The new Avengers
I saw the Avengers last night and I think it was a new look at a hero movie. It wasn’t all about how bad the villain was and the need for the Hero to face his fear. The villain was fascinating to look at, moved with a creepy placoid scale articulation but didn’t pose a threat much greater than a mosquito to our heroes. The problem was there were so many of them and they just keep coming. But every arrow, every tactic to kill one, worked perfectly.
The real question of the movie was what does it mean to be a hero? And what does it mean to be a leader? It was an exploration of the essential nature of the archetypes of The Hero and The Lover King. And then it did an interesting thing. The movie connected itself to our real lives in many subtle references making us think about how our Hero nature and our Lover King nature plays out in our real lives.
Let’s look at these three aspects one at a time. The Avengers takes a collection of super heroes and shows you the various incarnations of being a hero. Is heroism fueled by your blind rage which causes you to completely ignore fear and really assert you will against the will of others (The Hulk). If you can harness it you can give shape to your world – make things happen. Is that being a hero?
Iron Man has tons of resources and smarts which he can use to change the world, which he will do as long as it makes him look good to the girl or entertains him. Is doing the right thing for self aggrandizement being heroic?
Captain America would argue it is not. To him being a hero is to attach to the power of knowing you would lay your life down in the service of others because it is the right thing to do as a man. In the end this is what Iron Man does, so the message of the movie is that a true hero is one who is willing to self-sacrifice for the good of others. And then they make these super heroes do everyday things like crack jokes and plan to go out for dinner. Is this a message that we, the ordinary people, are able to be heroic, just like the agent who collected baseball cards and the old man who refused to bow down to a bad leader.
Next let’s look at what it says about being a Lover King. The Hero is told what his people need from him and does it. The Lover King assumes the responsibility of knowing how to lead his people to safety and prosperity. Here we have a panel of Leaders who fire a missile on New York, the heart of art and culture in America. They approach leadership from a mechanistic standpoint coldly determining that containment is their priority. They favour the development of weapons of mass destruction (the mechanical option) or the collective ability of people with super Human qualities. This is the real villain of the story. Bad leadership over good leadership. There is a profound message in this movie and even more so in the prequel, Thor, that being a king is not about having people bow before you. It is stepping up to the responsibility of providing good people with your protection, your promise to provide for them, and your pledge to preserve what is good with all your power. In so doing you become a better man.
Lastly, there are numerous references to previous movies and comic strips (Thor and The Wizard of Oz), references to 911 (images of police with a backdrop of flames and crumbling buildings, planes or flying creatures crashing into buildings, chaos in the streets of New York as the world as we know it comes to an end, a cell phone call to a loved one while your death is imminent) and several human universals like people care about each other, people joke, people eat, people are jealous of each other. All of this links the viewer of the movie from what’s going on in the story to what is going on in their real lives. Is there an intentional message here to have us all think about being a hero or being a good leader in our everyday live?