The Avengers

There are two points I want to make about The Avengers.  First the expectations are scary high for this.  The trailers have been great with just the right amount of humor and action.  There have been several of them, all very different so you don’t get the feeling that you’ve already seen every good moment in the movie.  The buzz surrounding the film, as well as the early reviews, has been off the charts.  The only thing I can compare it to is the anticipation we felt before the first Spider-man film or the Lord of the Rings.  Can the Avengers possibly live up to this?

My second point has to do with those early reviews.  In almost every one I’ve read, especially in the fanboy press, the reviewer has said that he has waited his (they are mostly guys, sorry) whole life for a live action Avengers movie.  Even though I can’t say the same, I think I understand the impulse.  The appeal of comic books is at least fifty percent characterization.  Sure we all love watching Spider-man put Dr. Octopus through a wall.  But the reason Spider-man is so popular is because Peter Parker is such a compelling and likable character.  If there were a comic book or a movie about someone who just beat up bad guys all the time without any peek into his or her motivations or personality that would be boring no matter how good the action was. 

If you read early comic books it seems that every character inhabited his own universe and there was no interaction.  As time went by the writers began paying attention to what was going on in the other books and incorporating those events into their stories.  And gradually continuity developed.  Eventually they started teaming the heroes up and the Avengers, the Justice League, and all the other teams arose and they became popular. 

I suspect that the reason for this is because we love these characters and we want to see them interact with each other.  It’s like when you were a kid and your parents would meet a favorite teacher.  You can’t wait to see the interaction when those two worlds come together.  What will Steve Rogers make of Tony Stark?  Will Tony ask Steve about what his father was like during the war?  Will Thor and Tony bond over their similar daddy issues?  Wouldn’t it be great to eavesdrop on two superbrains like Bruce Banner and Tony Stark?  There are all kinds of opportunities to expose vulnerabilities and get to know these characters even as they get to know each other and learn to work together.

Joss Whedon, who directed and wrote the screenplay, understands this and his emphasis is on the teambuilding aspect, writing a plot that’s pretty much a standard McGuffin chase, which results in Loki leading an alien army that’s attacking New York City.  The last half hour is exciting, epic in scale, and pretty to look at, but the meat of the film is the extensive build up to the final movement.

Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, Iron Man played by Robert Downey Jr., and Captain America, played by Chris Evans, build on the characters they played in their own movies.  Each has a chance to display their heroism and to confess their vulnerabilities.  Sometimes those latter moments are a bit contrived but that’s not really a big flaw or at least not one that bothered me.  Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner and Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, have their moments too.

The key element is that they finally got the Hulk right.  The Hulk is mindless indestructible rage that can’t be controlled.  You can only point him at the bad guys and hope for the best.  And Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo, is starting to realize that and to learn to do it.  Also, Ruffalo plays Banner as thoughtful and a little subdued but not dour like Edward Norton and Eric Bana did.  I hope they try to make another Hulk movie with Ruffalo.

Add in Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Colson, and that’s a pretty impressive cast, one that holds its own with the special effects and other technical elements.  All those egos subjugating themselves to make an ensemble performance must have mirrored the process of the Avengers forging a team.  And the result lives up to every inch of its considerable hype.  As I type this I want to see it again.

The Avengers is well worth waiting you entire life for.



1 Response to “The Avengers”

  1. 1 Tom May 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Yeah — my only quibble with your review is you spend so much time on the background you don’t spend enough lavishing slavish praise– which I think it easily deserves — BTW I note in your review something that I hadn’t identified even though I knew it internally, but your review didn’t note it explicitly: The films greatest asset and the thing that makes this work as well as it does is the incredible asset of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark — with that fantastic character as the base, all the really good characters from the other films (plus Mark Ruffalo’s great Bruce Banner) just work like clockwork — my only “objection” is that the good character work and nice story/interplay of Widow and Hawkeye take up so much screen time that we could have used for more “Tony Stark and”, The final kicker scene at the end of the film is kind-of the essence of this — Stark “hey, lets get lunch” and all the other characters reacting — with this mix, the characters saying nothing and eating tacos is compelling film.

    Also deserving an extra call-out is the way they captured (amazingly) the EXACTLY-RIGHT “hero fight scene” sequence (Marvel’s trademark since Human Torch/Sub Mariner fighting in the 40’s) when Thor first shows up — the set piece of Thor vs. Iron Man with Cap stepping in and going toe-to-toe with the Tech-god and Thunder God was PURE early Avengers and incredible (it only wanted Hulk joining at that point, but a minor quibble)
    Double extra points for “There’s only one god, Ma’am — and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that”.

    This film was every bit as good as Iron Man and I can’t IMAGINE doing the Avengers any better.

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