May 4th was Avengers day here in the states, and I actually managed to see the film three times in the first 24 hours of its release. My entire day had nothing to do with anything other than seeing The Avengers, getting out of the movie, meeting up with friends that haven’t seen it yet, and then going to see it again. It was glorious. Anyway, needless to say, I’m going to be discussing certain plot points from the film, so SPOILER ALERT for the rest of the column.
Let me get started by saying that I loved the movie. Usually by the third time I see something I start to hate it, or at least start to get a bit burnt out on it, but this flick had me grinning in my seat right until the very end of my third screening. I really didn’t think they’d be able to pull off a comic book movie this ambitious, but not only did they manage to pull it off, they surpassed all my expectations. This movie is a complete anomaly in that regardless of how many brightly colored costumes and absurdly goofy concepts are flying at you on screen, the script, dialogue and performances for the most part never seemed to suffer. Not only did they not suffer, but a few characters that hadn’t worked as well before, such as Black Widow and even the Hulk, were freaking superstars in this film.
It is not enough to say that this film is a good comic book adaptation that does justice to the source material, or that it dishes out oodles of fan service while still providing a superior summer popcorn movie experience. It definitely does all these things, but its reasons for success go beyond just Hollywood making a good flick and in the process doing right by fans. When you really think about it, The Avengers is an exceptionally well-written and well-conceived Marvel comic book with a $220 million production budget and Hollywood’s top names acting out the story for you. For unabashed Marvel Zombies like me, this is the Promised Land. Now, to be sure, some of the lines did feel kinda clunky (although it was a very small number of them and it was clear the actors did their best with them) and there were some pretty hammy moments that didn’t work for me (an exchange between Loki and an old man in Germany comes to mind), but for the most part it’s hard to be anything but thrilled that this movie exists.
So if you’ve seen the first five seconds of the movie by this time, you’re probably aware that the alien army that Loki looses upon Manhattan in the trailer is actually called the Chitauri. In the film (which takes place on Earth-199999, according to wikia.marvel.com) they are a race of rather boneheaded warriors that fly around alongside huge leviathan troop transports (at least that’s what those things seemed like to me) and looked like some kind of big grey goat-reptile, although it’s hard to get a good, clear look at them throughout the film. At various points in the movie Loki convenes with the Chitauri leader, a character that IMDB has listed as “The Other,” who, in addition to being loads smarter than the warrior Chitauri, wears a veil and headgear to conceal most of his face aside from a green, wrinkled reptilian chin. This depiction of the Chitauri is much closer to their comic book counterparts, which originated in the second volume of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates.
In the comic (Earth-1610), which is a post-9/11 re-interpretation of the Avengers, the Chitauri were an eight-foot tall reptilian alien race, one of 11 alien species that S.H.I.E.L.D. knew of inhabiting the Earth. The Chitauri were a shape-changing race that had a hand in several historical acts of genocide, including the Holocaust (bringing the story back to Captain America’s origins as a soldier in World War II). They used their chameleonic abilities (something which we didn’t see in the film) to infiltrate different organizations, including The Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, for the purposes of eradicating free will among our species.
Similar to Loki’s rants in the Avengers film, the Chitauri believe that man’s proper place is down on one knee. They see themselves as the universe’s immune system, and their numbers permeate throughout the universe in order to make sure that everything within it is moving in synchronicity rather than independently and free. Unlike Loki, they don’t consider themselves conquerors, just the universe’s immune system trying to keep things in order. On other planets they have been known as the Annakui or the Skrulls, and the name “Chitauri” was given to them by the Africans.
Now, we know who the Skrulls are. They’re the little green space elves that change shape and first started bugging the Marvel universe (of Earth-616, the regular Marvel Comics timeline) back in the second issue of “Fantastic Four,” and were, of course, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Skrulls’ most recent claim to fame was emulating the M.O. of their Earth-1610 cousins and using their shape-changing abilities to infiltrate the superheroes in order to facilitate a full-scale secret invasion of the human race. What’s interesting is that these reptilian shape-shifters had been doing their nasty work long before Lee and Kirby introduced them to comic fans over 50 years ago. In fact, there are many people today who say that we have actual Chitauri on our own planet (Earth-1218) right now.
The Chitauri of our world originated in African mythology as the first species from another world that humans ever made contact with, and their name is said to mean “children of the serpent.” Supposedly Mark Millar is quoted as saying that the Chitauri were Kirby’s inspiration for what became the Skrulls, and Kirby had originally even wanted to call them Chitauri. (The mind-blowingly epic implications this would have on a later Kirby character, Black Panther, was used as the basis for the second Ultimate Avengers animated film.) This gave Millar the perfect real-world angle to use on the update to the Skrulls that he would be doing in the pages of The Ultimates, and allowed him to incorporate various levels of conspiracy theory, such as the Illuminati, into the concept as well.
But as if to add another layer of subterfuge to the story of the Chitauri, I have read recently on a message board at Bleeding Cool that the inclusion of the Chitauri was not Millar’s idea at all, but actually that of his good friend Grant Morrison. Morrison, according to the post on the message board, came up with the idea based on the reptilian conspiracy theories of a British author named David Icke, who believes that a race of gods known to the Babylonians as the Annunaki came to the Earth to plunder its supply of “monoatomic gold.” Not only did the Annunaki instigate fear and suffering within humans so they could use it as energy, but also mixed their bloodlines with the humans in order to create a ruling bloodline that all of Earth’s great authority figures can trace themselves back to. Icke also believes that the moon was placed here by our reptile overlords in order to manipulate the “human body-computer,” according to Wikipedia. Videos that claim to catch various world leaders breaking character on the news and subtly reverting back into a pseudo-reptilian state before the cameras are now quite prevalent on YouTube. None of them are especially convincing, but they’re all pretty fun to watch.
Regardless of whether the Chitauri / Illuminati / Reptilian conspiracy is true (and hopefully it is because that would be hilarious), it’s still a damn good basis for a bad guy superteam for Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and Captain America to face off against. I mean, I honestly can’t think of anything more deserving of an Avengers team-up than that. It’s stuff like that which makes me wonder if the monsters of cryptozoology are just things being sent back in time from the 23rd century for the purpose of viral marketing the genre movies of the future. Maybe by that time we’ll have finally overcome this terrible burden of free will and be perfectly willing to devote ourselves to mining for monoatomic gold in the service of our reptilian overlords.