Robby Reviews The Avengers

My fellow comic fans, TODAY IS THE DAY! May 4, 2012 -- The Avengers movie premieres today, and I will be reviewing it, at length and in depth! This is a very LONG review, so I'll start off with a summary.

SUMMARY: I wanted very much to like this movie, and I expected to LOVE this movie. And I did love SOME it! But I have to be honest -- the parts I loved add up to only about 45 minutes, and this is  a 2 1/2 hour film. Many scenes were excellent, but the beginning was dull, there were WAY too many "talking heads" spouting boring exposition, and too many superfluous characters. I'd give it an "A" for effort, but a "C" for results.

By the way -- I realize the whole world disagrees with me, but I'm not here to represent a consensus. I'm here to give MY opinion of the film. I'm sure yours will differ, but maybe not! Regardless, I'm sure everyone will enjoy this review. There has never been a more "comic booky" review of any movie ever! Please feel free to post your OWN thoughts about the movie in the comments section at the bottom of the final page. Moving right along...

The best parts: The big superhero battles were excellent! Thor shined, Tony Stark got all the best lines, and, in a big surprise, the Hulk stole the show. The worst parts, for me: The inclusion of Hawkeye and the Black Widow, an over-emphasis on Loki, and Captain America's god-awful uniform. To put things in perspective, where does The Avengers rank in terms of OTHER comic book movies?
For me, the BEST comic book movie ever made is Richard Donner's first SUPERMAN film. That movie remains the gold standard for comic book movies, effortlessly flying higher than all others. Why? Superman had super HEART, and it wasn't a dark and mindless orgy of destruction. It had a hero who was heroic, and you really liked and admired him.

Second comes RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which (as Anthony Tollin once told me) is the most perfect Doc Savage movie ever made. Third is Tim Burton's first BATMAN movie, a film so full of style they're STILL copying it to this day. Fourth is Sam Raimi's second SPIDER-MAN movie with Doc Ock, which is actually the best of the more modern comic book films, and, together with IRON MAN 1, the best-plotted. Fifth comes THE DARK KNIGHT, mesmerizing mostly thanks to Heath Ledger's brilliant, unnerving portrayal of the Joker.

Next on my list, at number six, is THE AVENGERS. Because -- and this may sound contradictory -- I didn't love this movie, yet I love this movie! I love it for what it represents. What it means for ALL of us, as true comic book fans. "True believers," if you will. One of the hallowed ranks of Marveldom!
Choosing The Team

Currently there are about a million "Avenger" spin-off comics, including Dark Avengers, Secret Avengers, New Avengers, Young Avengers, etc. So basically, now EVERYONE'S an Avenger! Can even the biggest fan name EVERY hero seen in the spread above (by Ron Frenz and Tom Palmer)? Well, yes. But most people can't. And by the way, that spread is old. Since then, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, the Human Torch and Dr. Strange became Avengers too. Really!

How did the producers of The Avengers decide which heroes should be included in the movie? According to Marvel’s Paul Gitter, “We took the superheroes — Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk — that we felt were the most relatable, relevant, and aspirational to build into one package. Every Marvel movie since 2008 was created with the full intention of this super franchise.”

OK -- Shellhead, Cap, Thor, Hulk. The superstars! Naturally. But who ELSE should be included? The question itself is a huge mistake. The best answer is NO ONE! If they didn't rate getting their own movie, they have no business being on a team of All-Stars. When you have a Derek Jeter on your team, you don't add a water boy for "balance." This is a lesson Marvel and DC have had to learn again and again, the hard way, over the course of several decades.

As I mentioned in a recent DBB issue, fans want super teams to feature superstars, drawn by the top talent. Every decade or so, the companies give them what they want, and produce a gigantic hit. Then, for reason unknown, the publishers begin the slow, painful process of getting rid of the top talent, and replacing them with lesser lights. Then supporting characters are allowed to squeeze out the headliners.

XIt took the Avengers comic only 16 issues to boot the superstars (except Cap) and replace them with "a great new line up" of second-stringers (see cover of Avengers #16 at right). Ugh.

According to Marvel's Kevin Feige, Hawkeye and Black WIdow were added to the team because they were "purely human characters who could counter-balance the extraordinary abilities of the other characters." To me, this is like saying, "to add a human element."

What's wrong with bringing out the humanity in the MAIN characters? THEY are the superstars who have been around for decades! But no, Feige feels compelled to add the likes of Black Widow and Hawkeye to the team, then attempts to make them equal to Hulk, Thor, Cap and Shellhead. I would have preferred Ant Man and the Wasp. REAL founding members. To me, Hawkeye and Black WIdow are stand-by equipment.

And naturally these second-stringers must be given ample screen time, and something important and interesting to do. Even though they haven't earned either. One character in this movie is actually a knock-off of a knock-off of a knock-off! That's right, I said it! And we all know it's about HAWKEYE! Robin Hood came first, then DC's Green Arrow -- then, many years later, Hawkeye. Still later came Ultimate Hawkeye, on whom the movie character is more or less based.
Beware the Black Widow!

Why is the the Black Widow in this movie? Because director Joss Whedon rewrote the original screenplay by Zak Penn, and Whedon (creator of the Buffy the Vampire TV series) is known as a feminist who excels at writing parts for women. The Black Widow and Pepper Potts are the only women in this film (plus some SHIELD chick whose name I can't remember). But I must say, their parts are nothing to set the world on fire. Neither has any memorable lines, and I know that's true, at least for me, because I can't remember a single thing either of them said. Maybe I missed something.
The "Human" Widow
I wonder if movie Black Widow secretly e-mails movie Daredevil. These characters once did much more than share a BED -- they shared a TITLE: the "Daredevil and the Black Widow" comic book! Things never went very well whenever Hawkeye showed up, as pictured right. What a triangle!

As I just mentioned, the Black Widow is NOT an original member of The Avengers. The Wasp, a human female (albeit a very small one), was a founding member back in 1963, and early drafts of the script actually included the Wasp, but she was replaced with the Widow. But the Widow didn't join the Avengers until 1975! And she's NEVER had her own successful solo title. Giving her equal time with the likes of an Iron Man is a communist plot.

Like Hawkeye, she's another knock-off who should have SUPPORTING CHARACTER stamped on her forehead. In case you didn't know, Black Widow is basically a knock-off of Diana Rigg in the British Avengers TV series. Her original idiotic costume was redesigned by John Romita into that slinky, all-black jumpsuit with big golden wrist gauntlets and a groovy go-go belt. This is the version used in the movie. Femtastic!
SHIELD's Top Gun

Nick Fury
, of course, had nothing to DO with the Avengers' formation, at least in the original "non-ultimate" version of the story. Apparently, the producers liked the idea of a "team leader" appearing at the end of all the individual heroes' movies to serve as a unifying element, so they, like the "Ultimate" Avengers title, used "Ultimate" Nick Fury for this purpose. And Samuel Jackson was willing to do it -- so in the MOVIE Marvel Universe, Fury forms and commands the team. He metaphorically sends each hero a note asking them to join. OK, I can live with it. Still, giving Fury his share of screen time means once again manufacturing something "important" for a "human" to do, weighing the movie down further.

Writing The Screenplay

XMany of the movie's creators worried about the difficulty of handling so many characters in a single movie. Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor, said in a recent interview, "We all had that underlying nervous energy about HOW, in the time where you provide a story for one person usually, do you spread that across six or seven characters."

According to the NY Post, the film's creators were originally worried because, "Even with a paired-down roster of seven superheroes, creating a coherent storyline that would fit into two and a half hours seemed nearly an impossible task."

Uck! Reader, I am about to vomit. What an utterly IGNORANT and RIDICULOUS thing to say! Oh, it's a "nearly impossible task," is it? Really? Oh me, oh my, the stress those poor men must have gone through in hopes of doing the "nearly impossible." But you know what? You would think something that's "nearly impossible" has never have been done before. Or if it WAS done, it would be only a few times.

Let me introduce you all to a team called the JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA. This team had far MORE members than a mere seven, and each of JSA's self-contained adventures took, in "real" (reading) time, about half an hour. Did this team do the "nearly impossible" once? No! They've been around for decades. Wow! That's a whole lot of "nearly impossible" stories.
And you know what? The JSA was revived as the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, and there were hundreds MORE super-team stories. When we take the work of JSA/JLA authors Gardner Fox and John Broome, and add the works of Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Denny O'Neil, Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Kurt Busiek, Chris Claremont, Mark Waid, Brian Bendis, Grant Morrison and all the other team-book writers, it becomes painfully obvious that the "nearly impossible" task of writing a super-team story HAS been done before, not once or twice but literally THOUSANDS of times.

Hey Hollywood! Pick up a comic BOOK and learn from history! It turns out this sort of thing HAS been done before. Who knew? Just imagine!

Ready To Go To The Movies, Reader?

OK, the preliminaries are over -- now I'm going to do an almost minute-by minute review of the movie itself that will probably win the prize for being the LONGEST and most comic-bookish review ever written!

Waiting on line, I thought "Was this really happening?" A mega-budget Hollywood movie about the Avengers? Starring an A-list cast? Directed and co-written by Joss Whedon, the creator of the "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" TV series, who has also authored numerous comic books? This MUST be a dream...


XThe King of Comics

But it's REAL! Let us pause a moment to ask -- who first envisioned these characters and their worlds? Who, together with Stan Lee, brought them to life? The answer is -- a man who comic fans call, simply, THE KING OF COMICS. No one, not even Stan, knew exactly what these characters looked like until Jack Kirby put them down on paper!

The look of the characters seen in the Avengers movie was created by a small army of talented Hollywood technicians and designers -- but make no mistake about it, JACK KIRBY saw these people FIRST. He knew these people first, in his limitless imagination. When he put them down on paper, they had already lived! Now, they were about to come to "life" on the biggest of big screens, all around the world. Jack, are you watching from above? GULP! HERE WE GO...