May 09, 2012

Whedon is the one who looks much like the Marvel Universe’s Agent Coulson (played by Clark Gregg, son of an Episcopalian minister). Typically in movies, this kind of bland government operative is automatically sinister (for example, Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith in The Matrix). But Agent Coulson is Whedon’s surrogate, a nice guy fanboy (he hopes Captain America will sign his superhero trading cards) with whom audiences identify.

The notion of a movie-military-industrial complex can also shed light on the strange career arc of Jeremy Renner, who isn”€™t getting any handsomer but is getting richer. He plays Hawkeye, ace archer and the second of three big-budget American secret agents Renner will have portrayed in the span of twelve months (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol late last year and The Bourne Legacy upcoming). The ascent of the stumpy Renner is a bit like Humphrey Bogart’s improbable late-in-life transformation from society scion to tough-guy leading man. Renner rather looks like a hillbilly Bogie.

Renner’s fine performance as Sgt. Will James in The Hurt Locker apparently associated him in the Hollywood collective mind with American imperial muscle, and how its military servants tend to be the highly competent guys from Nowheresvilles such as Renner’s hometown of Modesto, California.

Perhaps this isn”€™t the real Renner, but he’s a fine enough actor to pull it off.

The Avengers obliterated Harry Potter’s opening-weekend box-office record with a total domestic take of $207 million. Including overseas receipts, its current box-office haul is over $650 million.

Remarkably, The Avengers might deserve the billion-plus it will rake in. Granted, Loki, the Wagnerian villain with a horned helmet and an Old Etonian accent who was inherited from the prequel Thor, makes a forgettable bad guy. Alan Rickman did the evil German with aristocratic English diction better in Die Hard.

Still, writer-director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has turned this convoluted marketing conceit”€”upon which hangs the fate of a decade’s worth of sequels and plastic crud merchandising”€”into a highly entertaining film. This is a prime cut of Big American Moviemaking. It’s funny, well-acted, and emotionally gripping (at least for its 155-minute running time; the plot had pretty much evaporated out of my skull by the time I reached the parking lot).

 


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