The Avengers is a film of shattering emotional impact that will make you rethink the way you view the world and keep you pondering and discussing its insights for days. Oh, all right, I’m joking. But after the first kind of boring ten minutes or so, it was plenty of fun. Best part: the bickering among superheroes with egos as big as their musk-els, culminating in a hilariously random bit of physical business between the Hulk and Thor.
But just because the picture is dopey fun doesn’t mean it’s dopey altogether. In fact, it’s one of the most purposely pro-American, pro-liberty and pro-market films to have come down the pike in years. The villain Loki has come to Earth to enslave humanity, and goes about telling people that slavery is natural and that they will live more happily on their knees. In a clear reversal of the famous paraphrase of Galatians (A book of the Bible. A special Book. Where Jesus lives.), he tells them they will be “freed from freedom.”
When Loki launches an attack on Stuttgart, Germany, the comparison to Hitler is made obvious. “The last time I was in Germany and saw a man standing above everybody else, we ended up disagreeing,” says Captain America, the reawakened throwback to American ideals of the forties. When a female officer tells Captain A that Thor and Loki are gods, he responds, “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”
But Captain America needs some help from Iron Man, the delightfully cynical and ironic representative of free market capitalism. Iron Man is selfish and egotistical but also brilliant and ultimately good-hearted. The tension between him (the free market) and the Captain (American ideals) and the resolution of that tension in self-sacrifice and heroism are the emotional heart of the picture and constitute whatever message it has.
Add to that the fact that the representatives of government are idiots and their decisions have to be countermanded at every turn and, yeah, it’s good liberty-loving stuff. And of course, it ends with the earth being destroyed, all the super heroes being wiped out, and no possibility of a sequel ever. Right, right: joking.
Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture