In a development that's surprising to nobody, Marvel's The Avengers movie, which opened this last weekend, was a staggering success. In fact, it blew past three-day records (previously held by the last Harry Potter movie) rather comfortably. If there is anything surprising about the success of the movie, it's that it's been so successful; better than Disney's best estimates predicted (keep in mind that Disney now owns Marvel--and handled the marketing for this movie.)
I did my part towards contributing to that success, buying no fewer than nine tickets over the weeked; my wife and I saw the movie on Friday, I sent my oldest son with a bunch of his teenaged friends on Friday separately, and we brought the entire family to partake on Saturday afternoon. In addition, I was excited enough afterwards that I looked up everything Avengers related I could find on Netflix; apparently the Ultimate Avengers animated movies are now available to stream. Also, the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes season 1 is out there, but that's been true for a while, I went to look up season 2 thinking it had maybe just finished, but I discovered belatedly that it was delayed and actually just started broadcasting a few weeks ago. I promptly set my DVR to record everything that comes from this point on, but I'll probably have to buy the first five episodes on Amazon or something unless a rerun plays again already. (My thoughts of watching some Star Wars this weekend to celebrate Star Wars day ended up being quite fleeting.)
I mentioned in my last post that I've long been a fan of the Avengers team, and many of the individual characters within it as well, for that matter. That said, I certainly felt some trepidation going into the movie. Joss Whedon was attached to it, and while he's kind of an icon to a bunch of pretty hard-core geek culture guys, I'm not a fan. There's a reason why (until now, anyway) he's never really had a genuine commercial hit, most of his shows flop, and he's struggled for years to build the career he wanted. I think he's a terrible writer of dialogue and characters--supposedly his strong suit. He loves to use very strange, forced and bizarre metaphors and pop-culture references, and all of his characters end up speaking in more or less the same voice.
However, luckily for us, only a bit of that was on display in The Avengers. Sure, there was a handful of patented stupid Whedon lines (Bruce Banner's simile of Loki's brain as like a bag of cats being the most prominent, but Fury's reference to mind-controlled Hawkeye as Loki's own personal flying monkey being another) but luckily, whenever one was dumped on the audience, the dialogue quickly moved on and it ended up being the set-up for an actually clever line rather than just a stinking stain on the movie. The movie is quite a bit funnier than any of the lead-up Marvel movies. In fact, my oldest son actually complains that it's too funny when he expected more seriousness. Then again, it's not the first time that he's come across as yet another complainy teenager who takes everything too seriously.
A few comments: if Hawkeye and Black Widow are supposed to be non-super-powered, then apparently Captain America is too, given that they're at least as capable as he is. And if being a really good martial artist with James Bond ninja skills is good enough to get 50% of the roster spots on the list of "Earth's mightiest heroes" then that is a worrying thought. Of course, the other 50% is Iron Man, Thor and Hulk, so maybe they make up for them somewhat. This isn't a problem so much with the movie, though--The Avengers as a comic book, as an animated series, as animated movies and now as a live-action movie all had the exact same conundrum built in.
The Hulk, who's always been just a bit disappointing so far in his own movies, finally well and truly holds his own. Frankly, he kinda steals the show. He seems to be nearly everyone's favorite character this time around. Luckily for us, Ruffalo (the third actor in as many movies to play the part) has apparently signed a six-movie deal with Marvel, so we'll probably see quite a bit more of him before all is said and done. Hopefully work on Hulk 2 is already underway.
Speaking of sequels, Marvel movies have been famous for having fan-service teasers at the end of the credits for upcoming movies. There were actually two post credit sequences this time around; one after a modest list of the main actors, and one at the very end after all the credits rolled. Don't forget to stay for the whole thing. My wife thought the first teaser trailer was kinda confusing, but thought the last-last scene was one of the funniest in the whole movie. Granted, by the time we got to the last-last scene, it was after 2:00 AM and she might have been a bit slap-happy. The teaser, if you haven't heard already, features Thanos turning around and smirking at the camera after the chitauri alien leader says that to attack Earth is to court Death. My three boys were all sufficiently clued in to Marvelness to recognize Thanos right away--probably from my old Capcom video games--but my wife and daughter didn't get the reference at all.
Speaking of girls who are not sufficiently clued in to superheroes, my daughter misheard the name of Hawkeye as Hotguy the entire movie. It wasn't until afterwards when we were getting some Mexican food for lunch (it was Cinco de Mayo after all) when she was commenting that he had one of the dumbest superhero names she'd ever heard that we figured it out. We all laughed.
Another bit of Marvel trivia; the chitauri is a name concocted by Mark Millar--they're supposed to be the Ultimate Marvel version of the skrulls--so since the chitauri were in this movie, that means that we've had the live-action debut (as far as I know) of the skrulls. Of course, they were a bit underwhelming; mostly being a bunch of foot-solders for Avengers to beat up, but they still looked pretty cool, and they did at least have the patented skrull chin wrinkles thing going on.
In fact, the entire movie felt more like an adaptation of The Ultimates than it did The Avengers in a way. Not that it isn't the same thing (kinda) and not that the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't have a similar look and feel to the Ultimate Universe in most respects, but that was still somewhat surprising.
Finally, Loki also came into his own. He's not my favorite Marvel villain by any means (I honestly greatly prefer Doctor Doom and Galactus, and am significantly diheartened by the lame treatment both of them were subjected to in the Fantastic Four movies.) Tom Hiddleston plays him sufficiently ham-like and yet endearing to make him one of my favorite screen villains in quite some time.