Summer blockbuster season is upon us and, as usual, that means a handful of new superhero movies -- and we ain't mad about it. The first of the flurry is, of course, Joss Whedon's The Avengers, released on May 4. In true curmudgeon style, Gut Check waited a week to see the flick, not because we weren't bursting with excitement, but because we hate crowds among other old-crank concerns. We were also resolute to pair our movie night with a hero sandwich, which proved much harder to pinpoint than we expected.
See, in New York City (a faithful nod to the movie's primary location) a "hero" is what folks call a submarine sandwich or a guy who saves kids from burning buildings. Elsewhere these Italian-flavored sandwiches are known as "subs." It's not hard to find a sub sandwich in St. Louis, but we'll be damned if it wasn't a chore to find one labeled as a hero. Then a simple twist of fate that didn't involve grocery shopping at Walmart found Gut Check near the Planet Sub (1805 Maplewood Commons Drive, Maplewood; 314-781-5725), where we saw a sign selling the shop's "Super Hero" sandwich. Ding, ding, ding!
We'd never ventured to Planet Sub prior to holding out for a hero, and we were immediately impressed by the eatery's large menu -- with a lengthy list of vegetarian and vegan sandwiches -- and made-to-order items plentifully topped with fresh ingredients. The "Super Hero" sandwich came piled high with salami, pepperoni, spicy capicola, red onion, lettuce, banana peppers and oregano, all lathered in oil and vinegar.
We opted for the six-inch sandwich because, unlike our favorite band of super heroes, Gut Check doesn't burn calories fighting supernatural forces from Asgard. Trust us, we're not happy about it either. In all the "Super Hero" was a rich, hearty meal that satisfied our craving for an authentic New York-style hero sandwich, so much so that we didn't opt for a bag of Billy Goat chips or dessert -- an amazing feat for Gut Check indeed.
After vanquishing our opponent (read: our lunch) in battle, we headed to Ronnie's 20 Cine (5320 South Lindbergh Boulevard; 314-843-4336) to see The Avengers the way Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios intended: in IMAX 3D. Leading up to the film we brushed up on each superhero's origin story via Marvel's preceding films Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The First Avenger. We entered the theater with an Edward Norton-sized chip on our shoulder about Marvel recasting Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and reservations about how Thor and Loki's worlds would mesh with the superhero super group in live action on screen.
As the film unfolded we soon surmised our fears were for naught as the plot took us in with just the right amount of initial tension between superheros and stunning special effects aboard S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Helicarrier, in the streets of New York City and beyond to outer space. Our comic-book and graphic-novel notions about the interactions between those in the "Avengers Initiative" came to life in Robert Downey Jr.'s selfish-meets-selfless Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth's valiant Thor, Chris Evans' noble man-out-of-time Cap, Ruffalo's tepid Bruce Banner bubbling under the surface, Jeremy Renner's agent archer Hawkeye and Scarlet Johansson in the role she was built to play as sexpot spy Black Widow.
It's a lofty statement, but a blend of on-point acting, apt story adaptation and an action-packed plot made for a thrilling experience -- though the extra dough for IMAX 3D didn't feel, as it never seems to, quite worth it. Questionable third-dimension scenes notwithstanding, The Avengers might be Gut Check's favorite Marvel Studios superhero movie yet.