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Review of Avengers I: The Simple Summer Joys of ‘Hulk, Smash’

Summary:  Today Locke Peterseim reviews the first Avengers film, a timely flash-back that helps us put A2-Ultron in context. Unsurprisingly, much of this review applies just as well to Avengers-Ultron. Disney manufactures entertainment products to tight standards.   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Avengers poster

The Avengers: The Simple Summer Joys of ‘Hulk, Smash’

By Locke Peterseim.
From the film blog of Open Letters Monthly.
4 May 2012. Reposted with his generous permission.

For decades now the Official Summer Movie Season has kicked off the first weekend of May with a big action movie, and eight out of the last ten of those have featured Marvel superheroes. Three of the last four have been parts of Marvel’s ambitious “Avengers Initiative” franchise in which 2008’s Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, 2010’s Iron Man 2, and last year’s Thor and Captain America laid the building blocks for the coming together of this weekend’s super-group geekgasm The Avengers. *

The Avengers must court a variety of patrons. To comic-book fans, it’s the fulfillment of decades of furtive wishing. To the rest of the movie-going public, it once again marks that heady, hyped, and welcome start of the Cineplex Summer. To Marvel Studios it is the payoff — and massive box-office payday — to a long, risky franchise gamble.

As if all that wasn’t enough for a perfect storm of pop-culture expectations, The Avengers is multiplied into stratospheric geekery by the adoration of dedicated Whedonites — those of us fans of the film’s director and writer Joss Whedon who worship every insightfully clever and achingly melancholic bit of genre genuflection penned by the self-deprecating Buffy/Angel/Firefly auteur.

The Avengers is nothing more — or less — than a superhero movie giant-ized to Team-Up size. It’s not a gritty reinvention or sub-textual exploration or masterpiece of the superhero genre. It’s big and shiny and full of lots of moving parts (including — be still my fan-boy heart — the Helicarrier and Quinjets!), not all of them meshing in perfect cinematic clockwork. In many ways it’s like any other of its ilk — all the familiar tropes and action beats are here. (My lord, I’d give up my Limited Edition Aquaman Under-Roos for a new action film that doesn’t feel compelled to have yet another pointless, mindless car chase.)

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