Movie Review (and some musings): The Avengers
As of right now, The Avengers has had the largest opening weekend of any film in history. It’s received rave reviews, and generated its share of controversy. You probably have an idea of whether or not you’re going to see it, if you haven’t seen it already. But in case you need my take on it to convince you, here it is: The Avengers is really, really good. Not perfect, not the best movie I have ever seen in my life, but a genuinely enjoyable, funny, well-written and acted summer blockbuster which is definitely worth seeing.
The Avengers brings together the heroes from Marvel’s various movies over the past couple of years. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the villainous brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), is back and seeking to conquer the earth with the aid of an army of aliens. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D, has to gather the world’s superhumans to mount a defense. Among them are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, the only actor who hadn’t appeared in a previous Marvel film). They fight and bicker and hang out, and manage to beat up a good number of bad guys while they’re at it.
The movie dragged a little bit in the beginning, at least for me. Starting a story, even a sequel or climactic installment, with a huge explosion set piece can sometimes have the opposite effect of what’s intended: the viewer gets so wound up that any establishing or dialogue heavy scenes just after it feel too slow (for what it’s worth, I had the same problem with the beginning of Mass Effect 3). Although the movie wisely sidesteps recapping origins and such, there’s still a lot of introduction there to get all these characters together.
But once it gets going, it really gets going. A lot of the draw of this movie, even before it was shot, was the promise of watching these diverse characters interact with one another. Director Joss Whedon’s script doesn’t disappoint. Whedon’s always had a knack for injecting humor into tense situations, and the interplay between any of the characters, particularly Iron Man, is always entertaining. Special mention goes out to Ruffalo, whose measured, dryly funny performance as Bruce Banner trumped both previous attempts at bringing the character (and his monstrous alter-ego) to the screen. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is also given much more to work with here than in Iron Man 2, and it’s nice seeing her as a human character dealing with the presence of these others.
(Side note: I’ve been a fan of a number of Whedon’s TV and film projects to varying degrees for a while now, but I’ve never been a zealot. A lot of reviews, mainly from bloggers and critics who are more TV oriented, focus heavily on placing Avengers in the greater context of his work. I’m not going to do that, because I feel like it does a disservice to Jon Favreau, Kenneth Brannaugh, and Joe Johnston’s work in casting and defining the characters in previous films, but rest assured those sorts of reviews are out there if you want them.)
On the other side, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is as wonderful as ever, petulant, clever and complicated. While he skews more towards straight villainy than in Thor, he’s still an extremely compelling character to watch. Unfortunately, he’s not given a whole lot to work with in his alien army, only a hooded ally who looks and acts like a Power Rangers villain. Still, the aliens serve their purpose, namely being fodder for a phenomenal action sequence at the film’s climax. It’s as big and bombastic as anything you’d see in a Michael Bay film, but a tight sense of plotting and scene, combined with some great character moments, makes it engaging and easy to follow.
(Side note WITH SPOILERS: I think my favorite fight scene in the movie though has to be between Black Widow and Hawkeye. The few shots used, combined with tight choreography and great Foley (which is really the key to a good fight scene) makes it feel very real and very painful.)
Overall, I enjoyed The Avengers. I wouldn’t say that it’s my favorite Marvel movie (I did, after all, see Captain America: The First Avenger six times in theatres), but considering what a feat it was, bringing together characters from four very different franchises and telling a story which serves all of them, I think it passed with flying colors. I’ll be interested to see what impact the clear establishment of a larger world has on future solo films (the first of which appears to be Iron Man 3), and of course, the post credits teaser has me pumped for Avengers 2.
RATING: THREE STARS (OUT OF FOUR)
One final thought: A lot has been made of the rise of “geek culture” with these blockbusters, especially The Avengers. One thing I noticed in people’s posts about seeing the movie on Facebook and Twitter was a running theme of “Seeing Avengers!! I’m a nerd, I know ” and the like. I don’t really like the idea that seeing a movie requires justification or embarrassment, especially one which is an unparalleled success. I describe Gentlemen, Behold!! as a “nerd blog” primarily because that’s the kind of thing people say when they look at it, but I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed of (or proud of, for that matter) about liking comics or cartoons or something. Just enjoy what you want to enjoy, and don’t worry about what people think. It’s the year 2012, no one’s gonna give you a swirlie.