by NEVIL GIBSON
As winter approaches, the movie year moves into blockbuster
season to coincide with the Northern Hemisphere summer.
Blockbusters are large budget films loaded with special effects and are aimed at holiday audiences in North America and, increasingly, around the world.
While Noah (reviewed last issue) counts as a blockbuster, it is those based on popular multi-book series or comic book heroes that more perfectly fit the mould.
Leading the pack is the Marvel stable, which a couple of years ago produced The Avengers, a compilation of half a dozen of its
superheroes and which was the biggest box office hit of 2012.
There’s no doubt Marvel, in collaboration with the Walt Disney Company, knows its audience and what it wants: heroes who use their superpowers to pursue and eliminate evil.
Not all heroes are created equal. Marvel’s camp does not include Batman, Superman or Green Lantern, who to comic book purists have been too parodied and sullied by various film-makers over the
Marvel plays it straight and its main characters — Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America — share similar characteristics of modesty, self-deprecation and lack of irony.
They are not to be mocked and they are played by largely bland, good-looking actors — Iron Man’s Robert Downey is an exception, as is the only female one of note, ex-Soviet agent Natasha, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who turns up in Captain America:
The Winter Soldier as a lively and literal sidekick (her specialty
is martial arts and she has no magic weapon).
On paper, Captain America (Chris Evans) looks the least promising of these heroes, due to his World War II origins and jingoism that you imagine would limit his global appeal.
But that doesn’t seem to have affected the box office, where overseas takings are already double those of the North American market.
This may be due to a step up in the story, which mixes themes reminiscent of 1970s Hollywood political conspiracy thrillers — The
Parallax View, WUSA, All the President’s Men and Three Days of the
Condor — with a standard Nazi world domination plot.
In a clever piece of casting, though he looks uncomfortable
in the part, Robert Redford is the common denominator with
two of those films.
He speaks out for the benefits of stability and order of big government in a chaotic world as the head of the peacekeeping
outfit SHIELD from The Avengers.
But it has also spawned another shadowy organisation, Hydra, whose
main fighting agent is the Winter Soldier, a childhood buddy of
Captain America’s and now his Soviet-made nemesis.
That is a story for another day, as Captain America finds few supporters to help him battle for freedom when he discovers the conspiracy that threatens the world.
Although all this is largely nonsensical, there is also little
time for contemplation amid the rapid-fire biff, blam and bang of the action sequences, which comprise well over half of the two-hours-plus running time.
Rating: Mature audiences (violence); 136 minutes.
by NEVIL GIBSON