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Avenging Adventure

Crowds and the film’s length challenge the drama of "Avengers."

Usually I wait until later in the review to mention the overall time at the movies, but this week extenuating circumstances and a huge crowd of fans did affect our experience (I went with my three kids). But don’t worry, we still enjoyed it.

Heading out to the Louis Joliet Cinemark was an adventure. A carnival in the mall parking lot snarled up traffic, and opening night of this spring’s blockbuster The Avengers meant a longer line than usual to get into the theater.

Even though I ordered tickets online a day in advance, we still had to queue up behind four generations of moviegoers, which was cool. The last time I saw this many people at the theater was for , but far and away the crowd at that one was around age 16 (despite its R rating). So kudos to the filmmakers for attracting people from age 6 (my sons) to 60.

I also experienced a taste of reverse mortality this week: The high school kids going to see The Avengers sported more facial hair than I could ever grow.

The crowd also meant that it was a challenge to find four consecutive seats, so we plopped down in the front row. The kids didn’t mind: “It felt like I was in the movie,” Axel said afterward.

Overall, The Avengers was mostly enjoyable, but at 2 hours and 22 odd minutes, it’s far too long to receive the critical kudos it has thus far. Filmmakers, this is a comic book movie, not a World War II documentary. Pay an editor to shave an hour off here. The picture’s length seriously detracted from its enjoyability, and judging by the comings and goings of my fellow moviegoers, their bladders conked out at about the hour and a half mark.

Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson here, playing the same, tired role he always does: the preachy, unsmiling, and overly serious authority figure wearing a long leather coat, this time with an eye patch too) assembles The Avengers (a coalition of comic book heroes including The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, the Black Widow, Thor and Hawkeye) to combat a team of malevolent aliens that has made off with a Holy Grail-type object that they nabbed from the free world.

An epic battle ensues, one with unnecessarily jingoistic overtones in this age of one superpower. The filmmakers here shamelessly exploit the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City as well. Why not set this one somewhere else, with the ensuing fire-and-explosions finale? It would work just as well in Washington, D.C., or even Omaha. There’s no need to conjure up unpleasant terrorism flashbacks. As we’ve seen with the backlash over the promos for Mad Men, a raw nerve still throbs on the Hudson, so why go there (as an aside, where’s the sensibility backlash over this one?)?

Likewise, haven’t we had our fun with Russian bad guys? The cold war’s been over for 25 years, we don’t need heavies with thick Moscow accents channeling Leonid Brezhnev.

There are fun moments here. Robert Downey Jr.  (a great, great talent in whichever movie he appears) as Iron Man sports a Black Sabbath T-shirt throughout the entire picture, which is a great nod for rock snobs everywhere. However, where’s the killer soundtrack here? No music is played over the action here to speak of, except for an AC/DC song halfway through (which had my kids briefly headbanging).

Likewise, director Joss Whedon spins a Kubrickian ending here — you’ll get snippets of 2001 and Dr. Strangelove in the last 10 minutes.

Overall, I don’t think The Avengers is as good a movie as or . You won’t have to fight the crowds to see these other flicks, currently still in theaters.

I’m going to let my 9-year-old daughter Klara do some reviewing here as well:

"The Avengers was about some Avengers trying to save the world. The people they were battling struck a city. They did lots of damage and killed quite a few people."

More from the kids:

“I think it’s related to the movie Captain America” — Klara’s observation (she watched this one earlier in the week)

“Awesome!” — Axel’s observation (he’s 6).

“It’s so funny!” — Tait’s observation (he’s 6).

Klara’s favorite superhero: Captain America

Tait’s favorite superhero: The Hulk

Axel’s favorite superhero: The Hulk

Klara’s quotable moments:

“Please tell me no one kissed me” — Iron Man

“Hulk Smash!” — The Hulk

Dave’s quotable moments:

“Freedom is life’s great lie” — Loki (the villain, played by Tom Hiddleston)

“War is won by soldiers” — Nick Fury

“The world has gotten stranger than you already know” — Nick Fury

Obligatory Who reference

I really wasn’t searching for anything reminiscent of the World’s Greatest Band here, but when the Hulk destroys Loki at the end of this one, his moves unmistakably resemble Peter Townshend destroying a Gibson Les Paul circa 1975.

Other observations at the moviehouse

My son Axel and I went to Wrigley Field on Sunday afternoon. Despite a rainout, we spent as much money as the four of us did at the moviehouse earlier in the weekend. And that was after our tickets were given to us by our neighbors (thanks, Chris and Eileen!). So movies, no matter the quality, are still a better deal than a horrible baseball team.

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