Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Avengers - Movie Review

Many said it could not be done, but after years in the making, The Avengers are finally assembling into theatres everywhere. The latest, and arguably most ambitious, film from Marvel studios features an ensemble of some of their most popular characters working together as a team. How does the film fare? Hit the jump to see the full review, but be aware that there may be some spoilers.

The Avengers

Directed by Joss Whedon
Screenplay/Story by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and more

The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble, as it is called in some markets) is a film that is hard to review in a vacuum, as it solely exists because of the previous five Marvel Studios productions that have come before it. Almost all the major characters that appear in the film have previously appeared somewhere else (the sole exception, I believe, is Maria Hill) with varying degrees of familiarity on the public's behalf. This Zeitgeist of the superhero films is astounding just by the fact that it exists, but it also had some large shoes to fill. Everyone that has seen the Iron Man (and the sequel), Incredible Hulk, Thor, or Captain America will have already formed an opinion on who is their favourite superhero. Joss Whedon and company had the formidable job of making sure that all of these characters shared the screen without one overwhelming the other, capturing their personalities, and drive their own personal plots forwards while maintaining a cohesive and entertaining story.

In that aspect, Avengers is a resounding and almost complete success.

The plot is shockingly simple, and staying true to the original Avengers comics, it is a threat too big for one single hero to face. With the help of an alien race called the Chitauri, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) decides to invade the planet and he is aiming to become the ruler of all of humanity. Instead of the heroes coming together on their own, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) decides to assemble a team of Earth's mightiest heroes. Jackson handles the raise in stature from “cameo star” of previous Marvel movies to “leading role” beautifully. While the audience already knew his cool demeanour and badass personality, in Avengers we finally see his true skulduggery and pragmatism as he manipulates events and people into saving the world. With his two right hands by his side, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), and floating above the Earth on the Helicarrier, being an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. has never been this much fun.

Speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D agents, Black Widow (Scarlet Johanson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) also play big roles into the films plot. The former receives plenty of character development (more so than in Iron Man 2), and her interactions with Bruce Banner/Hulk will probably provide plenty of talking points. The latter shows how damn cool he can be, taking an unintended turns towards the dark side early in the film, and coming back to side of the angels for the third act. In spite of the big personalities that appear on the rest of the film, these two characters also have plenty of time to shine: Black Widow's first scene provides the film's first big laugh, and Hawkeye holds his own in the climatic final battle. The two also share a connection and non-romantic friendship that is quite refreshing to see on the screen.

Strangely, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) takes a role as both a monster, in a nerve-wrecking chase scene with Black Widow, and as comedic relief. Yes, you read that right. Hulk has two of the funniest scenes in the whole movie. We are talking “whole theatre laughs out loud” scenes here. It's as surprising as it is effective, one of them being perhaps amongst the most memorable moments of the whole film. Meanwhile, Bruce Banner's inner struggle to contain the beast within takes some interesting turns, and it is thoroughly entertain to see everyone else in the movie walking on eggshells every time Banner seems to be even remotely upset about anything.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is probably the character that experiences the least amount of character development out of the major players. Make no mistake, he shows up, hammers it up, and leaves in style, with plenty of charisma and bravado, but the character remains essentially the same throughout the film. Perhaps the importance of Loki as an antagonist is what cause this seeming lack of focus on Thor, or perhaps it just is the natural way of things that with so many characters on screen that one would get left out. Nevertheless, Thor still gets to deliver a phenomenal one-liner with a straight face that is almost worth the price of admission.

Meanwhile, Captain America (Chris Evans) fits strangely into the Avengers, since his last movie ended with him waking up in the modern world, we can see him still adjusting to the new world. He adapts easily enough, but the nostalgia and feelings of being a man-out-of-time do come up from time to time. Most notably, when bumping heads with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). The two of them share a complete relationship of kind disliking each other while working together and being the heart and brain of the team. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, once again the humour in the interactions between these two earns at least a couple of really good laughs. The two eventually come together after a certain event that I shall not spoil. The scene is a bit cheesy at first until you realize there is a really good reason as to why.

So what is there left to say? Visually, the film is astonishing, with some breathtaking visual effects. I watched it in 3D and it has been perhaps one of the few times where it never felt as gimmicky or unnecessary. Some scenes do suffer from the dreaded “shaky cam syndrome”, but it's not nearly as bad as some other films. I've heard some people raise their eyebrows at some of the choices for the soundtrack (which features some strange choices), but at no point does it become noticeable during the film. There are perhaps some slow bits near the middle, where the movie takes a deep breath only to get ready for the final sprint towards the finishing line.

Overall, we are talking about a very fine film that puts spectacle over intricacies. This is not a bad thing, as it assembles a large enough cast to fill in over 2 hours of pure adrenaline fueled entertainment. Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects is how the entertainment doesn't come just from the action or fights, but also from the humour and jokes that pepper the entire film and becomes one of its defining features.

Verdict – Watch It. Avengers assembles heart, muscle and brain into an incredible collection of personalities. It's not perfect, but as far as fun at the movie theatre goes, you can't wish for anything better.

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Anonymous said...

Thin plot, barely any character development. Too generic. The Avengers assemble, because they have to. Characters appear out of nowhere, because they have to. Too generic. Lots of fun though and snappy dialogue.

Naymlap said...

Good to see you back doing reviews Matt.
I agree with you about a lot of what you say, but for me the biggest laugh was the second after trailer scene. I don't think they have that it was in the international cuts in the movie, but my favorite for how deflating it is, and just the little character moments that go into it.

BDS said...

Your review is good. The anonymous comment is screwy? Did they watch the film? Anyway, the humor is great. I thought the characterization was well done and exceedingly so with the Black Widow. Hawkeye was used in a great way. It was what you want the first Blockbuster of the summer to be, big, loud, funny, adventurous, and just plain good.

Gary Scott Beatty said...

The greatest surprise for me was the movie was nearly 2 1/2 hours and it didn't SEEM like it was that long. I didn't experience that yawn I usually get 3/4 of the way through (Especially in action movies thin on character). Not a big blow-em-up movie fan, but I agree with you, I would recommend Avengers to nearly everyone.

Matt Steiner said...

The Avengers really does seem to balance all the main things that could have made it great, including the expectations of comic book readers / marvel fans, and then the general public

The Avengers Assemble said...

We like Iron Man because he gets his power from the science that he created and controls. But who can resist Thor and his legendary hammer?

Anonymous said...

Did you see The Avengers? Check out our list of the worst comic book movies & tell us if The Avengers rocks or flops!

The Avenger Jacket said...

Black Widow is really a courageous character,plays extra ordinary role in avengers

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