Daily Archives: May 8, 2012

Marvel’s The Avengers Review

Went to see The Avengers today. It was $5 Tuesday, so it turned out pretty affordable.

The Avengers comic series is one of those classic, main storyline comics that was a bit past its heyday when I finally got a chance to buy comics like a true believer. I knew about the facts of it, but not the poetry. Still, over the past few years, the Marvel movies have familiarized people with Iron Man, Thor, Cappy, and those crazy secret agents from SHIELD. (I don’t think anybody ever forgot the Hulk.) I went from knowing who they were to knowing them as characters I really liked. But I kept my expectations low.

This was a darned good movie. The setup didn’t take too long, the characters were strong, and it was a true Marvel-style slugfest. By which I mean that the fights and action were grounded and limited just enough by reality (and love for New York and for people) to appeal to your heart as well as your love for action and adventure; but there was also lots of cool stuff going on. Lots and lots and lots. Also, Whedon’s direction focused on giving you just enough time to see what was happening in an action scene, without lingering long enough to make CGI obvious, and yet also without using the shakycam. The fights were comics art and epic poetry, just like they’re supposed to be. There was also a good helping of Marvel jokes and slapstick, without letting the comedy take over; and there was even a bit of dead people staying dead, as used to be the Marvel way.

And the SHIELD helicarrier was awesome, as it should be. I think Steranko was smiling a cool smile somewhere, in his incredibly cool local lair of coolness.

The acting was pretty darned good. Whedon trusted his actors to be able to act, and react to each other. There were things that played out without being talked about, and things that when talked about became obvious in hindsight from the acting. There’s even a quietly funny scene after the credits, which is nothing but acting. (Extremely realistic acting, too, if you’ve ever seen people really really tired at the end of a long, emotionally exhausting day.)

Black Widow got to be extremely competent, which was nice. (In Marvel Comics, some comics writers like women characters and build them to be more interesting, while others basically use women characters as punching bags and ruin their lives. I think we all know Whedon was one of the comics fans who liked Marvel women interesting.) She also got feelings, great dialogue, strong action scenes, and a chance to trick the trickster. Very little was said about her sad backstory; but it was obvious that Whedon had told the actress to act from her character’s backstory. Very nice work.

Hawkeye got very clearly differentiated from DC’s Green Arrow. People who don’t see much difference between the two archer characters are a sore spot for old school Marvel fans, so I’m very glad this was taken care of. Hawkeye was done amazingly well and charismatically, too.

And Cappy and the Hulk totally stole the show, in their own separate Moments of Supreme Awesomeness. There were also several times when ordinary people got to show their heroic chops, also in the classic Marvel style.

Joss Whedon pretty much buried his ego and usual directorial quirks for this movie. He didn’t ignore his strengths; but he made a Marvel Comics movie, not a Joss Whedon movie. It takes a big man and fan to do that, and I forgive him for many of his previous artistic sins. :)

I enjoyed it a lot.

Make Mine Marvel!

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The Need for Catechesis: A Feature, Not a Bug

The Holy Father’s letter to the German-speaking bishops, about why they gotta use “for the many” in the Eucharistic Prayer and not “for all”, is now out in English. It has a lot of fun stuff, but here’s maybe the most interesting comment:

“On the one hand, the sacred text must appear as itself as far as possible, even if it seems alien and raises questions; on the other hand the Church has the task of explaining it, so that within the limits of our understanding, the message that the Lord intends for us actually reaches us. Not even the most sensitive translation can take away the need for explanation: it is part of the structure of revelation that the Word of God is read within the exegetical community of the Church – faithfulness and drawing out the contemporary relevance go together. The Word must be presented as it is, with its own shape, however strange it may appear to us; the interpretation must be measured by the criterion of faithfulness to the Word itself, while at the same time rendering it accessible to today’s listeners.”

Like the Kandake’s eunuch court official said to St. Philip (and I paraphrase wildly), “How can I understand what I’m reading unless someone explains it?”

I love this Pope.

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How Long Is Living Memory?

One of the things that has come down in Church tradition, with a small t, is that when St. John the Evangelist was very old, he gave a homily in Ephesus where his eloquence was overcome either by his feelings or his weak voice. All he said was “Little children, love one another.”

Of course, this is a quote from one of his epistles as well as a quote of Jesus. We had that reading this weekend, so I mention it. We have to love one another to be Christians, and too often we forget. It may not be encouraging to remember that the early Christians had the same problem, but we shouldn’t be too discouraged that people are human. We just have to keep plugging away, and let Christ’s life in us actually do stuff.

Anyway… a lot of people disbelieve in the Gospels as reliable information because they were supposedly written too long after the events in question. Most of this is caused by people refusing to believe that any Gospels could possibly have been written before the destruction of the Temple in the year 70. (Which is silly, because even if you are an atheist and don’t believe in prophecy coming true, you could certainly believe in apocalyptic prophecies of destruction being made left and right by Jewish prophets! Because that’s what they did!) But then, people refuse to believe that St. John the Apostle was St. John the Evangelist or St. John the author of Revelation, because God forbid he should have lived as long as everybody in the tradition says he did.

It’s been longer since 1968, now, than a lot of people think it’s plausible for people to have remembered what Jesus said. It’s definitely been longer since World War II. And yet, plenty of people are still alive who remember World War II and (despite drugs) the Summer of Love. A lot more people remember people who remembered.

Not everybody died young in the ancient world.  The percentage of extremely elderly people today is somewhat higher; but extreme old age is mostly a matter of genetics, not of modern lifestyle. Modern lifestyle can get you surviving to the age of 70 or 80, but beyond that, you’re stuck with the stuff in your own DNA.

Anyway, here’s a guy whose grandfather met Civil War veterans. This is exactly the kind of thing that Papias was doing. (Via Roger Pearse.)

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