Is it possible to mix mythology and comic book characters? Well, in a manner of speaking, the comic book characters are themselves the mythos of the last century: In times of great turmoil and war and division and overwhelming brute force, it just felt good to consider the idea that some set of goodhearted superheroes were out there watching over us and protecting us. Kind of like militant guardian angels. And, like the angels, some of them cop an attitude. But unlike the angels, they serve no superior being. Therefore, their allegiances are fleeting, temporary, and, truth be told, somewhat fickle. But oh man, when they do finally swing into action, it’s a sight to behold.
Thor, the Norse god of thunder, has a half-brother, Loki, with designs on ruling the universe by controlling a self-sustaining unlimited energy force. He’s the bad guy that has legions of henchmen that look like devils, or screaming harpies, descending upon the earth through some kind of space-warp hole in the sky, and he laughs at the feeble efforts of “The Avengers” to stop him and his swarm of destructive nihilists.
But, hey, this is comic book stuff, and we are here to have fun. So the “Ironman” has a great sarcastic wit. And “The Hulk” refers to his big, green persona within that comes out when he loses his temper as “that other guy.” Green Arrow gets “turned” by the bad guy, but is redeemed by The Black Widow, who never stops believing in him. Captain America, fresh off his battlefield exploits in World War One, can joke about being a cultural and technological dinosaur, but there’s always use for a guy who can punch through a punching bag.
Romance? Nah, we’re too busy saving the world for that. But we might accidentally develop an affection for each other. This is more of a buddy movie with the girl being one of the guys. There’s plenty of CGI-kind of action, where you get to blow things up in the middle of New York City and joke about it afterwards.
“The Avengers,” despite the title, is just plain fun. Sure, it’s even more fun if you’re a comic book nerd who grew up rooting for some of these super-heroes of cartoon caricature. But even if you’re not, you can still appreciate the artistry and camaraderie and use of the 3-D technology to great special effect.
Pass the popcorn and enjoy the ride.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.