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Waringing – SPOILERS all over the place. This is written from the assumption that everyone who reads it will have seen the film

One of the great amusements of modern times is watching the more pretentious and self-regarding of the professional movie critics wiggle and twist and try to avoid quite saying that Avengers, a popular movie featuring superheroes and huge battles tearing neighbourhoods apart, is a masterpiece; and that they enjoyed it to the point of laughter, weeping and goosebumps. It is frankly hilarious; the incoherence to which they are driven would not be credible were it not there, black on white, in plain English, for everyone to read. Anthony Lane gives a nice display of verbal pyrotechnics - If you are not a Marvel fan, on the other hand, then watching “The Avengers” will feel like being mugged by a gang of rowdy sociopaths with high muscle tone. Absolutely no quarter is given to the ill-informed; the first scene is set in an undesignated patch of outer space, where some masked moaner yaks on in a rich and threatening baritone. I couldn’t understand a word until he asked, “The humans—what can they do but burn?” If he is referring to our cooking skills, this is grossly unfair, for we can also poach, broil, gently simmer, and steam en papillote - which cleverly disguises the fact that he is bragging about not being able to understand a few very simple sentences of clearly enunciated English, which is not an intellectual achievement. Roger Ebert shows his maturity in similarly verbose, though much less clever, fashion: "The Avengers" is done well by Joss Whedon, with style and energy. It provides its fans with exactly what they desire. Whether it is exactly what they deserve is arguable. Why is it arguable? Because  it's time for desperately needed movies to re-educate nerds in the joys of sex.  It's too easy to find answers to this kind of thing; it's shooting fish in a barrel. Yet these are the intellectual leaders of the American media and the main influence on Hollywood. The New York Times' critic, of course, just plain hated the movie, but then the NYT has by now fallen into a mannerist phase so terminal that it could not break out of it if it wanted to.

The truth is that Avengers is a masterpiece, a landmark movie, the best superhero movie ever done and a work of astonishing craftsmanship whose writing should be studied to learn how to get from A to B without losing control and delivering maximum content. It features the best of everything: four or five starry leading performances and a couple of extraordinary cameos, state-of-the-art special effects and computer animation, Alan Leonardi's gorgeous and incredibly appropriate background music, design to die for, and staging that shows that the storyboard artists have read, studied, understood and loved the great, classic superhero stories. These characters move, stand and act as if they had been drawn by Jack Kirby or Curt Swan, John Buscema or John Byrne, Dave Cockrum or Steve Ditko. But all of this would not have been possible if the various parties had not been committed to bringing the idea to life in the best possible way. The hard work that went into making the Hulk the best animated figure absolutely ever – including the brilliant decision of making Mark Ruffalo the template for the character's face expression and motion – only makes sense if the animators took the character seriously.

Of course the movie has flaws, and we shall begin from those. First, the closing song: as unnecessary as it is uninspired, it is hard to believe that it is part of a production by the man who personally wrote the songs for Once More, With Feeling. It seems to me nothing more than a gesture to an outdated marketing convention that dictates that there should be a movie song; in this case, I can hardly imagine that it would add anything to the total profits.

Then there are the wisecracks. Don't get me wrong; most of them are on target, and quite a few are not only good but powerful. The most heroic moment in the movie is when the Black Widow, volunteering for a mission that has about 3% chance of not ending in a messy death (and she certainly couldn't count on the Hulk coming out of nowhere to flatten Loki, who would otherwise have had the opportunity to do all the charming things he promised her), says, “Sure. It'll be fun!” But every now and then Whedon over-indulges. Tony Stark's “Don't tell me anyone kissed me” is out of character – if there is one character in the movie canon that reeks of bisexuality, it's Tony Stark – and has an unthinking overtone of Whedon's well-known dislike for male homosexuality. The famous “He's adopted” line is appalling; if Whedon had intended to make Thor a brainless, insensitive himbo – an ever-present danger, given Chris Hemsworth's coiffured hair, waxed biceps and blue eyes - he could not have done it better. And Whedon had in fact been guarding against the danger across the movie, consistently portraying Thor as concerned with the impact of his rivalries on Earth and aching to be reconciled with his brother. And he throws it all away for a gag. The proper heroic way to receive such news about one's lost but still beloved brother is stunned silence – obviously; and Whedon is much too good a writer not to do it, and do it well. But he was seduced by the chance of a laugh.

