I’m still a DC guy, and I’m holding out for The Dark Knight Rises. That said, this might be the best Marvel film made yet (touching out Captain America: First Avenger and X-Men: First Class). You’ve heard about the assembly of Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), or at least, you’ve seen the trailer. But you may not have heard that the movie is packed with deeper subjects than eye-popping stunts and epic battles, even though there are plenty of those, too!
I’m going to go straight to the points that came to me as I watched. Spoilers should be expected!
1 - The unnamed Holocaust survivor who stands up to Loki in Germany was a “wow, they just went there” moment. Sure, X-Men: First Class can show how Magneto became like the people he hated, but here, a man stands and says he won’t bow to Loki, because he’s seen this before. Then Cap shows up, and people start to be inspired (watch it again, and see how the crowd starts to rise). I was reminded of Daniel and his three friends, who refused to bow to the king’s idol in the biblical book of Daniel; it’s an epic reminder that we are called to stand up to injustice, and that we are called to bow to no man.
2 - Agent Coulson’s death is epic. He dies doing his job, but he dies in a way that inspires the ego-loaded heroes to put aside their jockeying for “bigger” and work together. He proves that he’s willing to sacrifice it all to stop evil… or die trying. Coulson proves to be a Christ figure who inspires others to be like Christ (”greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends”). One of the things the movie highlighted over and over was the power of inspiration.
3 - None of these superheroes want to work together. They have their own gifts and talents, and egos. But they are not nearly as powerful alone as they are together. I’m reminded of the way that we are all ego-laden, broken, troubled, and gifted on our own, but when we experience church in a real and powerful way, God uses our brokenness to make something better. The “Body of Christ” metaphor certainly came into play.
4 - Cap and Iron Man argue about leadership, and Cap challenges Iron Man/Stark to be the kind of person who would lay down on the wire (set off the grenade) to save someone else. Stark quips back, “I’d just cut the wire,” but in the end, he proves to have heroic qualities that are not at all self-serving, and saves the day. It’s the epitome of what the team of Avengers will become at its best, and it allows us to see a depth of character and growth within their first partnership within community.
The movie is a pile of fun, but it’s not just fluff here. Joss Whedon certainly had some points to make, and this proved to be just as dynamic, if not more than anything that came before in the Marvel universe. “With great power comes great responsibility?” Move over!