Sunday, May 10, 2015

7 Days in May | Avengers of the Lost Ark

The Avengers (2012)

I've been so excited about James Bond and Star Wars lately that I sort of forgot to get excited about Avengers: Age of Ultron, too. I've been looking forward to it, but the release date totally snuck up on me and by the time I realized it, we only had time to watch one of the previous movies to prepare for it. So we chose The Avengers.

I didn't glean any new insights from rewatching it or anything. I was reminded how great an accomplishment it was, seamlessly bringing together these various characters for an exciting story that makes sense and balances the large cast perfectly. The '90s Batman movies couldn't put two villains together without falling apart. Whedon was a miracle worker on this thing.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The big reason that I let Bond and Star Wars eclipse Age of Ultron is that I wasn't actually sure Whedon could do it a second time. I never for one moment thought that Age of Ultron would suck, but I was skeptical that it could surprise and delight me to the extent that The Avengers did. Even if it was an A- movie, I was afraid I'd be disappointed that it wasn't an A+.

So, that fear was valid and Age of Ultron isn't as good as The Avengers, but I enjoyed the heck out of it anyway. The feeling I get is that in trying to top himself Whedon threw everything at this movie. And that's really awesome. He described it in one interview as an embarrassment of riches and I think that's true. There are so many surprises and great moments in Age of Ultron and I love them all. But I also see that there's so much there that some of the elements are rushed or unfinished. I understand that there's a longer cut to this movie and I can't wait to see it. Because as long as Age of Ultron is, it could benefit from letting some of the characters and situations breathe even more.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Age of Ultron led us down a couple of rabbit holes, starting with David and Diane's reminding me that they'd never seen the other Quicksilver movie. We fixed that right away and watched the Quicksilver scene twice. Age of Ultron can't compete with that and it was right not to even try. Ultron is more Scarlet Witch's movie anyway.

I really like Days of Future Past, but First Class is still my favorite. Mystique is my hook into this generation of X-Men movies and DoFP deliberately, but sadly keeps the audience out of her head most of the time. James McAvoy's Xavier is extremely compelling too though and he has some great moments in DoFP. As does Wolverine, especially at the end. There's heartbreak and hope and the two are balanced really well in the film.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Ultron also got us wanting to revisit the rest of the earlier Marvel films. I have a hard time keeping the various Infinity Gems straight in my head, much less remembering who knows what about each one. I wanted to go back and start with Captain America: The First Avenger to get a handle on the Tesseract and track its progress through the Marvel movies, but I was only a few minutes into it when Hugo Weaving made a snide comment about how "the Führer digs for trinkets in the desert." That immediately got me wanting to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark again, so I popped that in instead.

No new revelations about that movie either, but I don't think I've written about it before, so I'll just address a recent criticism that I've been hearing. Some folks talk about how ineffectual Indiana Jones is to the plot. I don't think that's true (after all, he's the one who discovers the Well of Souls), but even if it were, it misses the point of the movie. Raiders isn't about recovering the Ark of the Covenant; it's about redeeming Indiana Jones. He's not a good guy at the beginning of the movie. He's more thief than archeologist (something Belloq understands, but Jones doesn't want to admit), but worse than that, the original script heavily implies that Indy statutorily raped Marion ten years ago.

That point is obscured by Karen Allen's being 30 when the movie was filmed, but the script called for a much younger character. In fact, the novelization based on the original script specifies that Marion is 24 years old, making her 14 at the time of her original romance with Indy. The line, "I was a child. It was wrong!" made it into the movie, but it's more true than most people realize. There's also a scene in the novelization where Marcus Brody finds Indy at his house in a bathrobe after entertaining a co-ed. He hasn't yet learned his lesson.

By the end of the film though, he has. Partly because he meets Marion again and has to work through that relationship, but partly because of the Ark and what it represents, Indy realizes the truth about himself. The Indy from the beginning of the movie would have wanted to do exactly what Belloq did with the Ark: open it up and look inside. The Indy at the end of the movie knows that he can't do that. He's unworthy. So he closes his eyes and tells Marion to do the same.

Anyway, I ran out of time to rewatch Captain America: The First Avenger and one other treasure-hunting Nazis movie I want to revisit, but hopefully I'll get to those this week and then move on to some of the other Marvel films.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Sounds like you and I are of like minds on the recent "ineffectual Indy" trend. I actually just treat he'd this the other day. It's the ideal inaugural movie for settling into my new apartment.

Michael May said...

Do you think it's a reaction to Crystal Skulls? Because he is ineffective in that one and I wonder if it has people looking back over the earlier movies for a trend that's not there.


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