Just as bad is Captain America's “What, are you getting sleepy?” Cap never blusters, and this – spoken by an exhausted and injured Captain – is bluster. But then, Whedon's treatment of the Captain is, all things considered, the worst aspect of the whole movie. It does not help that he is given the worst superhero live-action costume since the old Wonder Woman show; even as all the other characters have had sound and functional redesigns that just plain look good on the screen. They could at least have dressed him in the comic strip's chain mail, which might have looked less like a bad carnival dress; but this costume manages the feat, unique so far as I can remember, of looking worse than the comic-book original would have.

This shows that it is not Whedon alone who had serious problems with the character, and that his own grip on him was not strong enough to encourage intelligent ideas from others. And he is not responsible for casting the wooden Chris Evans – who at any rate does the best he can, and manages to sound upright and even commanding at times. But all the basic issues with Cap are Whedon's fault. History is Whedon's nemesis; atrociously ignorant, yet eager to make use of historical material, I don't think he ever produced a single Buffy episode without at least one howler, often more. But I thought he would at least be able to watch old movies – isn't he supposed to be third generation Hollywood? And yet he gets Steve Rogers constantly, pertinaciously wrong. It takes more than using “sonuvagun”, “Are you nuts?” or “ma'am” to make a credible forties character. Where is his shirt, tie, jacket and hat? In 1941, a young man would not step out of his front door without those; he'd feel naked. The brown leather jacket, chequered open-necked shirt and peep of white undershirt at the neck do indeed look old-fashioned – but not from the 1940s, from the 1970s. And why is “Captain Rogers” never in uniform? Military men rarely wear mufti except when on leave, and Steve Rogers definitely is not. Don't let me even speak of the blue leotard he wears in the scene with Nick Fury and Tony Stark; an American from the forties, even a vaguely bohemian type such as young artist Steve Rogers, would rather have wrapped himself in a blanket than wear that in public. And whatever happened to saluting? This is a man who has spent his last three years among soldiers; he would salute without even thinking – just ask my old sergeant-major. I fully expected him to salute Fury, and again the Black Widow when she was introduced, but NOTHING. Clearly, one of the things Whedon knows nothing about is army life.

The problems with Whedon's Cap can be reduced to two points: first, Whedon knows what he wants but not how to get there; and second, there is a fundamental problem with what he wants. What he wants is the Mark Gruenwald Captain: experienced, commanding, with an authority built upon decades of training and struggle. But that Captain is in his late thirties and has years of experience of the modern world. The Stan Lee Captain, the one who had just come out of the ice, did not have anything like the same commanding and experienced presence, and suffered from the self-doubt to be expected in a man who has just skipped decades of everyone else's life. You can't have both.

Chris Evans' moderate acting skills are part of a problem that bedevils the movie, and that is none of Whedon's doing. He didn't pick the lead actors. The fact is that the cast is divided almost exactly between pretty faces and great actors. Whedon gives everyone meaty roles and time on screen, but he can't make them all perform at the same level. It would actually be less of a problem if all the leads were good-looking journeyman/woman types like Evans or Cobie Smulders; but when one has Evans interacting with Robert Downey Jr., or Cobie Smulders' attempts at emoting over New York in danger superimposed to Gwynneth Paltrow's wordless, stunning portrayal of a woman getting the news that the man she loves is in deadly danger, the difference is just blatant. Smulders looks vaguely anxious; Paltrow (and oh, the apologies I owe this woman!) looks wide-eyed, haggard, desperate, breathing great gulps of air in and out, too much in agony even for tears. It's a few seconds, but it's a living display of what great acting is about.

