Review: The Avengers

I’ll admit upfront that I had huge biases going into this film. I’ve been a huge fan of Joss Whedon’s for years, and I’ve more recently fallen in love with the Marvel movies, so I was predisposed to love it.  I can say that my nerd overrode my film critic, but honestly, I don’t believe you should judge all genres by the same criteria. A good a comedy is not good for the same reason as is a drama, or a horror film, or a romance. They have different requirements, so why do we put down superhero movies as something lesser; why do “good superhero movie” and “good movie” have to be separate labels? A movie like The Dark Knightis more grounded in realism, so it can be more, well, realistic. That was never an option for this movie. So no, I’m not going to say much about the cinematography and the mise-en-scene and the other stuff you’d critique in a Bergman film. It had a good story, characters I was invested in, and was a blast to watch; I think this was a good movie, and I don’t really care if it isn’t “high art.”The plot is simple: Loki, last seen as the hero’s villainous brother in Thor, has come to Earth with the intention to subjugate its population. And, as you know if you’ve seen the previews, he has an army. Loki steals the tesseract (which you may remember as the glowing blue cube in Captain America: The First Avenger), a portal through deep space of unknown power. Faced with this seemingly unbeatable threat, Nick Fury decides to call together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. They have to overcome their clashing values and personalities to SAVE THE WORLD.

Joss Whedon manages to do the near impossible: he brings together a group of solo acts and makes them all coexist as one performance, where everyone gets near-equal chances to shine. His action scenes are fun, fresh, and actually surprising. The final act is huge, with a number of memorable action scenes peppered throughout. Amidst those though are a number of brief but powerful character moments. My only qualm is that both Thor and Loki feel slightly off at times; Whedonesque dialogue is perfect for Tony Stark, but occasionally feels awkward coming from the mouths of these “gods.” Still, overall he does very well, even with the Asgardians, and his ability to shift seamlessly between drama, action, and humour is on in full form in this film, and the tone perfectly brings Marvel Comics to life.

The characters are the most important part of this film, and they are all well represented, even if some outshine the others. Surprising to me, the character I most loved was Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk. Ruffalo finally injects some much-needed humour into the character, and with that, comes pathos. Banner was a funny, intelligent, endearing character, but always with the legitimate threat under the surface. Even more impressive though, is the Hulk, created by WETA Digital over motion capture actually performed by Ruffalo, making him the first actor to play both Banner and “the other guy.” Hulk’s first appearance is a scene worthy of a werewolf movie, and after that he too develops a sense of humour and pathos. The midnight crowd at my theatre went wild every time any character turned up on screen, but Hulk got the loudest cheers by far. With both roles, Ruffalo completely steals the show, and I look forward to future Hulk films – something I never thought I’d say.

The strong presence of Scarlet Johansson as the Black Widow was a similarly pleasant surprise. I should have expected this from Joss, but he develops her from her minor role in Iron Man 2, giving hints of her past while still leaving it mainly shrouded in mystery. No, she doesn’t have superpowers to match those of her teammates, but she is unquestionably a capable asset to her team.

Robert Downey Jr is flawless, as usual, as Tony Stark, and unsurprisingly gets his fair share of screen time. He gives the performance we’ve come to expect, balancing humour, vulnerability, and straight badassery. He fits most comfortably into Whedon’s trademark snappy dialogue. I was pleased too to see Gwyneth Paltrow back as Pepper Potts, because Tony Stark really isn’t Tony Stark without her. Other memorable supporting performances are given by Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, and Clark Gregg as the ever-awesome Agent Phil Coulson, who finally gets the development and screen time the fans have been demanding for him.

For the leader of the team, Chris Evans as Captain America does not get as much dialogue as his teammates. That said, he is more human, I think, than he was in his solo film. Some beautiful comedic and dramatic moments come from his misunderstanding and mistrust of the modern world. He and Tony Stark butt heads immediately, since Tony represents everything that Steve dislikes about the new world. I can’t wait to see the two of them together in future films, as they had great chemistry (as did Downey Jr and Ruffalo).

Hawkeye gets very little development, unfortunately, but Jeremy Renner manages to make Clint Barton memorable and capable, despite just being the guy with the bow. I hope that we get to learn more about him in subsequent films.

Finally, my favourite Avenger, who I really wish had been more present in the film: Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. As the only character with ties to the villain, I wish their relationship had been better explored, and that we had had more than one short scene looking at Thor’s feelings toward Loki’s actions. However, each of his scenes with his brother pack a powerful emotional punch, brief as they are. For his part, Tom Hiddleston is once again in top form as Loki, playing a more manic, malicious, and dangerous version of the character. Gone are his tears and justifications, replaced my evil grins and condescending sarcasm. His one-on-one scenes with each of the Avengers are superb and often chilling, but each is memorable for its own reasons. The scenes with Thor especially reveal that Loki’s insecurities are very much still present, and that he is still motivated by jealousy despite his new cocky posturing. Their dialogue could have used some work, but they did well with what they had.

The action scenes are huge, bigger than anything Marvel has done before. The closely-guarded identity of Loki’s alien army is insignificant, but revealed early in the film. They pose a threat, but not one as large as the mysterious force behind them, revealed in a mid-credit sequence to be a formidable villain from Marvel comics, one who I eagerly await to see in later films. I enjoyed the pace of the film, allowing for ample character development, but I can see how it could feel slow to someone desiring average popcorn fare. If you’re in North America, be sure to stay until the end of the credits for a lovely surprise in Whedon’s usual style.

Overall, this is a fun, heartfelt, fresh superhero film, and the perfect summer blockbuster. While you could watch it without having seen the previous films, it is really worth giving them a watch first, as they make the character moments in this one so much more potent. The Avengers will make you want to go back and watch them now – whether you have seen them before or not.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: