It was always about Marvel VS DC Comics.
With their broken panels, frustrated anti-heroes, sexily-outfitted gals and brick-busting sound effects, Marvel pulled in the kids who fancied themselves as tortured rebels. Marvel had an overwrought, druggy writing style and lurid artwork that was like a rainbow being sick across the page.
DC’s stern fundamentalist superheroes were framed in neatly boxed panels and could only ever be on the side of the establishment. Like good Christians they kept expanding the family, so that despite the prerequisite for fun that is having dead parents, Superman was lumbered with a super sister, a super dog, a super cat, a super horse and even Beppo the Super Monkey. And his friends were stiffs. Jimmy Olsen wore a bowtie and Lois Lane had gran-hair. DC artists really liked drawing offices, and weren’t imaginative enough to come up with decent aliens. DC appealed to Conservatives.
The same has happened in their film incarnations. Everyone knows it; DC = Boring (except Batman, who doesn’t count because he’s really Crime, not Superheroes), Marvel = trashy fun.
So to Joss Whedon’s ‘Avengers’. With ‘Cabin In The Woods’ Whedon wasn’t playing to his strengths, delivering a horror film with laughs but no scares. With ‘Avengers’ he hits a home run and produces a knockout action flick that joyously sustains its considerable running time.
First off, the 3D is entirely superfluous, and the film would work perfectly well without it. No concession is made to Marvel newbies – you’re either in deep with the characters and storyline or you’re stranded, but even that wouldn’t matter. The film feels structured like a classic six-issue story arc from the late 1960s, with a threat (Loki), a McGuffin (the Tesseract), an assembly of superheroes (Avengers), a knock-down-drag-out first fight (attack on a flying aircraft carrier), reforming when group realises the threat is greater than first thought, the death of minor character, then the big fight in which New York gets so trashed that one wonders if the Avengers aren’t more of a liability than an asset.
All the boxes are ticked and there are some terrific jokes, with one at the expense of those long-winded speeches Stan Lee used to give his villains. If the film doesn’t actually thrill or bring anything new to the game, it certainly packs in the pleasure beats and rewards fans in spades. Whedon is the perfect pulp writer/ director for recreating old comics, and the characters – especially the Black Widow and the Hulk – manage to deliver some absurd dialogue that is just tongue-in-cheek enough to get away with it. Weakest is Captain America, with a lost-looking Chris Evans turning in a strangely wooden performance.
But it’s all about the battles, and these truly rock. I’d be interested to know if it’s just a film for the lads or whether girls get as much of a kick from so much destruction. Expect an Avengers trilogy and a slow expansion outwards into hundreds of Marvel characters for the next, oh, century or so of cinema.