Pronounced smoulders

A Major impression in A minor role

Published: Apr 03 2014, 01:01:am

Friday, June 22, 2012
THE AVENGERS. Music by Alan Silvestri. Written and directed by Joss Whedon. Running time: 143 minutes.
WHY DO I NOT love The Avengers?
    As of June 21 [2012], the Internet Movie Database offered links to 496 external reviews  (and listed 1,051 user reviews) of director Joss Whedon’s contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Based on 273 reviews, the aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 93 per cent.
    To quote Stephen Colbert, the market has spoken.
    Knowing full well that the last thing the world needs is another review of the third highest-grossing film in Hollywood history, I had serious apprehensions going in. After 143 minutes of 3D “thrills,” I was in the same state of mind as comedian Mort Sahl, whose famously terse review of the 1959 biblical epic Ben-Hur was "Loved him, hated Hur."
     My personal admiration for writer-director Joss Whedon is well known. Less so, perhaps, is my loathing for the so-called "Marvel universe." That one of the greatest hopes for intelligent, relevant narrative fiction in the 21st century should waste his time and talent on dated drivel from the least interesting 20th century comic-book factory is just crazy-making.    
    A tale of sibling rivalry, alien invasion, covert government operations, corporate excess and a mutant with mood swings, The Avengers brings together The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow  and Hawkeye, all under the aegis of Nick Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D., to save the world.
     An able script doctor, Whedon leavens this overwrought load of nonsense with enough humour to make it bearable, if not actually interesting.
    After seeing his debut feature Serenity again — at June’s CSTS Vancouver event — there really is no doubt which is the better movie. While I rejoice that Whedon finally has achieved major mainstream recognition, I despair that it comes for work that can best be described as manufacturing moneybags from pork parts.
    I know this will be a matter of disagreement among members of VCON’s annual Whedonverse panel when we gather this year [October 2012]. A matter not in question, though, is the positive contribution of some B.C. scenery to The Avengers: Vancouver-born Cobie Smulders in the role of Nick Fury’s No. 2, Maria Hill.
    Smulders — pronounced "smoulders" by Ms S. herself — honed her craft in the Lower Mainland's eclectic television industry. With appearances in Special Unit 2, Jeremiah, Tru Calling, Veritas: The Quest, Smallville, The L Word and Andromeda to her credit, she relocated to Los Angeles. There, she has a continuing role in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, starring opposite Whedon alumni Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris.
    There is even something of a VCON connection. According to the IMDb, she made her screen debut in a 2002 Crazy8s short film, Candy from Strangers, written by Adria Budd (a guest and panelist at VCON 24) and directed by Eric Johnson (television’s Flash Gordon and a guest at VCON 32).
    In The Avengers, the black-clad Smulders makes a major impression in a minor role. The report that she’s under contract for seven more Marvel features suggests her visibility will increase.
    Also reported is that the athletic Smulders was Whedon’s choice for Wonder Woman before he abandoned that feature project. We can only hope that his current Hollywood success will give him the power at last to bring his take on this ultimate strong-woman story to the screen.

The above is a restored version of a VCON 37 website review by Michael Walsh originally posted in 2012. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Unique among Vancouver-born performers, Cobie Smulders found fame in the U.S. playing a Vancouver-born performer. Robin Scherbatsky, Smulder's character in 280 episodes of the nine-season CBS-TV comedy series How I Met Your Mother (2005-14), was the show's Canadian content. Identified throughout as a native Vancouverite, her backstory included popularity as teen singer Robin Sparkles, famous for her hit single "Let's Go to the Mall." Her move into feature films came complete with a measure of job security. Despite her supporting role status in The Avengers, playing the Maria Hill character is now reported to be a nine-picture commitment. So far, she has appeared in the pilot episode of Joss Whedon's TV series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the new Captain America: The Winter Soldier feature. She'll next be seen in the 2015 Whedon feature Avengers: Age of Ultron. Incidentally, Smulders strengthened her claim to the Wonder Woman role by voicing the character in the recent animated feature, The Lego Movie (2014).