Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Marvel's "Avengers" have to work as a team.

I made it to “The Avengers” (or “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble”, dir. Joss Whedon) on a late Monday afternoon at Tyson’s AMC in northern VA, for an IMAX 3D viewing, and was surprised by the ample crowd on a weekday afternoon. It was largely young adult male, perhaps high-tech, with people whose jobs are 24x7.  This was not a private showing "Just for me", (say, like "Kids in America" at another AMC a few years ago, when I needed it). 

The plot, when laid out in end-to-end detail, is so intricate as to sound perfunctory – but that’s normal for the world of comics.  (It isn’t any more complicated than, say, ABC’s “Missing”).  Needless to say, the main point is getting the world’s “superheroes”  (under the guise of “S.H.I.E.L.D.”) to overcome their individualistic egos and work together as a team. There’s some politicking at the beginning because Loki (a laconic and partially attractive Tom Hiddleston) and his minions have taken over the minds of a couple of them with the help of this top-secret gamma-ray emitting Tesseract.

One of the most interesting visual concepts in the film is the sub that becomes an aircraft carrier that becomes a chopper and flies around.  In time, the movie’s extraterrestrials destroy a good part of Manhattan – not a new thing for Hollywood, and it’s interesting that you don’t do a whole lot more on a $220 million budget split among Disney, Paramount and Marvel Studios than with the handheld budget of “Cloverfield” (disaster movies blog, Jan. 8, 2008). 

The transformations come relatively late.  Thor (Chirs Hemsworth) manages to look a lot like the Nationals’ Jayson Werth, who may have watched this movie in Minneapolis after his career-saving wrist fracture surgery early Monday.  Chris Evans, as Captain America, keeps us from seeing much through the spandex. Bruce Banner really is Mark Ruffalo, the indie star (like in “Margaret”) until the gamma rays make him into a Hulk, and then he can change back, waking up in a dump, his hairy bod in view, and at 44 he has not started to go downhill.  (But would he "take one for the team"?) By Morgan Spurlock’s Comic-com  (April 13 review) edict, Samuel L. Jackson, as Nick Fury, is in charge of the group, as fends of ideological challenges to the importance of freedom but still gets members of the team to dismiss squabbles over how they got there.

The official site is here

People stayed seated for the two encores after the closing credits. In one of them, the “Other” Chitauri, sitting on asteroids, confer about a sequel (a scene that looks quite striking).  Then the ensemble eats quietly in a schwarma restaurant.  They are the angels of the world, wondering what came before and what’s next.  It all depends on who needs them.

Marvel offers a 1-minute YouTube video "featurette" about "The Threat”.

I don’t think that this sort of thing is an existential challenge to self-indulgent civilization (or to the “Me Generations”).  Maybe something like an EMP device would be.

There's one technical curiosity. The film was shot in standard aspect (IMDB says 1.78:1) rather than the 2.35:1 customary for such action films.  The way AMC Tysons (Auditorium 3) is designed, the entire IMAX screen space was used.  But I would have preferred the wider aspect for a Cinerama-like effect.  From my position in the theater, somewhat up front, just above the split, the 3-D images looked a bit over-exposed.  

The music (by Alan Silvestri) has a credited sequence (early) where the Schubert A Minor string quartet is orchestrated, and it's effective.  But later I thought I heard some Shostakovich, and also the brazen, super-hero theme from the finale of (late British composer) William Alwyn's Symphony #4, which I have on CD (Chandos). Alwyn had composed some film scores in the 50s and 60s ("Swiss Family Robinson"). I think I heard the same theme near the end of the last Harry Potter movie.  Don't obscure classical music quotes deserve mention in end-credits?

First picture: I know it's the wrong movie, but AMC likes to use Lorax to tell us to turn off our cell phones.  Second Picture:  IO figured in to the 2010 Space Odyssey sequel.   Third Picture:  The Avengers must need Lockheed technology.  

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