Thursday, May 3, 2012
Review of THE AVENGERS (2012)
- Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.
- Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Gwyneth Paltrow
- Story by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn; Screenplay by Joss Whedon (Based on Marvel Comics)
- Directed by Joss Whedon
- Running time: 2hrs 22min.
THIS IS IT!!! The moment every comic book fanboy has been waiting for. The team-up of some of Marvel Comics' major superheroes, working as a team! This has been 5 movies in the making (6 if you count Ang Lee's 2003 HULK, which I do actually), and most of them have been pretty darn good. My favorite is definitely the first IRON MAN. I think that it genuinely captured the spirit and tone of the comic and Jon Favreau directed the hell out of it. I like both Hulk movies, but I am in the minority when I say that I prefer Ang Lee's take. Loved the comic panel style editing, and thought The Hulk looked better in that one. IRON MAN 2 wasn't nearly as good as the first, but it was still fun. Just tried to do too much, and couldn't handle it. THOR is my least favorite. There's certain things I enjoy in it (all the folklore stuff but didn't care for Natalie Portman's character or her annoying sidekick played by Kat Dennings). Captain America frustrates me cause he's one of my favorite superheroes, and even though I thought the look was absolutely perfect (the direction was great too), the film became a victim of trying to rush through the story in order to get to The Avengers. If they weren't going to make an Avengers movie, I do think Captain America would have been excellent.
But on the plus side, we DO have an Avengers movie! If you haven't seen the IRON MAN movies, CAPTAIN AMERICA, and especially THOR, I have a feeling you'd be lost. There are many characters and plot points that play a part in this movie. At SHIELD's (if you don't know what SHIELD is, than you DO need to watch the previous movies) headquarters, scientists are working on the device that can open up portals to other dimensions. All of a sudden, Loki (Thor's brother and villain of that movie) appears through the portal and begins to take control of the minds of most of SHIELD, including Hawkeye. The team leader, Nick Fury, escapes. It's up to him and Black Widow (Johansson) to recruit 3 superheroes (Iron Man, Captain America and Dr. Bruce Banner aka The Hulk) to form a team so they can retrieve the device from Loki, as he plans to open up the portal and let an alien race invade Earth. Eventually, Thor makes his way down to earth too and reluctantly joins the team.
Once the four main heroes get together, there is major tension. Stark (aka Iron Man) wants to be in charge but shows no strategy in anyway, Captain America is frustrated cause no one listens to him and Thor wants to deal with his brother Loki by himself. Banner just wants to control his anger so he won't Hulk out and harm anyone. There are also hints and back stories for Black Widow and Hawkeye, but will probably be more expanded upon in future movies. I don't want to say too much else about major plot points, cause discovering for yourself the way this movie plays out is half the fun. I will say that the heroes fight each other, and The Avengers have to prove that they can work together as a team once Loki's alien army arrives.
One of the many things I loved about this movie was the way it builds up to it's finale. It doesn't blow it's load early on. The pre-title sequence is terrific, full of excitement and has a great little car chase. But the action is never THAT small again. And the scale of the film grows with each action sequence. I'm going to try not to spoil anything specific for you. I'll just tell you what I thought worked.
Every actor slips nicely back into their roles. Robert Downey Jr. could play this in his sleep, but thankfully he doesn't as he spouts off more smart ass comments than ever. But there is also a deeper character arc too. Chris Evans becomes a true leader as Captain America, and was one of my highlights of the film. Hemsworth is still successful as Thor, though he probably got the least amount of screentime (my only minor complaint really), and could have been fleshed out more. I was surprised how much I liked Ruffalo as Banner, who is easily the best actor for the character so far. Samuel L. Jackson gets more screentime, even if he doesn't get in on much of the action. He's still bad ass! Johansson gets to do a lot more to do this time and her introduction is an ass kicking hoot. Jeremy Renner is solid as Hawkeye, though we don't really get to know too much about him until the second half of the film, as he is controlled by Loki in the first. Even Clark Gregg gets to shine in a few geeky moments. Possibly the best actor in this is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He's got such a great villainous smile and a threatening disposition that he could wind up as one of Hollywood's greatest bad guys.
Joss Whedon knows comic books. He knows these heroes. He knows what he wants to see them do together, and he gets to live out his dream by making it happen. In someone else's hands, this could have been a trainwreck. There is A LOT going on in this movie, but Whedon has somehow managed to juggle all the characters and story elements and make them fit together nicely. I loved SERENITY, so I knew he was able to pull off action scenes and fun characterizations, but I was still impressed by how huge that finale is. It's about half an hour long as aliens terrorize New York. He knew how the heroes should finally learn to fight together, and when they do, it'll make every superhero fan stand up and cheer. The action is directed with the same visionary craft that Spielberg displays. There is a great CG unbroken take that shows every hero in action. That was awesome! Every hero gets his and her chance to shine. From what I could gather at the screening I attended, the audience favorite was The Hulk. When he is finally unleashed... LOOK OUT! The CG Hulk looks like a mixture of the first and second films, but even better. He steals a few scenes that will have audiences roaring with applause.
The special effects are mostly outstanding. There are a few that look too CG, but I was so caught up in the story by then, that I just didn't care. I've read several reviews that criticized the music by Alan Silvestri. He also did CAPTAIN AMERICA. Now, even though that was a better score, there is nothing wrong with the job he did here. It's more modern than that one, but that's cause this is a modern film. It fits the movie perfectly, and I loved the hero theme so much that I was humming it on the way home. I saw this in IMAX 3D, and I would say that's the way to go. It looks better than regular 3D, as the lighting is brighter. Even though this was converted to 3D, I was very impressed with how little distortion there was to the images. If you can afford it, it's worth it. Otherwise, this movie will play just as well in 2D.
Is the movie perfect? Actually, it comes close. I may need to see it a few time before I ever say that. I've probably seen better movies this year, but not one that was as much fun as this. I have a feeling that this will be a comfort film for myself and many other film geeks for years to come, just like the Indiana Jones movies or Star Wars movies are to many. Oh yeah, and don't forget to stay after the credits. There is a scene halfway through that will make comic book nerds orgasm (others may be scratching there heads), and a scene after all the credits. So DON'T LEAVE until it is ALL DONE.
THE AVENGERS is a great way to start the summer movie season. It's action packed excitement laced with humor. An A-Grade popcorn movie. I was worried that the trailers and TV spots may have shown too much, and while they have given some money shots away, there are still some great things to discover that haven't been revealed yet. This is a movie that lives up to it's hype. It's immensely satisfying entertainment.
***1/2 (out of ****)