am

Yeah, I'm like Hawk. Problem is, my son saw it on Friday, so I've lost my respectable excuse. I'm pretty sure I will get to see it on a big screen at some point; I hope it's soon. (But I had no desire to fight the crowds on the first weekend, even though movie crowds in Rhode Island are nothing compared to the ones in New York.)

4 Jon DeRosa   ~  May 8, 2012 8:33 am

[1] Forgive Anthony Lane his blinders when it comes to Super Hero movies. He's a self-professed Lord of the Rings junkie and there just isn't enough room in his head for both.

How he can forgive all those wretched, movie-killing, slow-motion hobbit hugs in that trilogy and yet can't cut some fun super hero movie a little slack now and then is annoying, but expected and I've learned his opinion on these films will have no relation to my own.

5 Alex Belth   ~  May 8, 2012 8:42 am

I started reading comics, or paying attention to who wrote and, more importantly, drew them, at the end of Frank Miller's run with Daredevil. And then I backtracked and read the John Byrne X-Men and then followed Byrne on the Fantastic Four and Alpha Flight. Read George Perez's Teen Titans. Others too, but those were the series that I followed and collected. I rarely read the words. I liked a comic almost exclusively because of the artist. Bill Sienkiewicz, Neil Adams, Walt Simonson.

6 TheGreenMan   ~  May 8, 2012 8:42 am

It was fantastic! Joss Whedon and the gang did a great job with bringing all those characters together while still making them interesting individually. Right now I'd rank it along with Spider-Man 2 as the best super-hero films ever made.

Just don't bother seeing it in 3D. It was added in post-production, and the inconsistency of it was distracting as hell.

7 The Hawk   ~  May 8, 2012 8:45 am

[4] There are certain writers who will move heaven and earth to try and intellectually sell the fact that something just rubs them the wrong way. I think it's probably mentally unhealthy, frankly, hahaha. Like they can't just say "not for me" - they feel the need to somehow make their gut reaction to something "correct" through usually pretty specious arguments.

I don't think he's actually one of those, but I wish the NYT would quit putting AO Scott on superhero movie-review duty. It's always the same thing with him. It's like - we get it, AO. Don't you?

The most-worn chestnut, which I guess doesn't apply in the case of The Avengers, is the "it's too serious. Superheroes are supposed to be fun!" Man, if I never hear that again, it will be too soon.

But I digress

8 Matt Blankman   ~  May 8, 2012 10:05 am

I think there's something that was so intrinsically 1960s and 70s about the great Marvel comics that seems to get lost when you try to bring them to life as live action movies. Sometimes, like the first couple of Sam Raimi "Spiderman" movies and the first "Iron Man," they pull it off anyway, but even then, it's just not nearly as enjoyable for me.

9 Jon DeRosa   ~  May 8, 2012 10:06 am

[5] Both Byrne and Perez did long Avengers stints. Seems like your timing was off as to when you connected with them, you would've been an Avengers nut.

10 RagingTartabull   ~  May 8, 2012 10:36 am

Fell completely out of regularly reading comics around the 7th grade, although I think it's a totally legitimate artform and do not at all look down on those who are into it. And I think this latest round of Marvel flicks, going back to the Spidey reboot in '02, have been mostly very good.

I plan on seeing this, probably on a week night next week after the initial craze has died down. I mean shit, Downey and Ruffalo can make anything interesting.

11 Alex Belth   ~  May 8, 2012 10:42 am

9) Nice! Maybe they are collected somewhere. Be cool to see 'em.

12 Matt Blankman   ~  May 8, 2012 10:48 am

[7] However, the crap that Sam Jackson pulled on A.O. Scott was total bush league bullshit. Embarassing.

That said - this looks like a fairly thoughtful and groovy popcorn movie. I will check it out.

13 Jon DeRosa   ~  May 8, 2012 10:57 am

[11] Perez also drew the JLA/Avengers crossover. It was just OK, but had some nice moments, like this one:


14 The Hawk   ~  May 8, 2012 11:01 am

[12] I know, that was weird

15 RagingTartabull   ~  May 8, 2012 11:06 am

if I were to get one good Avengers trade paperback to give me a background for the movie, what would it be?

16 Jon DeRosa   ~  May 8, 2012 12:06 pm

[15] I can't tell you much about the Avengers since 1980, but I think the movie is essentially a mash-up of the original Avengers origin (a bunch of heroes team up to fight Loki) and the Ultimates, which was a re-boot in which Nick Fury and SHIELD bring the Avengers together to deal with global threats.

It makes logistic sense for SHIELD to be involved, but the Avengers operate much better as an autonomous unit and their affiliation with SHIELD is lame. Way too many cooks.

I'm sure there are movie-specific tie-in books on sale now, but you know those will probably not be great.

17 Alex Belth   ~  May 8, 2012 12:15 pm

12) Jeez, how petty of Jackson.

18 The Hawk   ~  May 8, 2012 12:42 pm

[16] I agree SHIELD being involved is lame - really lame. One of the coolest things about superheroes is they're just doing it on their own, and the authorities just kinda ... let em do it.

I imaging they added the SHIELD angle in an attempt at "more realism" but to me it's really kind of dull and uninspiring.

19 Jon DeRosa   ~  May 8, 2012 1:02 pm

[18] Great point.

If there was a govt ops team of special heroes, like suped up agents, they'd be a good foil for the Avengers - who are all about personality clashes and figuring it out on their own.

The US Govt is in charge of an Asgardian, a billionaire industrialist, an uncontrollable monster etc..? That's idiotic.

20 The Hawk   ~  May 8, 2012 4:17 pm

[19] And it just seems - not to be conspiracy-theorish - like an indoctrination into authoritarian society.

I also noticed on this show for kids, a more kiddie-oriented Marvel show; I forget the name, that General "Thunderbolt" Ross is the team's boss. I was like WTF? But it's the same kind of thing. Let superheroes be free!

(A side note: that same show featured Wolverine. I mean, how do you kiddie-ize a character with giant metal CLAWS?)

21 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  May 8, 2012 6:24 pm

There are still pics of Scarlett in this film now so no need for me to go to the cinema. :)

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