Year Released: 2012
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo ,Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston
(PG-13, 142 min.)
"We're not a team. We're a time-bomb!" Dr. Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk
The mega-opening of Marvel’s The Avengers blasts down on us like an early heat wave, ushering in summer hyper thrills even if the calendar disagrees. And what a package of men in tights, spangles, “their mother’s drapes” and retro Black Sabbath t-shirts they are, even if more than half of their energies and egos are directed at their own dysfunctional family of superheroes instead of the emerald robed Loki intent on taking over the world.
In fact, the in-fighting is almost as bad as some childhood Thanksgiving dinners with my extended Italian family, marinated in petty disputes, peppered with long standing piques, and gravied over with seething sibling rivalry. Indeed, there’s been no bigger gathering of prima donnas since Zeus first gaveled in the Council at Olympus.
But, heck, that’s half the fun. For the most part, Tony Stark, (Robert Downey Jr.) the perpetual boy/man, a little too domesticated and PC this time for my tastes, nevertheless gets the best laughs, mostly at the expense of his fellow Avengers. But at first he starts with a little self-deprecating humor, resisting Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson's) call to arms to save the earth from – what else –ultimate annihilation: “I thought I didn't qualify. I was considered, what was it... volatile, self-centered, and I don't play well with others.”
And of course, Tony immediately goes on to prove just that as soon he becomes one of Fury’s elites.
First he picks a fight with Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Who but Tony Stark would think nothing of messing with a demi-god? His barbs run the gamut, from variations of “Yo’ Momma” jokes:
Thor: You have no idea who you are dealing with!
Tony Stark: Shakespeare in the park?
[Looks around for a moment, then resumes]
Tony Stark: Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?
to semi esoteric references to cult surfer films:
Tony Stark: [to Thor] No hard feelings Point Break, you've got a mean swing.
Relatively speaking, Tony’s greeting to Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka The Hulk, is almost tender:
Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I'm a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.
But it’s Captain America, coming off a little too brittle and self-righteous in this film for my tastes, at least, who rubs the Iron Man the wrong way. Maybe it’s a form of sibling rivalry, too, given Stark senior’s early fascination with the sleeping Captain America ever since finding his frozen form and the cosmic cube of Tesseract nestled with him under the icy sea. Could that be why Tony refers to Captain America as the “Capsicle,” and taunts him as if he’s the embodiment of a tired blond joke.
You’re a lab rat, Rogers! Everything that you are came out of a bottle.
Certainly, Captain A feels the same animosity, and given his seventy year nap, the animosity is almost generational, Captain America’s earnest sincerity nurtured in World War II, with Stark being the embodiment of today’s cynical snark. Even the Captain’s best rebuttal:
Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?
ends up being the perfect setup for a Tony takedown, masterful in its focused brevity and truth.
“Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist…” punctuated with just the right pause to indicate that he could go on and on like this, with a rapier wit approaching that of the legendary Cyrano de Bergerac. He also quite accurately analyzes the Avengers as though he has already sat through a few dozen group therapy sessions with them, cataloguing the group to Loki.
But let's do a head count here: your brother the demi-god; a super soldier, a living legend who kind of lives up to the legend; a man with breath-taking anger management issues; and a couple of master assassins…
The physical humor is perfectly timed as well, quite a bit of it emanating from Dr. Banner and his Hulk second self. Following Captain’s America’s order, “Hulk, smash,” the great green giant does exactly that against Loki’s army of invaders, but he hasn’t forgotten the walloping Thor has handed him earlier. Landing on hard ground next to the Nordic blond beast, the Hulk sends a lateral side punch to Thor, almost as an afterthought. That and the way he beats the arrogant Loki just like a rag doll, interrupting the other’s indignant speech: "I’m not about to be bullied…” with a ferocious example of just that set up a train of laughter in Emmett, grandchild junior critic, that could not be quelled.
And yet there is enough depth and wit buried in the action thrills to keep adults from feeling too guilty about spending a Saturday afternoon watching giant green monsters “smash” and men in tights nitpick with their robotic clothed cohorts. I’m not the first critic to see Loki (Tom Hiddleston) cut from Shakespearean cloth, and that’s not solely due to his enviable green robes and classic presence. He has a way with words, as well. Pithy when he needs to be, as when he rebuffs Nick Fury’s inevitable opening, “We have no quarrel with your people….” as the tired cliché that it is.
