Greetings from the Odinson,
Once every ten years or so, a movie comes along that raises the bar just a bit higher. Though there are many really good movies, rarely does a film actually live up to expectations, or even better, surpass them. In my lifetime there have been four such movies. Again, there have been many really good movies, but these are the game changers. The movies that are so good that to call them good is a severe understatement.
In my lifetime there have been four movies that meet this criteria. In 1977 it was Star Wars. This sci-fi fantasy about a young farm boy from a backwater planet that meets up with an old wizard and a pirate and goes on a quest to save a princess from a dark knight and defeat an evil Empire bent on universal domination IS the bench mark by which all other space adventures are judged. In 1994, it was The Crow. This dark gothic tale of love loss and revenge showed the world that comic books aren’t just for kids, especially when the creators and talent behind the project really have something to say. In 1999, that film was The Matrix. Up until this New Millennium sci-fi masterpiece hit theatres, movie making had become simply business as usually. After this senses-shattering film opened everyone’s eyes, creators everywhere at that moment tore up whatever they were working on and went back to the drawing board. And now, in 2012, that movie is Marvel’s The Avengers.
Like the other films on this list, to say that The Avengers is a great movie is to severely understate the obvious. This is the movie I’ve waited my whole life to see, so my expectations were sky high. The Avengers not only met my lofty expectations, it blew them out of the water. I’ve been asked by those who have not seen the movie “what makes it so good?” There is so much greatness in this film it’s hard to know where to begin and not spoil anything for those that have not seen it yet (which, by the way, according to the Opening Weekend numbers, there aren’t very many of you that haven’t seen it). Anybody that says they don’t like this film either has an agenda or they’re doing a bit. I’d have to say that one of the really big reasons why I loved this movie so much is that I did not have to sit through yet another 2-hour Origin Story.
I just don’t know if I have it in me to watch Peter Parker get bit by a radioactive spider, again (Do we really need a Spider-Man reboot barely ten years later?). Or watch planet Krypton explode, again. Or witness Bruce Wayne’s parents get gunned down by a common purse-snatcher, again (I’m assuming four years from now we’ll have to sit through a Batman: Year One film when the franchise picks up again). Between comic books, novels, cartoons, TV shows, and movies, I’ve seen these stories hundreds of times and done a hundred different ways. I can’t take anymore origin stories for these characters! James Bond has been in over twenty 007 movies and we don’t have to sit through his origin every single time. Like James Bond, there should be a new Superman movie hitting theatres every three to fours years. There are endless amounts of material to adapt. But no, even though we already have the definitive Superman origin with the Christopher Reeve 1978 Superman: The Movie and Smallville for the last decade looked at his Superboy days from every possible angle, I’m sure I’ll have to sit through yet another Superman movie next year with scenes from doomed Krypton and a farm in Kansas with a young boy discovering he’s different from everyone else.
There’s a reason why The Dark Knight is better than Batman Begins. It’s because it’s just a straightforward action adventure without all the baggage of origin storytelling. I get why Iron Man and Captain America movies had to do it. Those guys haven’t been introduced on the Big Screen before (not counting Caps straight to DVD venture in the early ‘90s and his B&W 1940s serials). Thor wasn’t an origin story and it was fantastic. And that is one of the biggest reasons for me that The Avengers works.
Now before you say, “But, Odinson, The Avengers is the origin story about the Avengers.” I say The Avengers is as much an origin story as say The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen, or Fellowship of the Ring are origin stories. These are fantastic action adventure movies about groups of extraordinary individuals coming together to fight against impossible odds. My point is names like Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman are so entrenched in pop culture that these names are as recognized as Mickey Mouse. Everyone knows who they are and the majority of people know how they got there. If the film absolutely has to have an origin in it, than approach it the way The Incredible Hulk did. Between comics, cartoons, a long-running television series, and the Hulk film, the Green Goliath’s origin is well known by most. So just address it in montage during the opening credit sequence. Now we can all sit back and enjoy a new story.
Sorry. I did not mean to go off on a tirade. The Odinson is just not a fan of the origin story, especially when there are so many great stories in this genre that can be told. Now back to The Avengers.
Going into the film I had a criteria that I wanted met if I was going to enjoy this feature. I wanted Captain America to be a leader and awesome in battle. Iron Man had to be cool. Thor had to be powerful. And the Hulk had to be strong and smash. Well, after seeing the film (three times now), I can tell you spoiler-free that Cap is awesome, Iron Man is super cool, Thor is majestic and the Hulk is the strongest one there is. Black Widow is sexy and dangerous. And movie Hawkeye, dare I say it, may be even cooler than comic book Hawkeye. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the film’s Big Bad. Tom Hiddleston is an amazing actor. He takes a complicated and complex character like Loki and hits every single mark. On the Mt. Rushmore of movie villains, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lector, Agent Smith and the shark from Jaws will now be joined by Hiddleston’s Loki.
I am a huge Joss Whedon fan and could not be prouder of the man as he gave us his best directorial undertaking yet. The movie was almost 2 ½ hours long and it went by all too fast. It’s action packed, full of great character interactions, and Whedon also manages to squeeze in his signature humor. There are at least four really great laugh-out-loud moments. And even more opportunities to cheer. But this wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon project if he didn’t surprise you. And not to get too spoilery on you, but this movie finally answers the age old question – Why are they called the Avengers? What are they avenging?
For the Odinson, in over thirty years nothing had ever challenged Superman: The Movie for the best comic book movie of all time. Iron Man came close, but it’s The Avengers that may have finally knocked the Man of Steel off the top of my mountain. Not only is The Avengers now the greatest comic book film of all time, like Star Wars, The Crow, and The Matrix, it is a benchmark by which all other films of its kind will be judged.
Odinson Rating: 5 out of 5 Hammers and a Thunder Strike
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell