Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This post is almost about Alchemy.

Like everyone else in America, I spent the last week+ geeking out over The Avengers movie. I saw it twice and almost saw it again the next Monday, but something came up. It's been a few years since I cared enough to see a movie more than once while it was still in theatres. Even great movies typically don't take more than ten bucks from me, because I'm cheap and I know that someone will gift the DVD to me eventually.

In fact, the last movie I can think of that I made it a point to see repeatedly was also a superhero movie. The Dark Knight.

These are two VERY different movies, but I realized that there has got to be something that they share, to ensnare me the way they did... superhero films in general are very timely, is part of it.

I don't know about you folks, but more and more my world is looking like the desperate, corrupt landscape of these big action thrillers. Sure, the property damage is more symbolic and everyone is REALLY good-looking, but all the same... I'm starting to identify on a deeper level with the cannon fodder. These could be my neighbors and friends. That could be my community being Hulk Smashed.

We have allegorical invasions and destruction and we have literal psychopaths and egomaniacs... but when I look around in despair, hoping to see Thor or Steve Rodgers, ummm... there's nobody there.

Where the hell is Batman!?

Why is it that I can open any magazine or newspaper and identify the Bond villain, but there's no Tony Stark? I know I'm crossing a lot of genres here, but stay with me.

My deepest hope is that although our world is filled with baddies, there are also some pretty amazing good guys too. Maybe not gods and supermen, but remarkable people all the same.

Right. Alchemy.

Clean energy is the modern day alchemy. There is nothing remotely new about this idea that we can take something useless and make it into treasure, or that we can just pull energy out of the universe like magic.

These are the facts. Matter exists. It makes up the universe. You can never truly destroy matter, you can change it from one thing into another. So far, our sources of energy have relied on this process of changing one thing into another in order to generate energy. The idea that we might be able to find a source of energy that is ‘pure’ or that can somehow miraculously not be corrupted by our use of it is fantasy. It is the search for the Philosopher’s Stone. Since the beginning of time man has wanted the easy/consequence-less way of getting everything they want for free. The quest for clean energy proves that absolutely nothing has changed.  

Our modern day scientists are exactly like the ancient seekers of wisdom who they often mock for their folly. Just, don’t try telling them that. They’ll bite you.

Does that mean they should stop? Probably not. Plenty of useful discoveries have been made in the pursuit of something that in retrospect was a really stupid idea. Am I going to fund them? Once again, probably not.

So, there were my reality revelations during the movie. Most of the time I was only enthralled in the story and with the amazing cast of characters, but I did have that moment of connection back to the real world that kind of threw me out of the theater for a minute.

There’s the end of the serious stuff, now on to gushing about some of my favorite characters. There are spoilers, so stop reading now if you haven’t seen the film.

Hawkeye and Blackwidow get badass normal points for holding their own amongst the supernatural-awesome and for creating some of my very favorite scenes. Did anyone else get Mal and Inara vibes? Was that just me? Think about it, she's professional and impervious to the level of goddess and he's all open and sort of cuddly unless he's killing someone. It also isn’t that much of a stretch to picture him kicking a brute with a facial tattoo into a jet engine.

The biggest surprise for me personally was the Hulk. I fully expected to tolerate his presence in the movie with inward eye-rolling and instead he quickly became my new favorite. The Hulk is a complex character, but I feel like most of that depth was completely lost on me in his earlier incarnations. Not this time. Mark Ruffolo… I love you.

Thor holds a deeply nostalgic place in my heart. The only reason I don’t feel bad that we didn’t get more of him in the film is that there’s a Thor 2 set to start filming in a few months, so I can forgive them for keeping his part and lines to the bare minimum. He made his point, that point being “I’m awesome.”. I’m really curious to see what they’ll do with his character in Thor 2.

Captain America under Joss Whedon’s pen was exactly how I pictured Steve Rodgers displaced into the modern world, I found myself cheering a little whenever he appeared in front of the camera. It’s easy for me to see why he’s their leader. He’s clearly the right man for the job.

Oh, Ironman. Wonderful, crazy man. It was satisfying to see Tony Stark ‘make the sacrifice play’. It dawned on me part way into the movie that all the other heroes had proven that they were willing to give up their lives to save the innocent… Hawkeye and Blackwidow also proved this by default since they are the most likely to be killed in the inevitable supermassive battles. Tony Stark… not so much. He really made the ending.

Loki. I could die. I LOVE what Joss did with his character. He’s still sympathetic and you can still see that potential for a Heel Face Turn (which did eventually happen in the comic-books… under weird circumstances) but Joss is quite good at stripping away all the excuses and just leaving us to look at the skeletal reality of evil. Of course, I still want to give him a hug and tell him it’s not too late to be one of the good guys instead, but that would be stupid, because he would definitely kill me.

I have to mention Nick Fury. I HAVE too. I feel like it would have been tempting to portray him as more of a straight noble-soldier type and instead he shown as the ‘willing-to-do-anything’ guy. Manipulative and brilliant and scary to boot. Hearing him talk back to his superior leaders was perfectly Joss-esque. I will always treasure the image of him with the bazooka.

Love, Ailsa

P.S. Like the rest of the fan community, I've decided agent Coulson is alive. Any attempts to leave him dead in sequels will appear to be petty recalcitrance on the part of the creators. Nick Fury lies. We know that. Also, so glad to see that Aunt Robin has assembled as well.

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