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Whedon’s ‘Avengers’ is ‘better than the hype’

By Staff | Apr 25, 2012

As a teen collecting comics, I had an affinity for superheroes binding together and clobbering any menace who dared to threaten the Earth. The Justice League (DC Universe) had Superman, the Green Lantern, the Flash and Batman while The Avengers (Marvel Universe) had Thor, Iron Man, Nick Fury and others. Two additional teams piqued my interest: The Justice Society (Starman, Dr. Fate, Spectre) from the Golden Age (often paired with JLA in an Earth One/Earth Two adventure) and a futuristic “teen” Legion of Superheroes.

Bringing super powers to the movie screen has been challenging, especially prior to computer generated effects. Superman appeared in weekly chapter-plays (serials) in the 40s but his flying was primitive. The TV series starring George Reeves fascinated me; I didn’t then see the cheese. I did learn that the actor, thinking himself invulnerable, later put a bullet in his head.

Christopher Reeve introduced upgraded special effects in “Superman the Movie,” which touted “You will believe a man can fly.”

Since then, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Thor and Iron Man have mesmerized the big screen. A few female heroines from comics have managed their own flicks or episodic television shows, including Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Invisible Girl (Fantastic Four), Elektra, Catwoman, and Storm and Phoenix (X Men).

Hollywood soon discovered that in the DC or Marvel universe, the blockbuster special effects-laden productions meant super grosses and multiple sequels.

The ensemble cast of the latest effort, “The Avengers,” includes: Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.); Steve “Captain America” Rogers (Chris Evans); Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Nick Fury, director of the peace keeping organization, S.H.I.E.L.D. (Samuel L. Jackson); Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner); Bruce “Hulk” Banner (Mark Ruffalo); Thor (Chris Hemsworth); and Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Judging by resoundingly loud and favorable post-world premiere buzz, “The Avengers” have assembled in a production described as “better than the hype.” Two lucky viewers of the world premiere stated, in part, “[director] Joss Whedon has assembled an immensely thrilling, entertaining and surprisingly funny superhero movie,” wrote Tyler Christian on the Rotten Tomatoes site.

Fellow poster Martin Bishop wrote, “I haven’t had this much fun at the movies in over ten years. The crowd was cheering, clapping, and laughing our collective asses off. Everything works – the humor is great (and plentiful), the action/fight scenes are phenomenal, and none of the characters gets shorted – everyone has plenty of screen time and the characters are all well-developed. I can’t recommend this movie strongly enough.”

Short Tweet-blurbs hail the superhero assembly through “double plus awesome,” “amazing,” and “ten out of ten”.

Another fan wrote, “I am trying not to giggle like a little girl. I am so freaking excited,” reacting to the action and verbal repartee. As an example, Captain America asks Iron Man, “Big man in a suit of armor, under that what are you?” Tony Stark responds, “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”

Iron tongue planted firmly in, er, helmet, Stark tells Bruce (Hulk) Banner, “your work is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”

Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo leaked that a last minute cast adjustment had been called by director Whedon. Ruffalo told reporters, “We’re shooting a scene tonight. I’m not sure exactly where it’s gonna go. All I know is that someone came in with the costume and said, ‘Here’s some wardrobe. We don’t know where you’re going to be or what you’re doing.'”

Although the film had its premiere and apparently a few “advance” showings, most critics and viewers are under a broadcast or publication embargo. Leaked generalizations are the rule. One critic stated, “it’s the best comic book adaptation since ‘The Dark Knight.'” The reviewer ranks “Avengers” third among super hero adaptations. “Dark Knight” and “Batman Begins” take first and second. “X Men II” comes in fourth.

The Early Marvel Universe Years

Incidentally , when the team first appeared in the 1963 comic book under the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby Marvel banner, the group included Iron Man, Ant Man, The Wasp, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America (after revival from an iceberg in an early issue). Later, all but Captain America resigned, and, three former villains — Hawkeye, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch joined. Others members have included the Black Widow, the Black Panther, and the Vision. In print, the West Coast Avengers featured an African American Captain Marvel , She-Hulk and Mockingbird. Membership shuffles continued including a “Heroes Reborn” reboot.