Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Avengers

Get out your hammers and shields and Gamma radiation, and pulse lasers and arrows...and wrist blasters, because we're reviewing The Avengers!
Seriously. Agent Coulson is our secret weapon. Who are all these other guys with hammers and lasers and whatever.
Hoooleeee crap. So this movie actually happened. I think it's safe to say everyone has already seen it, reviewed it, or made plans to see it. And if for some reason you're on the fence waiting for my good review, well first of all thank you and I'm glad my voice is that important to you, and second of all GO SEE THE MOVIE. Hopefully I can talk about a few things that haven't been mentioned as of yet.

Loki(Tom Hiddleston) is back and with the power of the Tesseract and an alien army he's planing on invading Earth! It's up to Nick Fury(Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. to assemble a team of misfits and heroes composed of Captain America(Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron man(Robert Downy Jr.), The Hulk(Mark Ruffalo) and his two agents Black Widow(Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye(Jeremey Renner).  Can they even work as a team and pull together to stop Loki?

This is the quintessential summer movie. I feel like the summer's already peaked too early because I find it hard to believe that anything will beat The Avengers. The Dark Knight Rises will probably be good, but it's a different kind of film altogether. Amazing Spider-Man will do alright, but nothing will come close to the sheer fun and enjoyment brought on by the Avengers. It's hard not for me to compare it to last year's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, because when people say they want their dumb action flicks to be smarter, THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. They do justice to all the characters, the script is tight and smart, and everything has a forward progression. It all MAKES SENSE along with having awesome fight scenes, explosions and giant robot monsters toppling into buildings.

This is definitely the movie that Whedon made. You can tell he's starting to get a style similar to Wes Anderson or Tarantino.  It feels like an episode of Buffy or Firefly with the smart dialogue, the tight script and even the plot beats.  I half expected Mal to walk on and shoot one of the aliens in the face!  Whedon has this amazing ability to blend action with humor, and not just corny one-liners and stupid jokes. The best parts of the movie come from subtle character moments and little almost unnoticed jokes. You can really get a sense he understands every single one of the characters, what their role is, what their relationship to the others is, and uses that to hit the audience with humor right after a hero lands a punch. A prime example of this is Agent Coulson waiting on the phone patiently while Black Widow beats up a bunch of guys on the other end.
I feel like every other artist ever is probably already going to do the generic Avengers minimalist poster.
To say the script is tight is an understatement. You'd be hard pressed to find a hole or any scene that wasn't needed.  Everything flows like water through a stream. Watching it multiple times, you can see the beauty of how it all progresses. This happens, so this happens, but then this happens; not this happens and then this happens.  It all makes perfect sense. Loki actually has a smart plan built on his understanding of the characters and the situation and all of the heroes react appropriately and within the boundaries of their character.  And don't get me started on some of the great shots or the wonderful juxtaposition between voice over and meaningful actions!

And let's talk about the action scenes. They're awesome. They're awesome on top of awesome filled with awesome with some awesome spread on top. If you were worried they put all the best action scenes in the trailer, I'm happy to say they squandered the best for the movie.  That scene with the Helicarrier rising out of the water? Yeah, that's within the first half hour.  Compare this with an average superhero movie like Iron Man which had a few good fight scenes and one semi-good/semi-disappointing boss battle, and it feels like three movies worth of action.  I can't even imagine how they squeezed all this action in!  The last forty minutes are pure action bliss(much like Transformers 3 but actually good) and every hero gets their fair share of kicking-ass screen time.  And it's not just the regular Iron Man uses repulser blasts or Cap throws his shield shots that you'd expect, there are new and inventive ways of fighting that you wouldn't even think about and little things you might not even notice the first go around if you're not paying attention.  But out of all of the heroes, Hulk steals the show. I can't tell you why.
Hulk is just exclaiming how The Avengers is a smash hit.
All of the main actors were near perfect. There was never a time I didn't believe this was Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America, and there were no instances I felt they were doing things that weren't in their character. And they all have their own humor specialized for their specific character.  Tony Stark has a quick wit while Cap has a fish-out-of-water act and Banner has a reserved cynicism.  Robert Downy Jr. shines here; he has the biggest character arc and the most jokes.  His wit is so quick you'll need to see the movie multiple times just to catch some of the jokes you might have missed.  Samuel L. Jackson feels very reserved in his role, and for once feels like the character he's playing rather than just Samuel L. Jackson. Chris Evans is very straight forward like he was in his respective movie and feels like the leader they need.  This is probably my favorite version of both Banner and Hulk in Mark Ruffalo. He's awkward and reserved, but has this underlying sadness and edginess to him.  I love Loki, he's the perfect bad guy in here. He's malicious and fun and has this huge chip on his shoulder.  And of course Agent Coulson is Agent Coulson.

