Rites of spring: “The Avengers” (2012) at the drive-in
13 May 2012
Living all the way up here at 42.27º N, it takes a while for spring to get sprung. Yesterday was the first day I could honestly say that 1) the leaves on the trees were mature enough to create actual shade, 2) I considered painting my toenails, 3) I lusted after the neighbors’ landscaping project, and 4) I became desirous of watching movies outside.
So we went to the drive-in. The last time I went to a real-life drive-in was probably 1984, and some of us hid in the trunk — only to learn they charge by the car, not by the head. The film this time was superior to anything I saw back then: the new Joss Whedon mega-wattage The Avengers.
Let’s confess right now that I am not the ideal viewer for The Avengers. I’d seen that first Iron Man movie but none of the other franchises; I’d never even heard of Hawkeye or Black Widow or Nick Fury. When presented with a list of names that includes Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man, I do not wonder to myself, “Which one would beat the others in hand-to-hand battle?” (The film answers that question anyway, and it was enlightening.)
But then, a drive-in is not the ideal place to see a film. I spent a goodly amount of time ruminating on the virtues of birth control, considering the family of screeching parents and seven rambunctious kids sitting next to us, till most of them passed out from exhaustion. All of which made me miss some early scenes and doubtless some subtlety. I’m being sarcastic about the subtlety.
Did I mention the bad guy wants to take away freedom itself from humanity?
I shouldn’t be so sarcastic, because I watched the film in a certain haze of beer and picnic food and still managed to discern that Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk and Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov/Black Widow offered some welcome breaks from the testosterone fest. Granted, Johansson wasn’t given much to work with aside from that skin-tight black suit, but at least she wasn’t shafted the way Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye was (brainwashed by the bad guy in the first scene).
Long story short: tetchy crowd of super-strong dudes, each accustomed to working on his own, learns to work together to save the world.
Anywho. None of this is to say that it’s not worth your time — or even that my viewing conditions were optimal enough to have you trust my judgment. As super mega-budget dynamo flicks go, it’s got snappy dialogue, Big Fight Scenes, and lots of Robert Downey, Jr., and much of this made us laugh out loud at all the right points. I’m more than happy to grant that director Joss Whedon knows how to make a big-ass movie that you’ll totally enjoy even if you have no idea why you should care about Thor’s demi-god brother from another planet.
But I still left thinking about how easy it would be to forget absolutely everything that had transpired onscreen, and how much I would look forward to seeing a gloomy, low-budget independent film to cleanse my palate.