REVIEW, TAKE TWO: Further reflections on Marvel's The Avengers
Brace yourself for Marvel's The Avengers to make piles of money. Oodles of it. The first big blockbuster of summer (meaning the first big blockbuster of May — I'm pretty sure there's international law about this) typically only has to be borderline competent to be a box office gold mine. And The Avengers is actually pretty good. Look, if celluloid fecal matter like Van Helsing (ah,
) can grab $52 million in three days just by getting to the starting line first, then The Avengers is going to ring the box office bell like a thunderbolt. This will inevitably lead some observers to anoint it the best superhero movie ever made — money talks —and, to be fair, numerous reviews have already proclaimed as much without waiting to watch the avalanche of dollars. I like the characters, the acting is great, the dialogue is a ton of fun, but ... best of all time? Eh. It's almost an open question whether The Avengers is better than just Iron Man. In my book, anyway, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2 (odd how much better it is than the Spider-Man or Spider-Man 3) and Superman Returns (darn right, Superman Returns) are all better. The best superhero movie ever made, however, is better still: The Incredibles. No contest. End of discussion. Other observations:
Game boy: One of the best of the many, many quotable zingers in The Avengers is an out-of-nowhere drop-in that rolls off the tongue of Robert Downey Jr., who really needs Joss Whedon to come along for Iron Man 3. Tony Stark is making a rally-the-troops speech* on the command deck of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s massive flying aircraft carrier (fun concept, incidentally), and gives a casual, mid-paragraph tongue-lashing to a guy who's using his command and control monitor to play Galaga instead of, oh, watching long-range radar images, or whatever. What really sells the line, however, is that Whedon waits 'til the end of the scene — the "ready ... break!" moment after the huddle is over — and then shows the guy only slightly surreptitiously turn back to his monitor and call up Galaga again. Don't we all need to live in a world where highly-trained personnel occasionally use top secret government tech to play Galaga when they think no one's watching?
* Or maybe this is during his subvert-the-troops, middle-finger-to-Fury speech. I'm pretty sure he does both.
Gwyneth doin' work: Some people have that magical something that the camera loves to look at. They just do. The special ones have that and know what to do with it. Gwyneth Paltrow is barely in The Avengers. She's playing the Pepper Potts character from the Iron Man movies, the gal who's the love of Tony Stark's life whenever there isn't a lingerie model or a snappy bon mot within arm's reach. She has a much bigger presence in the movie than her screen time would indicate, in part because she's Tony Stark's girl worth fighting for (with apologies to Fa Mulan), and Tony Stark is the guy who gets to do the heavy lifting when it's time to save the planet. We're on edge when he's in danger because we want him to make it back safe to Pepper. It works as well as it does, however, because Paltrow is just that good. Almost 15 years after Shakespeare in Love, she's still got a way about her that Billy Joel could write a song about. And she knows how to use it.
Mickey, Minnie and Hulk: This doesn't really have anything to do with The Avengers, beyond the fact that Disney, which acquired Marvel Comics for a cool $4 bil (yes, bil, as in "billion") in 2009, is releasing the film, and controlling the lion's share of its profits. A few months back, however, Disney honchos revealed at a shareholder meeting that your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, or possibly Wolverine, or maybe even any of the characters in this movie, will become part of the Happiest Place on Earth ... soon. The money quote, from Disney CEO Bob Iger, is "We haven't announced anything yet, but we're working on some concepts." Maybe he hadn't announced anything yet ...