I guess we should be grateful for what we do have. None of the leads disgrace themselves, and all of them clearly understand what their characters are about and what is expected of them. And when the acting is good, it's terrific. Everyone knows that Tom Hiddleston started the Thor movie as an unknown and finished Avengers as a world star, but his is not the only star-making role. Surely, after his superb Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner must be the go-to guy for tough yet vulnerable action heroes? Visibly hard as nails in the action sequences (“Captain, it would be my genuine pleasure” - and how many people noticed that, when he was under enemy control, he took out two of the Shield helicarrier's engines and nearly brought the whole thing down? He was not just dangerous, he was fearsome) but affectingly agonized and self-loathing when he is broken from mind control, this is an actor with a full range of emotions and the ability to convey them. And what about Mark Ruffalo's magnificent Bruce Banner? A physical performance in the best sense of the word, with much of the content conveyed through stance and motion – a man who is not at ease with his physical self, nervously conscious of the position of his hands and body, at the same time as conveying a pervasive irony that arises ultimately from the certainty that nothing that exists can do him physical harm, and which can still give way to explosive anger – this is a performance of such depth and intelligent sensitivity that an Oscar would surely not be too much for it, and must surely have moved Ruffalo from “appreciated supporting man” to “star”. Robert Downey Jr. does not need my praise; ever since he has been on Iron Man, he has reached a personal plateau (no rehab clinics, no public sackings from lead roles) that reflects in the strength and confidence of his performance. His confrontation with Loki, moving from urbane irony to controlled and unanswerable force, is one of the climaxes of the movie (with Hiddleston, of course, playing back at him in style). There also are two cameos – Ashley Johnson's waitress and Harry Dean Stanton's security guard – that are so good as to make me hope and believe that they will lead to expanded roles in coming movies. And there is Paltrow, who not only easily conveys the sense of a woman who can twist Iron Man round her little finger, but out-smolders Scarlett Johansson in a tenth of the screen time. I won't say that her legs do as much acting as her face, but I never saw two bare feet used to better purpose. Gwynneth looks like she intends to claim the Helen Mirren sexy older woman territory, which is a clever career move as well as dead suited for the lover of the no-longer-childish RDJ.

At the heart of the movie, the thing that makes everything else work, is Whedon's writing; and no critic I have read has praised it as it deserves. It's not about the barrage of wisecracks, not even about his fanboy love – in the best sense – for the characters; writers have had both without achieving this level of brilliance and magnetic success. Once you have said it, it sounds easy, but it's amazing how many writers and editors don't understand it – understand it, at least, in the instinctive and pervasive way that Whedon does: Whedon keeps his eye on the object. When, for instance, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner point out to Steve Rogers the reasons to believe that Fury is hiding something, the experienced reader/spectator will think, “Uh-oh, a side issue put in to fill time.” But it's not; it is not only part of the main issue, it deepens and clarifies it. By the same token, when the Captain apparently refuses to listen, we are meant to go, “Uh-oh, another hero acting like a blind idiot so that we can have a proper show of surprise when the Big Secret is revealed”; only that is exactly what does not happen. It is the Captain himself, stimulated by Bruce's and Tony's doubts, who goes out and finds the evidence of the cover-up, and who, when the questions have been spoken at last, provides the heart of the answer. And the answer itself goes to the very heart of the developing drama. The whole story develops from a single issue: the power of the Tesseract and its potential for war. As Thor tells the heroes, it is because of SHIELD's experiments with it that alien powers have become aware of Earth's ability to develop “a higher level of war”. But as Fury himself points out, the Tesseract-based weapons were only being developed because of the terrifying experience of Thor's own battle with the Destroyer in a small New Mexico town.

In other words, the Tesseract is not a MacGuffin; it is not a meaningless object around which everything else is played out. It is a symbol of the major issue of the superhero genre, the use and abuse of power. And as facts develop, it becomes clear that there is a serious and values-heavy issue at the centre of the story. The Committee wanted to rely for the defence of Earth on weapons made from the Tesseract, which they felt they could control; Nick Fury, on flawed, self-willed, occasionally destructive individuals whose power is entirely their own and who will do what they do because of conscience. And that is why the climax of the movie, clearly signalled by soaring and thundering music, is the individual choice of the heroes, Thor, Cap, Iron Man, the Black Widow and Hawkeye to take up their weapons and go to war. That is where you get goosebumps, even if you don't know exactly why. Loki, of course, has gone for the Tesseract without any doubts, and while his denunciations of freedom are largely self-regarding hot air, nonetheless they fit in the same frame of thought.

The role of the Hulk, in this, is particularly significant. Jack Kirby explained the Hulk as that basic and extreme source of strength that we don't know we have, using the image of a desperate mother lifting a car with her bare hands to save her child. Whedon seems to me to have the same idea. In general, Whedon's treatment of superheroes in this movie tends to the science-fictional rather than to the mythological; they are not treated as projected images and powers of the human soul, so much as possible figures in a possible society. It is a matter of, what if a man really built an armour like Iron Man's; what if aliens from Asgard had interacted with Earth in times past. Thor rather loses by that; we even have the impression that calling down lightning is an effort for him – he has to grip the spike of the Chrysler Building before he can – and I would much rather have had Wagner's Donner singing “Heda, heda hedo!” as he gathers the clouds together and tears the Rainbow Bridge out of them. But the Hulk is definitely first and foremost a myth. He is defiance itself, everything that will not be channelled, conquered, or cowed. Wisely, Captain America gives him no orders, just telling him to “smash”! His appearance on the battlefield is the beginning of the battle, and its end. He settles Loki; he saves Tony Stark when he seemed beyond saving. He is that which cannot be broken. Not that this is a wholly positive power; SHIELD and the unfortunate Black Widow get a terrifying lesson into just how wrong any attempt to manipulate Bruce Banner can go. But it is a fundamental, archetypal vision.

