Disney's 'Avengers' Has A Super Marvelous Opening

Captain America is not a doddering relic of Nazi-smashing days after all -- at least when, through Hollywood special-effects and marketing magic at its best -- he’s teamed with the likes of a magnate/genius inventor/smart-aleck with a funky goatee who tools around (and above) town in a suit of Iron, a hulking, raging, green superhero with anger issues and a few other well-meaning misfits (including a gorgeous heroine, of course) who join forces with a Norse god who pulled the protection of Earth as his day job to beat back a nefarious extraterrestrial force led by a weaselly villain who is bent on disrupting the commute home from Grand Central Terminal.

Confused? Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips fairly sums ups the plot of “The Avengers” as “the culmination of everything ever written, produced or imagined in the known universe, or something like that. It bunches together Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, the leather-clad assassin Black Widow, the lethal archer Hawkeye and the superheroes’ one-eyed wrangler, Nick Fury, for 143 minutes of stylish mayhem in the service of defeating Thor’s malevolent brother, the god Loki, who hails from the interstellar world known as Asgard (access through wormhole only), and who yearns to conquer Earth with an all-powerful blue energy cube called the Tesseract.”



Still wondering what’s going on? Okay, how about this? Disney’s “The Avengers” took in $200.3 million at the box office in North America on its opening weekend –- results that trounced the previous record [2011’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” with $169.2 million] and “augurs well for Hollywood heading into the summer season,” according to the Wall Street Journal’s Erica Orden. That follows a very good week indeed overseas ($441,500,000 and counting).

The result "is an indication of where the [audience] mind-set is. People are getting back into the habit of going to theaters, and it feeds that market," Greg Foster, chairman and president of filmed entertainment for Imax tells Orden. "It's not like it inched toward breaking the record -- it clobbered it." 

It’s the first Marvel Studios film released by Disney, which it spent $4.2 billion to acquire in 2009, “and may go a long way to soften the blow of the recent thud that came from ‘John Carter,’ a movie that sprang from elsewhere in the Disney movie empire,” Orden writes. 

It’s also hooking up with all sorts of merchandising opportunities, including decidedly “weird ones” –- although weird may be a weird way to think about a franchise that’s built on our buying into a reality as alternate as this one is. What can one say about such “firsts” as “Walmart is bringing this summer’s most anticipated blockbuster into stores through a first-of-its-kind augmented reality experience which bridges the gap between the physical store and mobile gaming,” as reported in Mobile Marketing Watch?

Super Hero Reviewers -- those employed by various media outlets -- were about as totally ga-ga over the production as that ornery bunch can get, however. The movie has registered 86% on Rotten Tomatoes’ TomatoMeter, of “approved” critics, not to mention a whopping 96% of the variety of folk who commute to their jobs for a living.

The New York Times’ critic, A.O. Scott, wasn’t buying any of it, however, writing that while it “is hardly worth raging about, its failures are significant and dispiriting. The light, amusing bits cannot overcome the grinding, hectic emptiness, the bloated cynicism that is less a shortcoming of this particular film than a feature of the genre.”

That genre would be the Superhero epic which, he writes in his lede, reached its “inky nexus” in the summer of 2008 when “The Dark Knight” sucked the attention of every critic, pundit and sentient moviegoer.”

But 3D coming attractions yesterday promised an uprising of the “Dark Night” this summer, and the Internet version “unleashed a viral storm” when it was released last week, blogs the Los Angeles Times’ Matt Donnelly.

“And while fanboys and Internet trolls can't escape the gloom of the clip, we've noticed some awesome new things about Anne Hathaway,” who plays Catwoman in an already heavily analyzed leather costume and thigh-high stiletto boots, Donnelly writes.

It would appear that tight-fitting leather is all the rage among female superheros -- and manboy gawkers. Then again, when was it not?

The Times’ Scott says that he has run into several folks who have wondered if “they have, at last, made another movie out of that fondly recalled British spy series from the 1960s,” also called “the Avengers.” Alas, “‘they’ have not, and those poor souls who cherish old daydreams of Diana Rigg in leather will have to console themselves with images of Scarlett Johansson in a black bodysuit,” Scott muses.

As a movie, in fact, “the Avengers” invites a lot of musing and sidetracking. There’s plenty to look at but not a heckuva a lot to say about it, in the end, except what we all know: action-packed, sexy, star-filled fantasy sells.

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