Dr. Toon: The Avengers Dis-assembled
Hey, readers, seen any good movies lately?
Sure you have. You were part of the multi-million throng that watched the Avengers thrash the stuffings out of Loki and his loathsome alien allies over the past weeks. With what should be the highest-grossing box office totals in history, the Superbly Super Six have become the supreme expression of what action entertainment strives for. Why am I focusing on The Avengers this month? Simple. The Avengers is an animated film, albeit one that has live actors running around in it (when not bitching at each other or learning how to play as a team). If one were to take all the computer-generated work out of this film, you would have a few people in funny costumes staring up in the air at nothing, a guy in a black coat wearing an eye patch, and a Hulk the size of Mark Ruffalo, no matter how loud he roared.
The Avengers is yet another textbook example of animation reflecting the society and times it was made in. This is a film for audiences of the 2010s, the generation that rarely looks up from various permutations of phones and pads that seem to be cybernetically grafted to their palms wherever they go. The Avengers, especially when presented in IMAX 3D format, is one of the few distractions that can actually surpass today’s video games or pull a youg’un away from tumbling between texting and Twitter to that ever-updated Facebook page.
Of course, in order for a film do this, it has to be as technologically advanced as the distractions it’s up against, and this is perhaps the most cogent point understood by director Joss Wheeden: Unless you are the biggest, loudest movie in the multiplex with the most SFX wow packed into your feature, your audience will find more entertainment on their PCs, planning to become the next viral video millionaire. A filmmaker cannot simply give audiences “the Avengers” in 2012. The movie must be THE AVENGERS, complete with gargantuan helicarriers, mechanized flying Loch Ness monsters as imagined by H.R. Giger, and cities devastated by battle until nothing larger than a Lego block remains intact. The movie, as we saw it on the screen, is the only way an Avengers movie could succeed in 2012.
There is admittedly more to the film than mere presentation. Besides being a resounding cultural statement about our preferred modes of entertainment, The Avengers is a very good film, even if nobody did shout out “Avengers Assemble!” Besides having outstanding SFX, the movie solved the problem of having multiple cardboard do-gooders by giving four of the Avengers individual feature films before hype for the team-up ever began. The audience felt theyalready knew the heroes before the Avengers initiative went into effect.
A case could also be made for the film as a national panacea, coming as it does after a decade of American futility on foreign battlefields. Our antagonist often seemed to be a foreign nation’s religious ideology. (Think of the Asgardian Loki as a stand-in). Captain America could then be interpreted as this nation’s spirit of democracy (as in nation-building), the Hulk as America’s unstoppable military power, Iron Man as the USA’s technological superiority, and Thor as the idea that the “right” God is on “our” side. Cast SHIELD in the role of our national security apparatus. The parallels are tempting, but take us too far afield; I am more interested in examining The Avengers as an animated film, which it undoubtedly is.