Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ode to a Poignant Avenger

     There's not too much left to be said about the Avengers that the two hundred and fifty reviews logged at Rotten Tomatoes haven't covered . . . except for this one thing.  We are not a culture that really embraces the staunch, reliable, stoic hero anymore.  Irony, sentimentality, deep and obvious flaws tend to be the norm for our heroes these days.  Consequently, Captain America does not really come off as the brightest or flashiest hero in the crowd Joss Whedon has assembled.  Chris Evans, who plays the Captain, gives a reigned-in but quite compelling performance in the part (even as he did in his own movie), but I wanted to call attention to one thing in particular.
     There is a scene toward the beginning of the film, when Captain America has just been recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and is riding on a jet with Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson.  The agent mentions that the Captain's suit has been redesigned since World War II and the hero evinces surprise.  "Aren't the stars and stripes a bit . . . old-fashioned?" he asks.
     It's a single line-reading in a very, very big movie, but it captures such a sense of longing in the character, defines him in such a powerful way and brings a heart to the center of the action that is indispensable.  Kudos, of course, to Mr. Penn's and Mr. Whedon's script, but all the more so to Mr. Evans; capturing some poignancy in the midst of such a large-scale spectacle is not very easy.

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