The Avengers and Geeky Multiple Meanings

(A few spoilers, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

 

A few hours ago, a friend asked me what I thought of The Avengers. I said it was an awesome movie, a statement which he challenged by asking whether it was better than The Dark Knight, an admittedly good comic hero movie if there was one. I answered him with a line that surprised even me after I read what I wrote:

“This one’s multiplicity of meaning is a bit more subtle and fan-oriented.”

I wondered if I was obliged to elaborate on the statement, but my friend simply answered with an “I see”, which either meant that he understood me perfectly, or that he wanted to brush off my being an intellectual asshat when doing any communication in written form.

I began thinking about what I blurted out as well. One of the things I like about the recent crop of comic hero movies is that they go deeper than simply trying to recreate the outdated cliches which are the origin stories of these characters. I mean, one can only take so much gamma radiation (back when nuclear threats were scary), Nazi-pummeling soldiers (back when Nazis were scary) and converted KGB operatives (back when the Russians were scary) before they start talking about alien invasions. (OH WAIT… WHEE CHITAURI!)

Rather than stay at that superficiality, these recent films try to communicate to non-comic readers the intricate psyches of their heroes. These sometimes take several comic arcs worth of material to establish, which makes the fact that they can be compressed in around three hours nothing less than miraculous. These heroes fit their archetype, but the fun is at seeing how their psychology influences their choice of quests: Steve Rogers is the idealist who will die before giving up what he believes in, making his character a symbol on so  many different levels. Tony Stark hides his heart behind his superior intelligence and his financial and social nonchalance, not to mention behind a suit of armor, the brainchild of his, well, brain. Thor is a god who, as is the trend in recent literature, is fascinated by humanity, which gives him a very human sympathy himself. The Hulk is a radioactive Hyde hidden inside Bruce Banner’s Jekyll who has found the key to his transformation, which turns out to be one of the most primal emotions known to man. Clint Barton and Natasha Romanov are former killers who trust each other because they both know the feeling of having blood on their hands. Nick Fury is a good man at heart, but paranoid to the very core, and for good reason. It is the interplay of these individuals, whose flaws are shown in so many ways (not to mention so many prior movies), that makes The Avengers nothing less than entertaining.

It doesn’t stop there; in fact, it gets deeper (and geekier). The actual interplay of these personalities is aggravated by the scheme of Loki, who happens to actually be the Norse god of mischief, cunningly manipulating the situations into a chaotic environment and preying on Banner’s weakness to stress: Rogers’ semi-naive idealism against Stark’s semi-arrogant nonchalance, god against green monster. (“Retconned”) Agent Phil Coulson, the person tasked to speak with each of the Avengers individually in their past movies, is eventually the device that literally brings them all together.

Then there are the even more geeky footnotes, the ones that will resonate most with comic fans and geeks in general: only the “A” being left in the “STARK” letters displayed outside the tower, the Helicarrier, Maria Hill always walking around and shouting at people, Fury’s rebellious streak towards his superiors, Captain America trading cards, Loki’s Kage-Bunshin no Jutsu (sorry, “illusions” was a bit bland), Cap throwing his shield like a boomerang, and so on.

And, of course, there will forever be Cap’s order of: “Hulk, smash.”

It goes all the way into the final line, where one of the Chitauri say that to war against Earth “would be to court Death”. And who responds to the line with a wide grin? Why, it’s Thanos the Mad Titan, who, if you’ve read up, is literally in love with Lady Death herself (“courting Death”? Get it?).

An epic, multi-layered, poetic ending to an epic geekiness of a movie, if you ask me.

Plastic Pater

(inspired largely by results at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201203/what-s-your-intimacy-quotient?)

I live in a house of plastic people. Behind our faces is faeces, behind our smiles is a rotten core, a piece-of-shit mockery of family. This is thanks in no small part to my father.

My father is a dictatorial egomaniac who, like all other dictatorial egomaniacs, loves to rule through fear. He feels best when he’s asserting his superiority by putting another person down, and is automatically offended when somebody tries tossing a riposte back at his direction. This is because anything that comes from him is a joke, and anything tossed back at him is an insult. His is the only opinion that counts, no matter how far away it is from a discussion, and he will repeat it again and again because the things he knows are the only things that count. He is slightly deaf, which he utilizes in order to feign ignorance, or sometimes simply ignore a statement entirely, in order to impress on other people that all their insights are worth nothing and that his is the deepest, the only one that matters. When he finds fault in a person, particularly one of his sons, there is absolutely no use in arguing over the matter, since every point taken against him is a blow to his superiority in the house, reasoning be damned. Woe to whoever makes him feel this, as everything thereafter will simply boil down to the point that he can shout louder, punch harder, and break more things around the house than you can.

His most definitive characteristic, however, is his drinking. Ever competitive with everyone around him, he prides himself on being able to outdrink people half his age and still drive home, that teenage argument which stipulates that intoxication’s effects only apply to motor functions. Unknown to him, the alcohol he ingests targets a more complicated part of his brain: his memory, both short and long-term. When he comes home from a drinking session, he will pester any person unfortunate enough to be awake with endless inquiries of why you are still up. Within moments, these will turn into angry commands for you to go to sleep because you are wasting electricity by having the lights up on such a late hour, complete with comments on how useless that thing you are doing is, whatever it may be. Offer up any resistance, reasoned or not, to his command, and he will automatically feel insulted, resulting in yet another broken glass or slammed door. There is no use in feeling insulted in any way, however, as any incident will be forgotten by him once he is snoring in his bed, contented that he has asserted his superiority over the house for another night. He will wake up feeling refreshed, happy and conscience-clear, blissfully unaware of anything that will have happened the night before.