And that led me to another realization. At the heart of the image of the superhero, of any superhero worth the name, there is a sense of the individual refusing to be cowed. What the image says is, if there is to be a thunderstorm, I will be the thunderstorm; if there is to be an earthquake, I will be the earthquake. One could almost feel this in the motion of the Hulk tearing across the enemy. This explains why this genre was born and prospered in the most individualistic of countries. It is a naturally individualistic image, with its roots in romantic individualism, but also a reflection of a sense that man in the modern age has, if not a greater or lesser moral level, then certainly new and terrible temptations in the power now available. Superheroes are a modern phenomenon and always somehow associated with technology. At the same time, there is a sense that ancient and terrible forces are being reawakened (the Tesseract is one such). But whatever the case, the image of the superhero conveys the idea that it is the individual's role to face all the temptations, the terrors, the potentials that such powers offer. Ultimately it is only the individual who can be saved or damned.

And this shows that Whedon has not only written a good superhero story, but a story that deals with the core ideas that make up the superhero genre. I would have a lot more to say, but I will, at least for now, stop here, because it seems to me that this is the heart of everything that is right with Whedon's great movie.

Just one word more. The facts tell, what no man would want to admit, that Whedon is widely unpopular in showbiz. All through its seven splendid years, the Buffy series was deliberately ignored by a TV industry eager to hang awards around the neck of any sex-based piece of nonsense; and after Buffy, things got so rough that Whedon's main activity for a while was writing comic books. I feel fairly sure that even now the Academy Awards will carefully ignore his latest masterpiece. But I am delighted, at least, that there is nothing they can do about the fact that his genius has become the driving force behind the greatest and most ambitious franchise in Hollywood.

Date: 2012-09-14 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luckymarty.livejournal.com
I largely agree with this review, which also snaps into focus a few things that I hadn't fully articulated (the relative failures of Captain America; the surprising success of the Hulk). I'd thought from the trailer that Cap's adaptation to modern times was going to be the focus and the other characters supporting cast; instead it was an ensemble piece that was amazingly successful at giving every character their chance to shine.

However, I still hold out for The Incredibles as the best superhero movie ever made.

Date: 2012-09-14 08:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
I have a very high opinion of THE INCREDIBLES, but I still think that it basically used the superhero genre to convey the author's own Big Thinks, whereas Whedon's movie grapples with the very core of the concept. Anyway, we agree that there have been some damned good superhero movies of late. (And some stinkers. What lunatic decided to give sweet-faced Jennifer Garner the role of a haunted, ruthless assassin, and a Greek to boot?)

Date: 2012-09-14 07:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blue-sky-day.livejournal.com
Jeremy Renner followed up "The Avengers" with the atrocious hack-job that was "The Bourne Legacy." I think it's too early to say he's fully come into his own as a star. Otherwise, good review.

Date: 2012-09-14 08:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
You surprise me - I don't follow movies so much, but this was such a fine performance. Maybe Renner is the kind of actor who needs a strong director to shine.

Date: 2012-09-14 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saturndevouring.livejournal.com
A terrific take on the movie, and that's coming from someone who left the theater muttering "Meh" to himself. I might will have to check it out again once it hits DVD.

Date: 2012-09-14 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
Well, if you don't like it, you don't like it. Think is, I did!

Date: 2012-09-15 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saturndevouring.livejournal.com
And I respect your opinion on the matter enough to give it a second go round.

Perhaps I'll appreciate it more by placing my attention on the story elements you point out in your review, as I must confess I've never really "got" Whedon despite the accolades (largely because I have such a time getting past his dialogue). But not being familiar with comics, your primer has given me much more to look for.

Date: 2012-09-15 01:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] madderbrad.livejournal.com
I think I enjoyed your review almost as much as the movie. :-) It's added depth to my understanding and delight in what I, too, see as a close to perfect movie translation of a superhero comic/team.

