Wednesday, May 2, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.