It's time for another great big bowl of POP culture! And when I say great big, I mean GREAT BIG, so go get your biggest bowls and pour yourself some milk, and let's get to it.
For those of you not living under rocks, the news of the week is AVENGERS! It's actually, really, a double dose of pop culture, because it's not just Avengers; it's also Joss Whedon, who is a pop culture phenomenon all by himself. However, I'm sure that everyone is going to be going on about Joss, so I'm not going to dwell on that aspect of the movie. Much.
Before I get into it, though, I'm going to point out that Avengers broke the record for top grossing opening weekend. Not just broke it, ground it into tiny particles. If you look at the weekend records, generally a new record has only been within a few million of the previous record; in fact, 3 or 4 of the previous records fall in the $150-160 million range. However, Avengers topped the previous record by more than $30 million (also becoming the first film to have a $200 million opening weekend)! That's considerable. (Sorry, Harry.) On top of all of that, Disney released the film to nearly 40 international markets (not including Japan (the second largest movie market)) a week earlier than they released it here, so the 10-day gross for the film stands at $650 million worldwide. I'm pretty sure it's going to be the fastest movie to the billion mark.
Of course, none of that says anything about whether the movie is any good. The fact that the average audience rating is an "A+" does, though. Of course, that doesn't say anything about what I thought of the movie, which is what all of this is about, right?
So... what did I think of The Avengers? Well, to answer that question, let's take a few steps back (this is where I take some of the focus off of Mr. Whedon, because, as good as his writing was, he had an excellent foundation to work on, and what he did would not have been possible without it).
Last summer, I did a series of posts comparing Marvel's movies to DC's. In the third post, I talked about vision (not The Vision) and how Marvel has it and DC doesn't, which explains the (much) higher quality of Marvel's movies as compared to DC's (overall). The Avengers is evidence of this.
See, way back in 2008 when Marvel released Iron Man (and, then, The Incredible Hulk), it wasn't just about making an Iron Man movie. Iron Man was actually a pretty big risk for Marvel (yeah, I know, it's hard to believe that, now). Outside of comics, Iron Man was fairly unknown character. Sure, he'd had his own series for decades, but it was rarely a top selling series. Never before had a super hero movie been made featuring a character that was, basically, a second stringer. A B-lister. Could they pull it off? Most people didn't think they could. And, really, why would they even bother? They had many other better known heroes, right? But it was all part of the plan.
Marvel's goal was never to make an Iron Man movie. Or a Hulk movie. Or any of the other Marvel Studios produced movies. Their goal was to make an Avengers movie. Yes, it all started with the Avengers. Their plan, then, became to make a series of movies each featuring one of the heroes that would make up their beginning Avengers team. Why do it this way? Origin stories. The difficulty with any super hero movie is establishing the origin story of the character. Especially for a character like Iron Man who isn't all that well known.
They very carefully established the central heroes in their own stories before bringing them all together for their team movie. Yeah, I know... Hawkeye and Black Widow. Maybe, I'll do a post on them later, but let's just leave it at they didn't think they could pull off solo movies for those characters, especially with the changes (for the better) they've made to Hawkeye. [It's also why they left out Antman and the Wasp (because they did, actually, have an Antman film planned, but, currently, that project is on hold.] What they did, what Marvel did, was really quite ingenious. They've lent the same since of continuity to their movies that their comic books have (something they "invented" back in the 60s when Marvel first became Marvel Comics).
All of that to say that Marvel really very carefully laid the groundwork for this film. Making The Avengers was always the goal, and everything they've done for the last six years has been to bring about this moment.
Bringing Joss Whedon on board for this movie was, perhaps, the most natural thing in the world. After all, he is the expert in writing teams for TV and movies. There's not really even anyone else you can point to other than, maybe, the guy responsible for Stargate: SG-1, but, then, that guy has no experience with comic books. On top of the fact that Whedon is responsible for the team shows Buffy, Angel, and Firefly; he's also has movie experience and he's written for Marvel. Basically, he knows everything. He knows the characters, he knows writing teams, he knows making movies. And he's possibly the best writer in Hollywood today. There was no other logical first choice. Just be glad he said yes.
Mr. Whedon pulled all the strings together and tied them perfectly together in a beautiful little bow.
I loved The Avengers. I saw it twice over the weekend, and I'd go again if I could (but that's really the whole movie budget for May, so I'll have to wait till the DVD to see it again). Even my wife (who re-watches movies in the same way that I reread books (which is to say, she doesn't)) wanted to go see it again. It was so good that I have no favorite scene. I have no favorite line (not even the title of this post. I just thought it fit best (no, don't ask me why)). I have no favorite anything about that movie. There are too many moments to choose from. It was all great.
However, I will say that Mark Ruffalo was especially good as the Hulk. Not that he was better than anyone else, necessarily, but it was good to finally see someone nail the part of Bruce Banner. He really pulled off "nerdy scientist" in a way that Bana and Norton were just unable to. From his slouched posture to his baggy clothes to the glasses... everything was just right. I hope the do another Hulk movie with him in the lead.
Also, I think the movie set up perfectly for a solo Nick Fury movie along the lines of the Nick Fury VS. S.H.I.E.L.D. series. I don't know of any plans that they have for that, but it would be cool.
Bottom line is that The Avengers is great. It has great action. It has great humor. Yet, it never loses the seriousness of the situation nor does it sacrifice the individual characters' stories. Unless you just don't like super heroes, you should go see it. Seriously. Go now.