“An ant has no quarrel with a boot.” And Loki’s obsession with getting back at a perceived slight rivals Iago’s hunger to destroy Othello, while his ambition combines Lady Mcbeth’s ruthlessness with her husband’s ultimate brutality. Our Shakespearean Loki even waxes philosophical as he seeks to impose his will on the humans he now intends to rule:
Kneel before me. Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It's the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled? In the end, you will always kneel.
His epic self introduction, “I am Loki of Asgard. And I am burdened with a glorious purpose,” reminds us of certain prominent politicians in its level of self regard, perhaps another reason to ditch the dull and dreary real world that confronts us daily and sneak in a few hours of this alternate reality where the good guys do manage to chase off these vain pretenders every time.
—Kathy & The Peanut Gallery
With the exception of the blueberries Tony munches on, there are literally no scenes of eating in The Avengers. But I guess when you are enlisted to save the world (again), one must make certain sacrifices.
Only when the world is safely tucked in again for the night does Tony, of course, suggest taking the next day or two off and going out for a bit to eat. His suggestion – “I know a great little Shawarma place down the street…” -- has probably thrown a few people for a loop, including Different Drummer herself, I readily admit.
But not for long. I have quickly come up with a great and fairly simple recipe for this “Middle Eastern Taco,” something to which this Texas girl can relate.
Those of you enamored with Tony’s blueberries, or even the power of that electric blue cosmic cube, Tesseract, may want to try a few of these lively drinks. You can see I’m just a little partial to blue cocktails.
Shawarma is popular throughout the eastern Mediterranean and is sometimes called the Middle Eastern taco. It originated in northwestern Turkey as döner kebab. But it reached its current form and popularity with the Turkish population in Germany. The sandwich is now found in a variety of forms around the world.
- Lean lamb or beef, or boneless, skinless chicken, sliced very thinly -- 2 pounds
- Garlic, minced -- 3-4 cloves
- Salt -- 2 teaspoons
- Pepper -- 1 teaspoon
- Ground allspice -- 1 teaspoon
- Ground cardamom -- 1 teaspoon
- Ground cloves -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Ground nutmeg -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Yogurt -- 1 cup
- Vinegar or lemon juice -- 1/4 cup
Mix all the ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and set aside to marinate for anywhere from 1 hour to overnight. Drain and discard any excess marinade.
To Broil: Heat an oven broiler to high. Spread the meat evenly in a single layer on an ovenproof pan. Set 4-6 inches under the broiler flame and broil until cooked through, 5-8 minutes. Stir halfway through to cook evenly.
To Grill: Heat coals or set gas to high heat. Spread the meat in a grill basket and grill until cooked through, 5-8 minutes, turning occasionally.
Serve inside folded pita bread with your choice of garnishes (see variations).
Condiments and Garnishes: Shawarma is commonly served with tahini (taratour) sauce, yogurt sauce or garlic mayonnaise. Other garnishes include chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, shredded lettuce, sliced red onion, pickles, mango pickle, hummus or even French fries.
Gyros (Greece): Serve with tzatziki sauce.
Döner Kebab (Turkey): Serve with cacik sauce (see tzatziki variations).
Lavash bread can be used instead of pita. Roll all of the ingredients up in a piece of lavash like a burrito to make a Middle Eastern wrap.
Shawarma is sometimes made with a mixture of meats. There is even turkey shawarma. Goat meat shawarma is popular in Saudi Arabia.
Vary the number and amount of spices to your own taste. Some recipes call for cinnamon to be added to the mix.
Shawarma meat is typically shaved off a large rotating cone of layered meat. The meat is roasted with radiant gas or electric heat. Pieces of meat are sliced off and served in a folded pita with garnishes and condiments.
The word shawarma is an approximation of the Turkish word for "turning." Sometimes spelled shwarma. Known as guss in Iraq.
Recipe Source: whats4eats.com