Saturday, May 05, 2012

Reel Low: The Avengers [2012]

"The Avengers" by Mondo (variant)
Oh, my god, that was fun!

I got out of the theater a few hours ago, and I'm absolutely going bonkers over how much I enjoyed The Avengers right now. So much better than I'd let myself believe it could be. If you've watched the five prequel movies to The Avengers, you will very likely love it every bit as much as I did.

The Marvel movieverse has taken an interesting path to bring their comics world to a mass audience, mixing plot and character points from various storylines and universes that worked best with their casting decisions, today's CGI and the best possible costume design for the screen. Personally, I've enjoyed all of the films from Marvel Studios that have served as precursors to The Avengers to varying degrees -- loved most of Iron Man and Captain America but both failed to deliver outstanding villains, thought they spent too much time on Earth in Thor, forgot to add in the heroic side of the big green machine in The Incredible Hulk, and with its abundance of characters Iron Man 2 now looks like little more than a two-hour reminder that The Avengers was coming in a couple of years (despite its good parts). But even those missteps were worth it to make sure similar pitfalls didn't strike for the grand reveal of this superhero team.

All the best elements from these five movies were woven together masterfully by writer/director Joss Whedon, and then enhanced at nearly every conceivable opportunity. For any fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer out there (the TV show, not that abomination of a movie), it'll come as no surprise that he was able to bring an engaging and exciting story to the screen, brimming with intelligence and humor while this collection of misfits toys save the world. And with all that he still manages to tug at your heartstrings at times. Essentially this is a "get the band back together" flick with a bevy of characters, but Whedon brought the perfect balance of screentime to all of our main six protagonists and the big bad, while still leaving some choice moments for Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Maria Hill and even Pepper Potts. While I would certainly have loved to have seen more of certain characters (Hulk!!!), I also don't think a single one of them was shortchanged. And that balance extends to the battle sequences, the quiet moments and the absolutely laugh-out-loud banter. Perhaps most impressive was how he enabled the (relative) newbies of Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye to fully realize their characters in an action ensemble film, and more-so with Chris Evans, who in my opinion came to embody Steve Rogers with even greater command than in his own movie! And any fanboy who doubted Whedon's ability to direct action before watching this film should find some crow to chow down on, because I think it's pretty safe to say The Avengers is filled with the most exciting string of one-on-one action sequences ever assembled.

Look, there are things to nitpick here -- I really think they should have been forced Johansson to use at least a hint of a Russian accent, for example -- but these are little more than the extreme grumblings of a uber Marvel fanboy. These are things I think even the most hardcore Marvel zombie can let slide.

On the plus side, there are so many wonderful moments for us True Believers, and not just the now-standard Stan Lee appearance. While not at the frequency of past movies, there were still plenty of Easter eggs for the comic fan to appreciate, from Dr. Banner wearing a purple shirt beneath his suit to a reference to life-model decoys to the guy that shows up in the first post-credit scene (and there is a second one, so keep your butt in the seat until the end!).

The Avengers was so good, Iron Man 2 may have just become better because of its obnoxious prequel shoehorning. Well, probably not, but I at least want to re-watch it for the first time since leaving the multiplex in 2010 to make sure. Jokes aside, it triumphs as the best pure superhero film to date, finally showing all those normal folk out there these comic book stories and characters are smart, addictive, inventive, enthralling, heart-breaking, poignant, and -- above all else -- fun. In other words, they're just as great as any other fantastic work of fiction. Assemble your friends to the theater. You'll have blast.


** Post-Review Spoiler Section **

There were a lot of moments in the film I loved. Here's a few:

Captain America: As a mega-fan of Steve Rogers, there were a lot for me. That Agent Coulson was also one was great. But the best part was his taking charge of the team and surrounding policemen tactically during the big finale; exactly what we never got with Cyclops in the X-Men movies. Oh, and reflecting Iron Man's energy beam to them Skrulls? Hells yeah. "I got that one!" "Hulk. Smash."

Iron Man: At the surprise of no one, had wonderful one-liners once again and he probably had more ridiculous action scenes here than in his first two movies combined. Stark Tower looked fantastic; wish you could see the Baxter Building from it, though. I LOVED that Pepper was around; the genius-billionaire-playboy-philanthropist isn't much of a playboy at this stage of the movieverse, but who cares? They're great together. Did anyone else remember by the end that the whole reason he played nice with S.H.I.E.L.D. was so he could get laid?

Thor: The Hulk fight was epic, and I especially loved that he couldn't pick up Mjolnir. His constant defense of all things Asgard was appreciated. Hemsworth just looks like a Thunder God, doesn't he?  "...adopted."

Black Widow: At first, I thought Johansson was going to be the weak link of the movie with her drab delivery, but either that was by design or Whedon crafted her dialogue to hold a lot back and what we see was the result of that behavior (Joss made a female character strong? Never heard of that before). The Widow's got a rough past, but that doesn't stop her from being as fearless as the other boys.

Hawkeye: Poor guy was MIA for the first half, but made up for it in the second. The no-look bullseyes somehow looked natural. And that was a pretty great battle with Black Widow accompanied by their talk afterward. I also really liked that there didn't seem to be any romance between the two, just mutual respect. It was a nice change of pace from how those situations always seem to play out.

Hulk: "Puny God," and all that preceded it. Seriously, the way he flopped Loki around -- my god that was amazing. I loved the neurotic qualities of this version of Banner. Bana and Norton are fine actors, but Ruffalo is now without a doubt Bruce Banner. And the Hulk's face actually looked like him!

-- That second post-credits scene was absolutely hilarious.
-- The only thing that kinda bummed me out while watching the movie was the fact that Fox holds the rights to the Fantastic Four (not to mention Daredevil and the X-Men, while Sony has Spider-Man). I just so want to see Reed Richards join in science-genius gab-fest with Stark and Banner. Those two geeking out was probably my most-favorite moment in the entire movie. I'll accept Hank Pym filling that role in Avengers 2, however.
-- Speaking of A2, is this the last we'll see of Clark Gregg in these movies? I think it will be and it was a great way to go out, but this is the Marvel Universe we're talking about here. Perhaps he'll be Pym's model for The Vision?
-- While we're on the subject of A2... Thanos! That means Infinity Gauntlet, right? Don't forget we got a peek at it in Thor.


Dan O. said...

Jam-packed full of action, humor, special effects, and superheroes, The Avengers is the perfect way to start off the Summer blockbuster season. I hope that Whedon returns for the sequel that they're talking about doing, but then again, it may be another 4 years until we get to see that again. Nice review Jon. I wonder what will be a bigger flick this Summer: this or The Dark Knight Rises? Can't wait to see that one either!

Unknown said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Dan. I appreciate you taking a moment to say so.

As far as the box office battle between The Avengers and TDKR, I know they'll be compared no matter what since they're both superhero movies that'll be released in the same summer, there's the Marvel vs. DC thing, and that one is the light (Avengers) and the other dark (Batman) in tone. Which is fine for people to do. For me, this is an irrelevant topic. I'm just happy all sorts of movies based on comics are being made now, just like there are all sorts of different styles of comics to pick up and read. I think we're entering a great period to be a fan of this genre, after so many years of making excuses for one subpar adaptation after another because it's all we had. The bar has been raised again, and that's a great thing.

Unknown said...

Thank for the sharing such a nice review its really a good film it is very entertaining Movie, he is looking very cute in Avenger Chris Evans Captain America Jacket he is the one of in very good looking Hollywood actors ....