Warning: This post contains specific quotes and plot descriptions from the movie The Avengers. Those who have not seen the movie and still plan to may want to watch first, read later.
Superheroes, villans, new gadgets, and old favorites come together in the latest record-breaking movie, The Avengers. Marvel’s top men (and woman) are made up of unique personalities and different “talents” that, when combined, not only form the ultimate “good guy” crew, but also create very entertaining conversations and scenarios. This league of freedom-fighters consists of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawk-eye, all gathered to unite against Loki, Thor’s evil half-brother, and his army of electronic monsters who plan to take over the world by making humanity one big herd, driven and used like animals, all answering to and worshipping Loki.
When The Avengers first hit theaters, I didn’t have much interest in seeing it. The movie theater is a half hour away, the most convenient showtimes were in outrageously expensive 3D, and- having never seen a superhero movie before- I wasn’t even sure if I would like it. But then I read Steven Greydanus’s review in the National Catholic Register, watched the trailer, and decided I would give it a try. I went to go see it with my brother (my favorite movie-viewing partner), and before the feature film started we were forced to sit through at least twenty minutes of trailers. 75% of them were alien invasion, end-of-the-world movies that looked horrible, so when the film finally started by introducing the strange creature in the outer-space world talking about dominating America, I was groaning inwardly, thinking I had just paid to spend two and half hours of my life watching a painfully predictable sci-fi special. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
As each superhero was introduced and the plot developed, the film caught my interest again. About half way through, I was loving it. And, as I sat there enjoying the movie, I began to wonder why my opinion of the movie had changed so much within the last hour. After all, the aliens, the villian, and the world-dominantion plot were all part of it, so what made this different from the five movies advertised beforehand? I found my answer in a conversation between Loki (the evil villan) and a brave old citizen. Loki is talking down to a crowd of people, telling them that they are an animal race that loves to be commanded, loves to be ordered around and forced into submission. He ends his haughty speech by saying: “In the end, you will always kneel”. And this wonderful old man stands up and says, “Not to a man like you.” “There has never been a man like me,” Loki replies. “There will always be men like you,” counters the brave civilian. The impressive thing about this dialogue set is that (as Mr. Greydanus points out in the previously mentioned review) kneeling is not the thing refuted, in fact, the man’s statement implies that men will indeed kneel to a man much greater than Loki, but it is the act of honoring evil that is condemned. And, the line about the constant presence of evil in the world, always singing the same song but wearing different faces, is also great because it testifies to the spiritual battle that is always present, the powers that will always rise up, but eventually all pass away. Or, in the words of the great Gandhi: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.”
This movie brings back the classic comic book conflicts between good and evil, best embodied in the character of Captain America. Captain America is a gentleman: he stands for the old-fashioned values and embodies the pride and patriotism of old veterans with a young spirit. He isn’t fresh and self-centered (like Iron Man); he serves his country first, in the name of God. Captain America has to be one of the most wonderful characters in this movie, because, as Phil Coulson says when Captain America asks if the stars and stripes are a bit old-fashioned, those stars and stripes are exactly what America needs right now, and a man like Captain America is exactly what the young men of America need to see and admire. One of my favorite scenes during the first part of the movie happens when Captain America is about to parachute out of the plane to help Iron Man find Thor (who just took off with Loki- too complicated to explain here), and the female pilot cautions Captain against going, saying “He’s [Thor's] practically a god.” Captain hesitates long enough to say: “There’s only one God, M’am, and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.” A breath of fresh air in a world that is constantly placing personal power and pleasure in God’s place.
Another wonderful thing about this movie is it managed to portray a woman fighting alongside men without making a big deal out of her. Normally, when movies have these “woman among men” situations, the woman has to totally one-up all the male characters, while being obnoxious and in-your-face the whole time. But, the amazing Black Widow doesn’t ask for more attention, she doesn’t try to prove she is better than anyone else, she simply does her thing, and remains extremely humble throughout the whole movie. Also, just a side note, there’s a point when all of the superheroes are in a circle and an explosion causes all of the heroes to take cover. Captain America is the one Black Widow ducks behind, because he is already lifting up his shield to protect her. This is such a simple gesture, but I think it is underestimated. Most movies today are too obsessed with women’s lib to allow men to be knights in shining armor, so this one once again rises above typical Hollywood filth.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I am overjoyed that a movie with positive messages is reaching such a huge crowd of people. I hope this will start a trend for more of these movies, movies that depict evil as being self-centered and good as being selfless (for, after all, even Iron Man makes the ultimate sacrifice), and movies where good and evil are black and white, not shades of grey in between. I highly recommend going to see this movie, because if the film world sees that America likes to be reminded of what it means to stand for something truly worth fighting for, maybe we will begin to see more movies that encourage us to do so.
I’m going to end this post (which seems to be a bit all over the place) by saying that this movie did a wonderful job of showing that one does not need special powers to take a stand against evil, but that it does often take something bigger than all of us to finally put an end to it.
May God bless America!
I would like to thank Tito Edwards for including this post in his National Catholic Register post on June 6, 2012.