“The Avengers” – More Than Meets the Eye

By | May 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

“The Avengers” is the latest in Hollywood’s series of 3D superhero epics. Such films are generally big money-makers, though they are not my favorites. I prefer films about real heroes, like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” (though they are TV miniseries, not theatrical films). Next best are films starring real heroes but with fictional plots, such as “Act of Valor.” Then come films about fictional heroes who are ordinary people but do extraordinary things. These are the films I saw growing up, and which helped me to grow up. They provided me with role models.
For example, I recall “Fort Apache,” a Western starring John Wayne as a cavalry captain and Henry Fonda as his martinet colonel. But the character I remember best was the grizzled sergeant major played by Ward Bond. He had the Medal of Honor but rarely wore it. He had the respect of his men because he earned it, not because he demanded it. All my life I have tried, with varying success, to emulate his quiet dignity.
On the contrary, how can today’s young people emulate superheroes? How can they emulate Spider-Man? All they can do is be entertained. Entertainment is hardly something in short supply today. But positive role models are in short supply, and Hollywood is doing little to remedy this deficiency.
That being said, I believe “The Avengers” is a better film than the critics realize, and a deeper one as well. Let me give my reasons.
● The film deals with a group of superheroes who do not get along, but who overcome their antagonisms to fight together when their nation is threatened. Thor, Ironman, Captain America, The Hulk, and Hawkeye learn to work together against space aliens. It may not be too far a stretch to think of this as an example of “E Pluribus Unum.”
● At one point, a character talks about their enemies saying, “They’re basically gods.” But Captain America retorts, “Ma’am, there’s only one God, and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.” It is no stretch at all to think of this as “In God We Trust.” When was the last time a Hollywood film referred to religion in a positive way?
● The aliens attempt to enlist humans as allies in their quest to conquer Earth and subjugate its population. In a scene set in Germany, Loki – the evil brother of Thor – demands that the people kneel before him. A German man who is old enough to remember the Nazis stands and says, “Not to men like you.” Loki responds, “There are no men like me.” The old man replies, “There are always men like you.” This clearly exemplifies the love of “Liberty.”
● Thus we have what Dennis Prager calls “the American trinity” – Liberty, In God We Trust, and E Pluribus Unum. The three are on every American coin. We can hope that they are also in every American heart. When was the last time a Hollywood film exemplified all three? When was the last time a Hollywood film exemplified even one?
● The main point of the aliens’ attack is New York City, and specifically the skyscraper built by Ironman. True, New York and Los Angeles are favorite sites of Hollywood’s disaster films. But it is difficult to see the film and not have memories of 9/11.
● The film is titled “The Avengers,” not “The Defenders” or “The Warriors.” In fact, the superheroes barely succeed in beating back the alien attack, and not before considerable damage has been done and casualties inflicted. Ironman tells Loki, “You’re missing the point! There’s no throne, there is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it’s too much for us but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damned well sure we’ll avenge it!” At this point, thoughts of 9/11 and its aftermath become even stronger.
● The alien leader concludes that humans are not as weak as he had believed, and that attacking them is not worth the trouble. The superheroes then go their separate ways, but with the clear understanding that should another attack occur, they will come together again. Here thoughts of 9/11 are inescapable.
Is this a great film? No. Will it still be watched 10 or 20 years from now? Probably not. But contrary to my preconception, it is worth watching. Contrary to my generalization, one sometimes can emulate superheroes, especially when they overcome their human shortcomings to act heroically. And contrary to my assumption, Hollywood sometimes does promote American values, even though political correctness demands that they be disguised as fantasy.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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