(Particularly a Marvel comic, where a slugfest between fellow good-guy heroes is always required before the main event. :-))

I thought there was one relatively large flaw in the plot; the reason why Loki finangled his way onto the SHIELD carrier in the first place. Maybe I missed something, but as it currently stands I believe he only did this to ... try and sow seeds of discord amongst the neo-Avengers? To break up the team ... before it had even formed? (And how did Loki even know about the Avengers Initiative?) That part of the story doesn't make sense to me.

I thought the "he's adopted" line was funny but I can fully understand - and fall into line with - your view on that.

For me the SHIELD operative playing the 'computer game' on the carrier control deck was an even more incongruous joke. It was funny - and Stark's line matched his abrasive entrance - but when you think about it ... no. It just doesn't fit at all into the overall serious tone of the movie, and the portrayal of SHIELD as a bona-fide security organisation.

I thought Captain America was the weakest part of the movie also. I wasn't as sensitive to the acting deficiency, but the costume was just ... ugh. So many superhero movies fail in this regard in translating the hero to the big screen ... Captain America was the only such weakness with the Avengers. (I was surprised at how 'realistic' Thor was.)

I loved how Whedon had all six of the Avengers work as equals. There may have been a quick mention of "our biggest guns", but otherwise I think Whedon made a deliberate effort to keep each of them in parity with the others, each played a critical role in the end game.

(Although I note that the collage of video segments at the very end showed that the citizens of New York celebrated only the 'big four' of the group, the ones who were truly 'super'. No children pretending to be Hawkeye, no women with Black Widow hairdos. The discrepancy is marked simply because it's the only part of the film that makes a conscious divide between members of the group, I think.)

As a trite - and personal - observation I wish they'd granted the Widow her canon long hair. Or maybe I'm showing I haven't read many (Marvel) comics over the past few years. :-) I remember seeing a blonde doppleganger with the above-shoulder locks a while ago, but not the authentic article.

I was surprised to read of your take on Whedon's eschewal of male homosexuality, and I don't see any 'bisexuality' potential in Tony Stark. I think too many (PC evangelistic) folk these days try too hard to look for things that aren't there, or find imagined slights in a vacuum that they would personally prefer to be filled with homosexual content. The absence of homosexual material isn't proof of homophobia, and there's no law (yet) that requires every piece of entertainment under the sun to have the minorities du jour represented.

I've come across a couple of 'Loki fangirls' - or references to same - over the past few months. Fans who are apologists for the villain and are quick to redeem him. Every time I hear the Widow's line - "he killed eighty people in two days" - I think of them. He was a charming and charismatic villain, maybe, but - perhaps partially due to my reaction to the Loki apologists - I understand why the Council wanted to punish Loki for all of the deaths that should be laid at his feet, and remonstrated with Fury for letting him go. Hmm. Maybe that ending - "if it's all the same to you, I'll have that drink now" - could have been extended another couple of lines, just so the audience was reminded of the severity of the Asgardian's war crimes.

Date: 2012-09-15 08:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
What did Loki want in the Heli-Carrier? Just ask yourself what is happening as he leaves. The carrier is crippled, thanks to the action of his then-loyal slave Hawkeye, and falling to the ground, taking all his enemies with him. The Hulk and Thor have been apparently disposed of, and Loki, who affects not to believe in heroism, cannot expect that Iron Man and Cap would risk their lives to reactivate that vital one dead engine. Indeed, through his subconscious manipulation he had nearly put them at each other's throats. Loki had had himself captured so that he could subvert his enemies from the inside, since his sphere of action certainly wasn't limited by the Hulk-busting cage. The only time when he actually looked worried was when he thought Thor might take him away from Cap and Iron Man's custody, because that would have left him in the hands of powers that knew all about his tricks, and leave Hawkeye's team to assault the Heli-Carrier alone and be certainly ground to bits. As it was, he came close to killing everyone on board - and also had his manipulative fun with the brains of the heroes as he waited.

Date: 2012-09-15 01:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] madderbrad.livejournal.com
I guess so. The state of things might have been advantageous to Loki when he *left* ... I just can't see how he was able to connect (all) the dots to arrange for such upon his arrival at the carrier. How did he know Banner would be on board, for example? Still, if we assume SHIELD is the only major agency which threatened Loki with any resistance (superheroes or others) I guess I can see that Loki - God of Mischief - might want to attack them from within as a first step.