The CGI for everything is amazing. Considering how much action is on screen and how much of it is effects, it's astounding how much they did in the short time they had.  I wouldn't say the music is amazing enough to buy the soundtrack, but it's great enough to swoop in at the right times.  I saw it in 3D multiple times, and while the 3D isn't breathtaking or needed like it was for Avatar, it has enough great 3D action shots that it's worth the extra charge.  I'm curious to see what it looks like in IMAX 3D. And yes, you need to stay through all of the credits.

Not to say that the movie is perfect. The first half hour feels too fast and conversely slows things down, though not as bad as the first act to some other movies.  One of the downsides to Whedon's directing is it does feel like a TV show. There's no real beginning, it just feels like a long middle, a continuation, "This week on The Avengers..." it doesn't matter if you've already seen the past five movies, but from a standalone standpoint it's kind of weird. I still like Captain America's costume from his own movie better than the one he wears here. It's the helmet; it just looks oddly round and kind of goofy. Hawkeye doesn't get enough screen time and there's no real sense of why he's on the team other than, hey, why not. Black Widow helped form the team, but Hawkeye was just sort of in the right place at the right time.  And I would have liked more of Maria Hill's character.  I also would have liked more connections to the other movies, a shot of Asguard, a cameo from Natalie Portman or Don Cheadle, but the movie is already tight enough already so I can see why they wouldn't be able to fit it all in.

And if you're wondering, no it does not pass the bechdel test.  Black Widow gets a more prominent part and a fleshed-out character, but there aren't even two women that talk to each other in the whole movie.  Considering the tight script, the length of the movie, and all the time they already need to give their nine main characters, it's hard to think they should add more female characters, but it's kind of ridiculous they can't spend one minute of Black Widow and Marie Hill talking about something.  And other than Nick Fury, there are no black or other non-white main characters. It would have been nice to see War Machine make an appearance or possibly a hint of Falcon or Black Panther. Again, the script is tight and it's already loaded with characters, but it's still kind of ridiculous they barely have the bare minimum.  It's worth noting and might be a breaking point for some.
Another Hulk variant poster. Misogyny in movies make Hulk angry.
And also no, they do not mention Jack Kirby or any of the other artists that helped with the creation of the Avengers, it's just "Marvel's The Avengers" as though Marvel was some character-creating robot that spit them out. It's pretty terrible how they couldn't at least give them a tiny spot in the credits.  I'm not one of the people who say you should boycott the movie because of it, because there are a buttload of people who did work on it who are all great at their job and deserve recognition.  Is it Joss Whedon's or Robert Downy Jr's or any of the hundred of amazing people working on the graphics that Marvel/Disney is acting like a soulless money-grubbign corporation? No. But I would ask you to please match your ticket price with a donation to the Hero Initiative, a foundation which helps out comics creators in legal battles and getting back their rights.  It's the least we can do, and hopefully enough people will make enough noise that they'll rectify this injustice in the DVD release or the next movie.

This isn't perfect. This is not The Dark Knight. It is not a dramatic movie with a superhero costume on, this is an event comic book brought to life. This is a Saturday morning cartoon show power-hour super special. This is spectacle in its most fun and ridiculous form.  This is the perfect summer action movie, and nothing will give you a greater sense of satisfaction or pure unadulterated joy. There are parts that I remember even now that make me laugh out loud.  This is the kind of movie that will make you scream for joy, gasp in despair and laugh hysterically even after your fifth showing.  I've seen it three times already and plan on seeing it again at least once more before it leaves theaters. 

THE GOOD: Ugh, everything! The action, the tight script with logical progression, al the characters are perfect, funny as well as action-packed, cgi is great, the Hulk, the last forty minute action scene, just an all around joy.

THE BAD: Not enough women or minorities, Hawkeye needs more reason and screentime, Cap's helmet, first half is too fast and kind of drags.

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ See it multiple times! Seriously, it's almost like you need to see it more than once to catch all the little awesome and funny things you may have missed the first time from focusing on all the bigger awesome and funny things.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Firefly, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, X-Men First Class, X2: X-Men United 

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: You know that one shot in the trailer in which the camera revolves around all of them in a group looking around at the alien force? The one you've probably already watched a hundred times? It's just as awesome a shot in the movie.


  1. Good review. Liked this one a lot and I can’t wait to see what they are able to do with the sequel. Or should I say, I can’t wait to see what Joss Whedon can do with this sequel.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, I honestly don't know how they're going to do that, even with Joss Whedon. They're going to have all the people they had here PLUS a whole bunch of other people like Antman and whoever else they give a movie between now and then, I find it hard to believe it's going to be the same quality without being like 4 hours.