Critical (superhero) mass

The Avengers

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston; directed by Joss Wheden


Open on a cluttered conference room of a newspaper where the staff is discussing the stories and layout for the next edition.

Ed E. Tore: ...ok, that’s page one. Dee, what are we looking at for the editorial page?

Dee Bate: Well, um, we have an op-ed from some crank who goes on a rant about our arts section — principally the film columnist... he says he’s snarky and facile and hates everything and would like to see...

Dee is interrupted by another member of the staff who has been on his cellphone during the meeting embroiled in an intense conversation; he wears an eye-patch and is named Jackson Samuel.

Jackson Samuel (J.S.): Oh no! Sorry to interrupt, but I have just been informed about the toxic release of an earth-shattering new film. It’s called The Avengers and we need to get someone on it pronto! We must warn our readers!

Ed: Dear God! People, this is the moment we have all been dreading!

J.S.: Sir, I recommend that we initiate code-name “Critical Mass.”

Ed: What?! Are you sure it’s ready? I mean, will our readers be prepared for the onslaught?

J.S.: I don’t see that we have a choice. Confound it, man! This is about saving people’s time and mental health — not to mention their opportunity for physical fitness.

Ed: But this is too monumental a decision... I, I need to consult with others… check the AP wire, surf the web, open Rotten Tomatoes, we can’t do this alone!

J.S.: We don’t have the time for that! Now, we have been alerted, and I have repeatedly warned everyone that we could face this day. We must issue the “go” code... get the pens and keyboards in motion...

Ed: Alright! Alright… let’s just hope and pray this doesn’t backfire on us. And may God have mercy on our souls.

Switch to a dingy, secret storage basement with piles of old newspapers and cubicles containing old computers; J.S. enters the room with two other technicians and orders them to a glass case along the wall. They flick on a switch and a light flickers illuminating the case showing a figure lying within. An engine whines to life and electrical sparks and snaps ring out. Then the case opens with a loud hiss as steam is released. Sitting up is none other than... Critic Man! Defender of the Moviegoer, vanquisher of the vapid! He sits up and looks around at J.S. and the two assistants.

Critic Man: (Cough, gasp) Jackson Samuel? Why have I been taken out of stasis?

J.S: Critic Man, the worst has happened. We have a code “Critical Mass.”

Critic Man: My stars! What’s the situation? Have you assembled the rest of the team? (Critic Man grunts and groans as he clumsily lifts himself from the case)

J.S: No, you’re the first.

Critic Man: (Panting) Then we have no time to waste.

J.S. and Critic Man proceed to thaw the rest of the team, which consists of a collection of film critics, each with their own special superpowers of observation, and assembles them is a screening room. They watch the film The Avengers and are escorted to a command center to assess the situation and plan their attack.

Critic Man: Ok, the clock is ticking... everyone, we need to discuss our impressions and get this to Ed with dispatch. What do you all think?

The Avengers
© 2012 Marvel LLC

X-Ray Critic Man: (Still wearing his 3D glasses) I could see, with my special 3D vision, that this film literally popped off the screen! There’s shrapnel, bodies, aliens, chunks of buildings all flying at us at an alarming speed as the superheroes battled space aliens. It made me duck for cover!

Critic Man: Um, you know you were supposed to deposit those glasses in the bin so that they could be recycled? What’s the matter with you?!

X-Ray Critic Man: But I want to reuse them! You don’t think this is the last 3D film we are ever going to see, do you? Get with the times!

Critic Man: Fine, wear ‘em out here in the real 3D world…what, you think you will now be able to see 6 dimensions? Oy! Moving on, what about you, Comicbook Critic Man?

Comicbook Critic Man: Yeah, right. (Making quotation marks gesture) A live action comic book. Groovy. This movie was about comic book superheroes coming together to battle evil foes from another dimension. Isn’t this supposed to be animated? I mean, these characters are from comic books!

Critic Man: Oh lord, are you going to be all about medium purity?

Comicbook Critic Man: Hell yeah! And how come the villain is only from the Thor comic book realm? Why not some nemesis from Iron Man’s world, or the Hulk’s? I mean, who made Thor the big cheese…?! And all they do is bicker and argue like a bunch of married couples at a therapy retreat — all while the evil forces have plenty of time to gather strength and legions. So now, instead of bad guys doing monologues, we get the good guys doing it. I wanted to take a blast ray to the screen! And what about that…

Critic Man: Right. Moving on…F/X Critic Man, your assessment please?