That part of the plot/plan just didn't come across to me as 'solid' as what took place afterwards.

The Hulk trap wasn't that successful, was it? The ultimate threat of the trap was to let the Hulk plummet to the ground from a high altitude. As it turned out, the beast leapt onto a fighter plane, and then was spun off ... to plummet to the ground from a high altitude. Pretty much none the worse for wear. I hope SHIELD have better luck incarcerating their other super villains. :-)

Date: 2012-09-15 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
SHIELD had the Tesseract before Loki did. And Loki had Solvig and Hawkeye, and no doubt had questioned them. As for Banner being there or not, Loki would simply have gone into the enemy quarters with the intention of using what he found, whatever it was. He could not, for that matter, know that Iron Man and Captain America would both be there and could be manipulated into strongly disliking each other, could he now? The one thing he could be certain of was that some time after his "capture", Barton would head a task force against the Heli-Carrier. One thing that is certain is that Loki was in touch with Barton or someone in his team, or else the team could not have found the Heli-Carrier, which was invisible. They came following the energy signature of Loki's sceptre, and they used the Tesseract to do so - remember that one moment before Barton begins his attack, Banner looks at the screen where the Tesseract has been found, and goes "Oh my God!" Evidently the screen has just told him that the Tesseract is right outside.

Date: 2012-09-15 08:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] madderbrad.livejournal.com
Loki would simply have gone into the enemy quarters with the intention of using what he found, whatever it was. ... One thing that is certain is that Loki was in touch with Barton or someone in his team, or else the team could not have found the Heli-Carrier, which was invisible. ... remember that one moment before Barton begins his attack, Banner looks at the screen where the Tesseract has been found, and goes "Oh my God!" Evidently the screen has just told him that the Tesseract is right outside.

I'm glad you reminded me of that. Okay, I'm seeing this as Loki not having a *specific* (i.e. Hulk or Thor trap) goal for his visit to SHIELD, just a general one of causing as much 'mischief' as he could, being certain about two things - (a) SHIELD were an enemy to be neutralised, and (b) Barton would rescue him, given the Tesseract/sceptre link. Thanks!

Date: 2012-09-15 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
I don't know that that was all there was. Thor, who is the Hulk's equal, was pretty desperate to get out of the trap before it hit. It might have been loaded with explosive or something. But yes, Hulk-proof traps are pretty impossible to imagine.

Date: 2012-09-16 12:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] camillofan.livejournal.com
Enjoyed this. You know that I liked Captain America a lot, both in this film and his own, but that probably says more about me than about either movie. :-) I do take your point about his being insufficiently 1940s.

Date: 2012-09-16 05:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
I think I was too hard on both Whedon and Evans. Captain America is a hard character to render, because he is based on a join between progressive politics and patriotism that came natural to the age of FDR and Harry Truman, but has altogether broken down today. And what is more, the big leading man, incarnating in his own self a whole idea of right living and justice, simply does not seem to be around any more - whether left or right wing, whether John Wayne or Gregory Peck. I don't think the machismo of someone like Clint Eastwood is on the same page, and after Eastwood, who is there at all? I always saw Cap as a fair-haired Gregory Peck; there are some Jack Kirby panels where the resemblance is visible. Gary Cooper could also have done him brilliantly, although the fair hair would have been a problem - he'd NEVER look right. Jimmy Stewart, whom I've seen people mention, not so much; there is a sense of aw-shucks and conscious folksiness that is not consistent with the Steve Rogers who was a native New Yorker and an artist. But those guys had the essential presence, which today is very hard to find. (If I wanted to be nasty, I might add that the best leading man in Hollywood is Uma Thurman!) Evans stands well, has the broad shoulders and physical presence required, and can call up commitment and command. He is at his best when barking out orders - very well conceived and written by Whedon, so that you can see that he has taken in all the facts and worked out the one plan of battle that has a chance of succeeding. And watching the movie again, I find that I can forgive most things for that one scene during the battle when Cap charges down the street to help trapped civilians and bewildered cops, as flame and explosions go off all around him - a page of Jack Kirby on the screen.

Still, the costume stinks.

Date: 2013-09-27 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] notawinecritic.livejournal.com
I just re-read this review; it's still a pleasure to read. In a just universe you would be reviewing (books, movies, whatever you like) for a living.

Date: 2013-09-28 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
In fact, I was thinking of expanding it. I left out a lot of stuff, some of which came out in the discussion thread. But thanks.


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