Marvel’s “The Avengers”
Directed by Joss Whedon
Reviewed by Marion D.S. Dreyfus
My quick takeaway: If the film industry were not so committed to apocalyptic CGI and what I term impact viewing, it’d stand out more — but the comic bits in the script leaven the rock ‘em/sock ‘em and are welcome. Heartening to see that the audience, full of tots as well as what seemed to be grand-parental types unaccompanied by kidlets, got the healthy dose of humorous asides throughout. A pleasure to see an audience so primed that they get why dropping the name Stephen Hawking into the lap of Chris Evans’ 1940s character Captain America would evoke a guffaw as he had zero idea what to make of such a reference.
Pop comic-book superheroes “The Avengers” not only mashed alien invaders while busting up New York City landmarks but also scored phenomenally high at box office with record-shattering 3-day weekend opens stateside ($220 million) and overseas, where it opened a week earlier. Caution: If you want the same price you pay for other films, make sure you attend the 2D (regular) screenings. The 3D adds almost nothing to the proceedings, which are eye-popping enough already as is. But it adds at least $4 more to ticket prices. So a solo ticket can set you back $19 or $20 in 3D. Also, if you see it in 3D or 2D, the film is dark. Not metaphysical—just dark in color palette.
But keeping in mind that relatively high box office add-on, Disney brags that the $220 million 3D production will not only rake in eye-bursting receipts for its opening and subsequent weeks, but also ‘conquer the planet’ with worldwide sales of more than $500 million and counting. The all-time world income maker, BTW, is still “Gone With the Wind,” and that was only a dime or thereabouts per ticket-holder. “The Hunger Games,” playing for 8 weeks now, came in for a total of $381 million (pre- weekend).
Marvel’s A Team—Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr., playing billionaire-egotist-snarkster Tony Stark), Captain America (Chris Evans ), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, my favorite, playing scientist Bruce Banner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, titian-haired, here), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—pulverized the old record holder. (2011 weekend open of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Pt 2” –a mere $169 million box office). Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. aggregates his top team of super-beings to help save the Earth from Loki (Tim Hiddleston) and his invading forces of metalloid destructos.
Aliens invade and want to make us… kneel to them. Why is this always the theme (it was the point of several “Superman” film outings)? Are script writers in thrall to chiropractors? You know the drill. It’s the middle ground of working out the how of battling them back that pins down the little child in us. But if you seek subtlety, aside from the hilarious little offhand remarks, this is not a nuanced film. If you’re partial to Thor and his leaden obedient hammer, or green hulking growlers with anger management issues, you’ll be amused and entertained. The novelty of heroes from six disparate action movies is also a slight kick. Sorry the enthusiasm is a bit flagging: Expectations and my doormen had my hopes up at Prize-fighter! Ding-dong on the charts.
In isolation, if you rarely go to movies, you will enjoy the scenic effects and the wreckage and deracination of NYC landmarks (enemy menaces land in the Grand Central Station promenade; mess up around the Met Life/Pan Am building; the lovely Chrysler Building; make a covert hideaway for humans in Pershing Square café (42nd and Park, under the overpass); Staten Island ferry; Central Park, of course, at Bethesda Fountain, where the superheroes bid each other ta ta— until they meet again in the sequel, one understands; and the Park Ave viaduct. But every upcoming film trailer (in cume, 20-25 minutes) features acoustic offense—extremely loud films all showcasing unbelievable exploits of derring-do, unreproducible mayhem and ingenious murder, mostly of bad guys. One yearns for a film that is generically lilting and meditative, a la “The Artist,” no doubt part of its winning allure last year. Or tote earplugs.
The manager at the theatre in my neighborhood confided that though the next “Batman” is still two months off as I write, this franchise Loew’s (the most successful, biggest moneymaker in the country, by industry accounts), the entire place is already ‘sold out.’ Apparently some plutocrat has purchased all the opening-day slots for ‘close friends.’ Further to those who might inquire, the cinemas themselves make almost no income from the actual ticket receipts, a tiny percentage, and the vast income accrues to their concession stand sales. The Super Combos, the Big Slurps, Milk Duds and the like. The longer the film runs at any venue, the more the percentage of profit per theatre climbs, however, for the film itself.