We’ll have reviews from the whole staff trickling in all day; check back for more thoughts!
Should you see The Avengers? Yes, absolutely. If you only came to this review looking for that answer, for my seal of approval for some strange reason (and hey, I’ll take that kind of power over you, I ain’t complaining), then there ya go. Yes, emphatically yes. The movie delivered on every front; everything you could possibly want from this movie was given to you in droves.
Somehow they took a two and a half hour movie and made it into a satisfying sequel for four different franchises at the same time. Everybody’s story gets fleshed out, and every Avenger is properly utilized. Robert Downey, Jr. (who I’m convinced was Tony Stark incarnate in some alternate universe)’s razor-sharp witticisms juxtaposed with Captain America’s old soul naivete, Thor’s otherworldly persona and Hulk’s uncontrollable inner rage issues are a joy to behold. And of course, I certainly don’t have any problem staring mouth agape at Scarlett Johansson, either.
The action scenes are extremely well done, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t menton that for maybe the first time in my life I didn’t feel like the CG was at all distracting; it enhanced the visuals rather than detracted. The CG was incredibly well done, and a look at the credits and the hundreds of CG animators they had credited on the project should make it seem like no wonder.
Am I gushing? I’m gushing aren’t I? Well, seriously the movie is that damn good. If I had to nitpick, the only thing I was a little miffed about on a near constant basis is how much the Hulk was treated like a comedic relief character rather than an unbounding source of hatred and anger. I mean, I like watching Thor get punched straight in the face for no reason as much as the next guy, but after a while it just came off as a bit campy. Again though, this is an extreme nitpick, and didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the movie at all. Your mileage may vary.
While I’m on the subject here though, can we talk about how nail-on-the-head Brendan’s article about midnight showings was? This was probably my first midnight showing since I saw The Dark Knight at midnight (and that was a whole other clusterfuck; the projector broke THREE times during the movie. I didn’t even finish it there that night. By the time 3:00am rolled in and we were about 45 minutes into the movie I said, “fuck it”), and it was quite the obnoxious experience. Granted, choosing to see a movie like The Avengers at midnight in the only theater in a college town was my lack of foresight. It was a stupid decision and I was punished thusly, with guys loudly making very, very stupid jokes seemingly to impress the women they were with, thunderous applause every time the Hulk did, well, pretty much anything, and of course the requisite screaming “I KNOW WHO THAT GUY IS!!!!” when Stan Lee made his inevitable five second cameo. I don’t even know what he said, dammit!
But yeah. See this movie, now. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you’re doing right now, even. If you’re at work, tell ’em something came up. You’re gonna probably wanna see this one multiple times.
Despite Brendan’s cantankerous admonitions, I caved in last night and went to see the midnight showing of The Avengers. Hey… I’m a grown ass-man child; if I want to watch an aggregate of my favorite Marvel superheroes smacking fools around on the bigscreen while most other people my age are nicely slumbering in preparation for their paying jobs in the morning, tucking in their children, or entangled in drunken coitus with their significant others… then damn right that’s what’s gonna happen. Suck it Brendan.
Besides, my temperament was a little bit better going into this thing. I wasn’t dreading the droves of unwashed fanboys. I was excited. Passionate even. I’d heard good things going into this movie. There’s a certain nerd brotherhood in which you are incorporated when you attend midnight showings. Be happy. If they are disrupting the movie constantly, it’s okay to give them a cuff across the face, but otherwise… just have fun and ignore like you would anyone else. And if you’re one of these guys… realize you’re not in your fucking mom’s basement: no one cares if you can differentiate Stan Lee from Al Franken. Just shut up and keep your excitement to yourself a little.
I didn’t even encounter any costumed attention whores (or man-whores) gallivanting amidst the theater aisles, sit within five seats of someone who smelled like expired Oscar Mayer bologna products, or have to listen to any cheering buffoons besides what had to have been a 7th grade dropout a few rows behind me occasionally reiterating whatever Hulk said for no apparent reason even when Hulk was nowhere to be found on screen; but hey, that dude paid for his ticket too, so he’s entitled to a little fun, right?
So what’d I think of the film itself? I’ll go over a few points worth discussing:
1. The Hulk
I know, I know. In every review of The Avengers that you read from here on out (besides Pat’s), you’re going to see straight-up adulation for the Big Guy. For how bad-ass he was. For how he stole the show. And although I don’t usually say this: the praise is well-deserved. All of it. I read this tweet on Mark Millar’s Twitter page before seeing the movie.
I saw that going into the movie, my already high expectations for the film bolstered and ripe for a let-down… and I still loved every damn second that Hulk was onscreen. He was just entertaining as Hell to watch. This is why we are comic book fans, folks.
And let’s not underscore the job done by Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk who was the best actor in the role yet. For some reason, his subdued, gloomy-acting portrayal of Banner really struck a chord with me; I derived a much greater sense of the inner turmoil and his struggle to suppress The Hulk, or the “other guy,” as he put it, than I did with Bana or Norton.
2. Grandiosity of each character
Or the rock-star effect.
