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Cinema in Focus: ‘The Avengers’

This creative bringing together of the various Marvel heroes is wonderful storytelling

3 Stars — Entertaining

The Avengers is wonderful storytelling. Not only does it bring together the familiar Marvel comic characters, but it does so with witty dialogue and complex plot twists as well.

The struggle between good and evil is obvious, yet the characters are not simple. With both the screenplay and direction by Joss Whedon, The Avengers benefits from his veteran skills and experience. One of the most versatile people creating films today, Whedon’s skills range from writing the screenplay for Toy Story, directing Thor and producing the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to being an actor, lyricist and even providing the soundtrack for a variety of films. This breadth of experience comes together in The Avengers to create an exceptionally entertaining film.

Based on the story by Zak Penn, who also wrote The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four and Elektra, among other science fiction films, the story of the various Marvel characters takes on a new chapter as they all come together to protect the Earth from an alien invasion. But, like everything else in the film, the villain is a familiar one. It is the treacherous Loki (Tom Hiddleston), adopted brother of the valiant Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who was banished in their earlier tale for attempting to steal his kingdom.

The power source over which the two universes are now battling is the blue Tesseract, which is a Captain America (Chris Evans) cosmic cube of infinite power. But Loki has invited an evil alien army to come to Earth and take possession of it. Similar to the arc reactor that Tony Stark created to become the incomparable Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Tesseract has the power to open a portal through which the invading insect-like creatures and ships can invade Earth.

Recognizing the danger of an alien invasion, a global organization called SHIELD is created to protect Earth. The director of SHIELD is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Fury believes that the only ones who can protect Earth are the collection of superhumans he calls the “Avenger Initiative.” In addition to Thor, Captain America and Iron Man are Bruce Banner as The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the Russian spy Natasha Romanoff known as The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton whose vision creates a Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) ability for his special arrows to find their mark.

What makes the film so effective is the ability to bring these disparate personalities together in ways that both enhance their individuality as well as reveal their true character. One such moment is when Loki claims to be a god, but Captain America simply replies that there is only one God and He doesn’t dress like Loki or, by implication, act like Loki. The ability of these superhumans to recognize both their strength and their need for one another is a powerful message of the need for committed relationships, humility and working together to fight injustice that fits the moral messages of the Marvel comic tales.

In the final analysis, the message of the tale is that true heroes are not made by their power or personality, but by their willingness to lay down their lives to protect the powerless. That is a cosmic message that fits the real world as well as it does the cartoon series.

Discussion:

» Life is filled with the struggle of good and evil. How do you know which is which, and how do you fight for the victory of the good?

» The revenge with which Loki is consumed almost makes him vulnerable due to his narcissistic and egotistical plans. Have you ever been consumed with vengeance? How did you confront your own ego and resolve your issue?

» It is not easy for people with unique abilities to feel accepted in the world. If you were a genius like Stark, powerful like Banner or enhanced like Captain America, how would you live your life? How does your own uniqueness show itself both for good and for ill in your life?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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