hazelk: (glee cheno)
[personal profile] hazelk
There’s been at least one review claiming the Avengers movie is like a musical. As if this could possibly be a bad thing.

All super hero movies are like musicals, I didn’t grow up with comic books but I know a good production number when I see one. The question isn’t whether but which one. If Iron Man were The Music Man and The Dark Knight Rises, A Star is Born, I think The Avengers is 42nd Street. For one thing the Hulk would be perfect as a better coordinated Ruby Keeler going into the big fight a green (yes I went there), untried, youngster and coming back a star. Tony Stark can be Anytime Annie and Nick Fury Busby Berkley but whoever’s who, the Avengers is above all a “putting on a show” kind of show. A big show, a professional show, not just Micky and Judy in a barn right here. A show that opens in New York, a show with conviction, a show to die for. A show that takes up an explosive 20 minutes of the final act, features an entire city’s worth of chorines and doesn’t bomb (yes, I went there too).

It’s not just the show within the show. 42nd Street is remembered for its big happy finish, but there’s a sadness underneath all the spangles, bright lights don’t drive away all the shadows personal or political.. The show that provides such a triumphal beginning to Ruby Keeler’s career is the last hurrah for its driven alcoholic director and in the movie’s final scene he sits alone and ignored by the crowds gushing about the new star as they leave the theatre. It’s not just him. This is a depression era movie and it only forgets that for a brief interval while on stage. “Gotta sing, gotta dance” is a financial necessity not a vocation and the red shoes have dollar signs for ribbons. The Avengers for all its feel good proficiency is a movie set in a post 9/11 New York and is careful to acknowledge that, the obvious shadow. A step back though from the celebration is a pervasive uncertainty about all the heroism, how much of it is real, how much manipulation. In the end the biggest threat to Manhattan came from the Council and though Fury condemned their scorched earth tactics, the idea wasn’t so different from his own contingency plan to bury Loki with the Pharaohs. The good guy’s secrets have secrets. Fury drops in the flying monkey reference to put Rogers at ease, to help him feel that some echo of the simpler times he remembers hasn’t been lost but the Wizard of Oz was a twister too.

But anyway what about those production numbers? It’s a critical cliché that a good musical is one where the songs and dances all flow from the story in between but I think that’s backwards. In any musical worthy of the name the song and dance numbers are the story. In a great one the bits in between are just as watchable and the blend together with the music to make a greater whole. Avengers isn’t a great film, some of the numbers work better than others, some of the talky parts drag some of the punchlines mishit. The only memorable thing about opening fight between SHIELD and Loki are Maria Hill’s determinedness and Hiddlestone’s lean and hungry look, the Elphaba to Fury’s Wizard. Black Widow’s chair-fu introduction almost makes up for it and she wins my heart forever while recruiting Banner “They start that young?” I did.” No drama, she’s the anti-Batman.
More introductions, Rogers, Stark (Pepper with unbound feet), the helicarrier. The fight with Loki in Stuttgart again lacks conviction but this time it’s intentional and the “Anything you can do” of Ironman vs Thor is glorious fun.

Loki caged and it all begins to build towards the great centrifugal. “things fall apart” number. The rats fly off the ship or fight among themselves, the nearest thing to teamwork is the mutual incomprehension of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers working to get the great engine spinning again. What throws them apart will allow them to rise above it in the end. Mostly through luck but at least partly through judgment the Other Guy doesn’t kill anyone, Hawkeye gets bitchslapped back into himself, Phil née “Agent” Coulson earns a trading card of his own and Natasha survives. Which (sidebar) is what I require of my strong female characters, not that they triumph or are redeemed but they survive. That they have the ability to do the TE Lawrence trick of there being no trick other than being able to endure it. It fools Loki god of lies and bad home dye jobs. Until the ending when Steve Rogers takes on the role Natasha is the human heart of this movie, the one to show fear or scepticism, the one no-one is trying to manipulate into the fight but choses it anyway.

It’s all singing, all dancing from then on culminating in them all coming together as one by one they drop down or roll up to the circle, the gang’s all here. The attempt at a second climax doesn’t quite come off. Tony’s very big adventure, rising like Icarus but Icarus didn’t have a Hulk buried in the rubble below to dig his way out and to catch him when he fell. It ought to work but it's a great ending to a different movie and the music can’t quite carry it. Also isn’t Shawarma a fancy American name for a doner kebab?
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hazelk: (Default)

May 2012


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