Let me clarify this through an ostensibly simple analogy: Seeing each respective Avengers character introduced and then subsequently thrown together was like witnessing all of your favorite bands/rappers aggregating for one super-concert and pondering the uncertainties that would come along with such a spectacle. What kind of zany antics would take place? In what order would they play? Would Eminem and Tech N9ne get along? Would Axl Rose come back out for an encore or would he be found backstage facedown in a pool of his own sour smelling vomit and Zima… I mean cognac? Who would take their sunglasses off first, Bono or the dickhead brother from Oasis? Who would win in a game of “I’m a weirdo, everyone come see how weird I am,” chicken, Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj?
You had your smaller, opening acts finally given their chance to shine. Characters that hadn’t been featured in their own movies, but of whom we had been given glimpses of: Agent Coulson, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Black Widow.
Then of course, you had your heavy hitters; your headliners. Hulk. Iron-Man. Thor. Captain America. Each time one of them was revealed on screen and even more so, when they were finally assembled, you really appreciated the gradual build up that Marvel did with all the respective character’s movies and prior appearances.
And then they all came together for an amazing fustercluck. Integrating all the character and juxtaposing their divergent personalities was pure fanboy bliss. You had ancient relic Captain America. Wise-ass, selfish douchebag Iron-Man. “Gigantic green ragemonster,” The Hulk, jive-talkin’ Sammy J, and the rest of the gang trying to make it in this crazy world.
I’ve never really liked Loki as a villain growing up. Chalk it up to plain ignorance, or personal bias towards his dopey looking costume, but I could never really take the guy seriously. The Thor movie, as well as this one made me realize that I was being a dumbass. Loki’s appeal is not through blatant omnipotence or sheer displays of vigor, but by planting seeds of slowly unfurling destruction; through mind-games, cunning and trickery.
Tom Hiddleston’s sly and supercilious smirks, capricious demeanor, and masterful use of Machiavellianism throughout the film’s duration solidified him as a formidable foe in my mind. He’s like a Norse serial killer/sociopath. Still, the entire film basically plays out as little more than an introductory mission for the Avengers. Their real test comes with arguably the greatest villain the Marvel Universe has to offer, next to Doctor Doom in the next installment. (I won’t spoil who that is, but be sure to partake in the prerequisite of superheroes by staying after the end credits to find out who I’m talking about.)
4. A few nitpicks I had with the movie. (Spoiler alerts)
A. What exactly is the point of that trap within the SHIELD helicarrier besides being a huge waste of money/time for the engineers who built it? Besides acting as a temporary trap for Loki, who probably could have escaped if he felt like it; they imply that it was for the Hulk, but would it really do any damage to him? Perhaps they figured it would revert him back to Bruce Banner status if it dropped him from 90,000 feet in the air? And why exactly is Thor so frantic to escape from it after he stupidly lumbers into it chasing Loki? It’s not like that would have killed him either. At best it would have left him unconscious for a few hours. MAN, THE SUSPENSE! THANK GOD THOR MADE IT OUT OF THAT ALIVE!
B. I know they needed to give Black Widow/Scarlett Johansson something to do during the finale, but I think the accentuation of her sly interrogation methods and bad-ass fighting ability sufficed; I don’t need to see her flipping around and latching onto speeding alien spacecraft one-handed in a maneuver that would dislocate even Dwight Howard’s bestial shoulders. She’s still just a regular human being, for Chrissakes.
C. I think the Hawkeye character could have been explored/explained a little better. We know he’s a highly trained professional. That’s fine. But for people that aren’t fans of his comic book character, a little more exploration was needed. Why does he prefer a high-tech bow and arrow over say… a high tech sniper rifle? Is he just inherently talented with them? Was he born with a bow and arrow in hand? Does he just really like Hiawatha?
They also should have had a quick scene where Hawkeye is slinging and firing off myriad arrows, vociferating the different types that he had in his arsenal. Something to the extent of: Hawkeye nocking a weird looking trio of arrows, sending them into a bevy of guards, who subsequently drop to the floor. “Tranquilizer arrows,” he says, sneering. And then just imagine the same for: Acid Arrows, Net Arrows, hell even a Boomerang Arrow or a Boxing Glove Arrow if you want to have a little fun. No, I’m not being serious with the last one, but you catch my drift.
My only gripes were those very minor nitpicks. Overall, I’d give the movie a solid 8.5 out of 10. If you’ve read Millar’s The Ultimates, then you can certainly see the influences; but the movie adds its own flavor and stands distinctly on its own feet. The characters are all very strongly represented and mesh in a believable way; that is to say, they don’t mesh well at all, initially. And most importantly of all, the movie is just flat out entertaining. It starts off a little slow, but once it gets going… you’re in for a ride. Get out there and see this. I know I will… again.
Is there character development? Not as much as there could have been, but that’s not the point: The point is fun, laughs and exciting scenes which you get in droves. You’d be hard pressed not to enjoy this film largely because every character is humanized and the stakes are clear. The action works and works well, therefore its main goal is a success.
Why this film works beyond the expectation of the loud blockbuster is because there is an effective journey taking place outside the CGI and the quips. Joseph Campbell outlined the ‘hero’s journey’ which dictates, in the end, the hero should win and come away with a magic elixir. This elixir is the knowledge or lesson. Here that elixir is the characters learning to work together. In a way that’s a relatively weak message, something we all learn in kindergarten, but it works here. For most of the film these characters shouldn’t be in the same room let alone on the same team; the definition of family.