Monday, May 21, 2012

Ajisen and The Avengers

courtesy of bigmek
from Flickr
Monday May 21, 1:11 p.m.

Another great day out there. Very summery, and unlike back in Tokyo, I'm not sweating my vital liquids out.

Yesterday, I met up with The Anime King for ramen at Ajisen up in North York. I had the tonkotsu BBQ Pork. Very tasty and reasonable at $7.99. It's not authentic Japanese ramen but I like to consider Ajisen's cuisine as neo-ramen. In a way Ajisen ramen is to Japanese ramen as the California Roll is to the usual sushi back in Japan. Purists will probably want to konk me over the head with a soup ladle.

courtesy of M & R Movies Productions
from Flickr
Afterwards, The Anime Jester joined us at the nearby Empress Walk movie theatres which just had an IMAX system installed just three weeks ago....just in time for the big hit of the summer so far, "The Avengers". It's really convenient for people like The King and myself since otherwise it would've meant a 40-minute drive out to the wilds of Mississauga for the closest IMAX experience. Instead, it was just a bus-and-subway ride for me.

When the idea first came out for "The Avengers"several years ago, quite a few of us had some major skepticism. After all, superhero movies were still rather hit & miss affairs. And the other previous superhero group franchise, "The X-Men" didn't exactly wow cinemagoers or critics (although the second movie did right by most people). Plus, the Marvel hero flicks leading up to "The Avengers"were rather limp. "Iron Man 2" was a disappointment as was the second movie for "The Hulk", and "Thor"just seemed like a prelude to something bigger. "Captain America"seemed to be the only movie immediately before the big project to come out smelling somewhat of roses.

So, it was with some surprise that the year's first big summer blockbuster hit a grand slam with everyone. Even James Cameron may be looking a bit nervous right now. The three of us caught it last night some 3 weeks after its debut, but there was a sizable enough audience to laugh with, and not at, the characters. Joss Whedon has somehow pulled off a miracle interweaving these heroes from rather meh movies and creating a fast, furious and fun flick. Considering the celeb-laden script, everyone, from Robert Downey Jr. to Samuel L. Jackson, got his or her day in the sun. Downey got the lion's share of the best lines although that was not ego-negotiated actor talking; it was simply that Tony Stark is the wiseass character of the team (and Downey owns the character now...I just see the comics version of Stark as being incomplete without the jokes), and not the others.

I'm not sure if Shakespeare had included the superhero team plot in his theory that there can only ever be 7 plots in human storytelling, but "The Avengers" follows the usual line of disparate characters being assembled to battle a huge foe, with the characters initially not getting along until they get their faces rubbed into it which is when they smarten and toughen up just in time to vanquish said foe. But on this plot skeleton is draped some solid character writing, a mix of personal agendas, zippy effects, and some cheer-inducing one big scene of pathos in the middle.

"The Avengers 2" is a lock which means that the expectations will be super-high. But in the meantime, everyone connected with the movie can just bask in the glow for the rest of the year.