Life with Liz: The Avengers
We saw “Avengers: Endgame” last weekend. As did about 90% of the rest of the planet.
Just in case you’re in that small minority, I’m going to try not to give away too much of the movie. I can’t claim to be some longtime comic book aficionado or anything, but I’ve loved these movies since Iron Man first came on the scene back in 2008.
Before that, I could pick the big guys out of a lineup: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk. I had grown up watching the Justice League cartoons. But Iron Man? I really couldn’t say what his deal was. The real draw for me was Robert Downey Jr. Part of the iconic ’80s “Brat Pack” that I had grown up swooning over, only to crash and burn from his drug-fueled lifestyle, and end up in jail, I was curious to see if he could attain any of his former glory.
Iron Man’s journey and redemption wasn’t just about the big guy in the red and gold suit, it was also about RDJ’s own comeback. It was also a celebration of both brains and brawn, and it was about peeling back the Clark Kent glasses and Batman’s mask. When Tony Stark announces to the world that he is Iron Man, it signaled a new kind of hero: one who didn’t have to hide behind a mask anymore. The world also watched as Downey Jr. came roaring back, successfully beating his addictions and overcoming what could have been a typical Hollywood tragedy.
At the time, I was dealing with a 2-year-old who was undergoing his third open heart surgery and a 6-month-old infant who had had his own rough start. The idea that a genius could build his own heart-saving device in a cave in the middle of a desert was a miracle that I could get behind, even if it was fiction.
Tony Stark wasn’t your typical hero, either. His arrogance was as infuriating as it was endearing. He wasn’t quite the anti-hero that say, Dead Pool is, but he certainly wasn’t Steve Rodgers, either. Although good, old Captain America eventually appeared in the Marvel Universe, the hero that we sometimes didn’t like very much was already number one.
Both A and G grew up on the Marvel movies. For about two years straight, we were pretty sure that G thought he actually was Spider-Man. He was Spider-Man for Halloween several years running, and from his lunch box to his Crocs to every single toy imaginable, it was all Spider-Man, all the time.
Although I could have done with a lot less jumping off beds and trying to climb walls, there’s a lot to be said for wanting to grow up to be Spider-Man, or any of the other heroes. I think one of the best lessons that can be learned from the Avengers is that they are rarely successful on their own. They are all better when they’re with their team and helping each other, or when Pepper or Shuri or the Agents of Shield have their backs. There is also much to be said for accepting each other no matter what quirks or skills a character has.
I think the Avengers can set up one of the most accurate personality tests out there. Many times, when I meet a new person, I just want to ask them, “are you Team Tony or Team Cap?” If someone doesn’t understand the question, we’re probably not going to be the best of friends. Across the cast of characters, there really is a hero for everyone.
From the big green guy with anger management issues to the broody Black Widow who used to be an agent from the other side, the Avengers are far from perfect people or heroes. Peter Parker may be Spider-Man part of the time, but the rest of the time, he’s still a struggling high school kid whose social life is anything but easy. I find it interesting that he’s one of the few heroes to still try to hide his identity. T’Challa and Thor are both supposed to be the leaders of their people, but both are called to be leaders in bigger ways and have to challenge the expectations that their societies have for them.
Although it’s easy to get caught up in the mythology and the deeper meaning of all our heroes and their stories; on the surface, the Marvel movies are just good storytelling. Although it really helps to understand the big picture, each one of them is entirely enjoyable on its own. E enjoys the movies as much as her brothers, although she is partial to Captain Marvel these days. The Wonderful Husband and I are both just as eager to see the movies as the kids are. They have set a pretty high bar for what movies should bring to the table: a good story, outstanding visual effects, and characters that get carried to the playground and the dinner table for a long time after they’ve left the big screen. Not that they’re in any danger of being over soon, as more adventures and prequels are on the horizon.
Two other things about the Marvel movies make me a proud patron. First of all, I love the way that the producers found to keep people in their seats through the credits. Even though you can’t possibly read every name that scrolls by, you get an idea of just how many people are involved and how many people we owe our appreciation to for telling these amazing stories. The second thing I’ve noticed is that when the actors appear on talk shows or anywhere with each other, they all seem to appreciate just how awesome it is to be a part of the Marvel Universe and they take their responsibilities as superhero stand-ins seriously. I’ve seen plenty of Facebook and Instagram of the actors dropping in to character when a child approaches them. Magic can be tough to come by these days, but I get the feeling that these overpaid Hollywood stars aren’t too far above the giddiness they inspire.
The Marvel movies are everything: action movies, coming of age sagas, love stories, fantastical journeys through time and space, comedies, dramas, all expertly woven together. If my kids have picked up a little bit of Captain America’s nobility, a little bit of Tony Stark’s ingenuity (and maybe a dash of his snark), if they can treat their siblings like T’Challa and Shuri manage to, well, then I think it may be 50 some hours of movie watching hasn’t quite been wasted.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.