F/X Critic Man: So, like the special effects were cool and all with thunderous battles between superheroes on a huge flying aircraft carrier and with giant mechanical aliens flying over Manhattan scraping buildings. But, so much of it was so flash-edited that it was hard to follow at times. And all those other aliens flying around on air-jet skis…they were just videogame blips to be taken out. I could go on, but you’ve seen and heard it all before.

Critic Man: Thanks. (Sarcastically) That was insightful.

F/X Critic Man: What, you think you could be more enlightening? It’s just a bunch of pyrotechnics and bombast! I’d like to see you make more out of that.

Critic Man: Never mind. Let’s get to the plot. How about you, Plot Hole Critic Man? …uh, Plot Hole Critic Man?! Wake up!

Plot Hole Critic Man: (Snort) Uh, what?

Critic Man: So sorry to disturb you, but we were wondering, if it’s not too much trouble, if you could direct your herculean powers of examination toward the film we just witnessed?

Plot Hole Critic Man: Yeah, I suppose. But does it really matter? I mean don’t people go to a film like this film for the eye candy, not the storyboarding?

Critic Man: Well, duh. But regale us nonetheless, please.

Plot Hole Critic Man: Sure. For the team. Ok, so there’s way too much to go into, but let me focus on the ending battle in Manhattan. So there’s this glowing powder-blue cube that’s some sort of power source that came from some other dimension or some other part of space, or whatever, and this evil guy Loki from the same dimension or sector of space far, far away… a place, by the way, where they exist in space without an atmosphere, or food, or other things that would make life possible so that they…

Critic Man: Oh get on with it! We have people to save!

Plot Hole Critic Man: No need to get all snippy. I’m getting to it. Anyway, this glowing blue cube also opens a hole in space so that the evildoers of Loki’s realm can enter our world and create havoc, or so that Loki can rule over us, or something…ha, he says something like he wants to free us from our freedom… I know, moving on. So, once this hole is opened, these aliens come zooming in by the thousands, and yet we only have Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, some character named Black Widow and some guy named Hawkeye to stop them. So, the humans, who run things behind the scenes like some form of shadow government, fear that these invincible superheroes can’t get the job done and so send a nuclear bomb to blow up New York City. Can you believe that?! Blow up Broadway and Woody’s movie backdrop? Yeah, neither could I. Anyway, I guess the nuclear bomb was needed so that it could be diverted by Iron Man through the dimensional hole to blast the ship carrying the alien invasion force. Oh, and when it does, somehow all of the aliens who made it through the hole already end up losing power and dying… oh, and then they close the hole by some other means…which make you wonder why they didn’t close the hole anyway…and then there’s the whole mystery why Loki is a superhero but can be taken out by the Hulk smashing him around…and then there’s the whole scene where Iron Man is trying to restart a gigantic jet engine propeller and having Captain America pull on some lever to slow it down and how Iron Man would know that the wires of the lever have not been severed due to some previous explosion and then there’s…

Critic Man: Ok, enough! We get the idea!

Plot Hole Critic Man: Well you wanted me to…

Critic Man: Jackson Samuel, we have given this our best shot. Throw it at Ed E. Tore and have him run it fast!

After Ed E. Tore prints the comments, the film still breaks box office records. We see the critical superhero team still in the conference room eating popcorn and Raisinets when Jackson Samuel and Ed E. Tore burst in throwing a newspaper with the headline “Avengers avenging box office records!”

J.S.: Oh… my… god! This film… it… it’s impervious to our critical powers! It’s unstoppable! Everyone, head for the art house theater!

Ed: But how will that help us?!

J.S.: It’s the only way we can vanquish The Avengers and defeat its progeny… by buying thousands and thousands of tickets for some stuffy, pretentious, chatty, costumed, documentary about doilies and how people use them for political mischief!
Critic Man: Right, to the transit stop!

Doug Young, aka Critic Man, is our award-winning film reviewer. He leaves shortly for the Cannes Film Festival where he will scope out the latest gems for us.