Monday, June 25, 2012

The Avengers (Rhoades)

Marvel’s “Avengers”
Assemble On Big Screen

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Avengers Assemble! Those are the words that call the famous superhero team to action in the pages of Marvel Comics. I ought to know. I used to be the publisher of Marvel Comics. In fact, I brought the Avengers back into the fold after their Heroes Reborn sojourn in the ’90s when the series had been farmed out to another comic book company.
Now “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” are assembling in a blockbuster movie, simply titled “The Avengers.” It’s currently play at the Tropic Cinema.
While members of this superheroes team have shifted over the years, this movie version unites the lead characters from Marvel’s recent movies: Iron Man (played by the remarkable Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Helmsworth). Also included are The Hulk (this time with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
Here we have Loki (well played by Tom Hiddleston) as the villain. As I noted in my book “Comic Books: How the Industry Works,” “At Marvel, we acknowledged that a superhero was only as good as the villain he faced.” And IGN ranks Loki as the “8th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.”
Loki is the adoptive brother of Thor. “I think by the time Loki shows up,” says Hiddleston, “he’s seen a few things and has bigger things in mind than just his brother and Asgard...” Like conquering Earth with the help of a Chitauri army.
The plot – like with comic books – is simple: a battle between good and evil. Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles a team of super humans to help save the Earth from Loki’s army. Note: If you’ve stayed through the end credits of recent Marvel movies to watch the added-on snippets, you’ve seen Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) recruit them one-by-one.
As Nick Fury explains it, “And there came a day, a day unlike any other ... when Earth’s mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat ... to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand ... on that day, The Avengers were born.”
This is the big one, the movie that brings all the cinematic storylines together (not to mention the stars). It’s a technique borrowed from the comic books, where each separate issue takes place serially within the “Marvel Universe,” leading up to a Big Event.
Marvel stalwarts Stan Lee and Jack Kirby get credit for creating the Avengers back in 1963. Truth is, then-publisher Martin Goodman borrowed the idea from his rival, DC Comics.
The late Michael Silberkleit of Archie Comics told me the story: “They would play golf and find out what each other was doing. Everybody copied everybody else. Martin Goodman would go back to the office from the golf course with another idea.”
One of them was to copy DC’s success with a comic book about a teaming of superheroes, the Justice League of America.
Disney bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion a couple of years ago. The mouseketeers wanted some “boys” fare to match their princess lineup for girls. Thus, “The Avengers is the first Marvel film to be distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.
“The Avengers” is directed by Josh Whedon (the comic book fanboy who created TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”). The film is greatly influenced by the early 1960s Avengers comics. A big fan of the Avengers while growing up, he liked the family-like aspects of the team: “In those comics these people shouldn’t be in the same room let alone on the same team – and that is the definition of family.”
During the filming Chris Evans (who plays Captain America) wanted to meet with fellow actor Clark Gregg (he plays Agent Phil Coulson). So he sent a text message to Gregg that simply said, “Assemble.” The actor says this is the favorite text message he’s ever received.
Nick Fury has a variation on that theme in “The Avengers.” He says to the team, “Gentlemen, you’re up!”

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