Its here, Marvel’s long awaited team up movie is upon us. It took 5 movies and 5 years but the assembly is complete and the nerd-orgy that was promised has come to fruition. In a summer where we get both a new Spider-man and Batman movie, The Avengers (arguably a team of B-list superheros) has somehow managed to out hype both of those films. Is it good? Well, the five lead up films garnered both financial and critical success, so the real questions should be HOW good is it and is there any conceivable way for it to live up to the expectations.
If this review sounds like it was written by a star struck 13 year old girl at a Justin Beiber concert, its probably because that’s how I feel about this movie. Its hard to find anything wrong with the film, and it will probably take me 2 or 3 more viewings before I find something to really gripe about. Anyone that knows me knows that’s a feat because I gripe about EVERYTHING. Everything from the casting, to the story, to the grandiose third act is Marvel Studios doing what they do best, showcasing their properties in amazing ways.
The trouble with ensembles is that some character always either gets in the way or get ignored (I’m looking at you Xmen: First Class). Even comic movies that use their characters fully usually do so in very contrived ways, like both Fantastic 4 films. All of the characters’ roles were fully developed and how each helped reach the movie’s resolution made sense. Enough screen time was given to all characters and any dangling story elements were wrapped up just enough to use in future installments of the series. Like in Captain America: The First Avenger, this entire film felt like it was orchestrated by an enormous team at Marvel, with each and every decision being carefully dissected. Many would scoff at the idea of a movie developed by committee, but in the land of Comics, its necessary. If a script isn’t criticized by enough people you end up with movies like Superman Returns or Hulk.
Alot of good things have been said about The Avengers, and as movie goers make their way to theaters even more things will be said. Here’s what I would consider the high points.
The Avengers Themselves: Every character outside of the Hulk is portrayed exactly how you remember them from the other movies. Stark’s wit is sharp as ever thanks to yet another outstanding performance from Robert Downey Jr., Thor and Loki’s family strife is still fresh and both of them are clearly not too far removed from their original status as just brothers, Captain America is still a Patriot and his fish out of water routine is delightfully charming. The characters traits weren’t dictated by the movie, the movie was dictated by their traits.
Mark Ruffalo: This film makes me mad at Ang Lee for not casting Ruffalo in the original Hulk movie. He plays an unsure awkward almost nerdy Bruce Banner better than both Eric Bana and Edward Norton combined. Bruce finally felt like Bruce! He carries a fear, that is unique in that he’s not scared for himself, he’s scared OF himself. Could he have carried a movie on his own playing Banner like he did in the Avengers? Who knows, but in the ensemble, as a character who is clearly as scared of himself as everyone else is, Ruffalo blows it out of the water.
Scarlett Johansson: Sure, we all know she’s hot, lets try and get past that and focus on her performance. She mixed badass with nervous very easily throughout the film. On more than one occasion Black Widow’s fear of the Hulk had Johansson playing “visibly scared” remarkably well. Its easy to write off Johansson as just another pretty face, but her IMDB page shows the number of good films she has made. Some depth was finally brought to her character and I really hope they give Black Widow a spin off film.
Thor’s Hammer: Last year, in my Thor review, I mentioned how happy I was that the movie actually made Thor’s hammer (possibly the dumbest idea for a super hero weapon ever) really cool. This trend continued throughout The Avengers. Having Thor retrieve his hammer from an unknown location by just holding his hand out and the hammer tearing through any and everything in its way was almost as enchanting as him throwing the hammer while the camera shot stayed on him as he speaks to another Avenger. The sound of Mjolnir hitting enemies can be heard through the whole conversation, and it ends with Thor catching the hammer on its return, not really carring who his weapon just leveled. Even seeing The Incredible Hulk try to lift the hammer was fulfilling.
The Match Ups: Through out the movie the Avengers bicker and fight and each fight was spectacular in different ways. Thor Vs Ironman, Hulk Vs Thor, Black Widow Vs Hawkeye…the match ups were iconic, impressive and believable. Captain America’s shield successfully blocking a strike from Mjolnir is sure to have comic geeks arguing for years. Nothing quite tops the final battle in act three between Hulk and Loki. By ending with the line “Puny God,” a line that will be quoted for decades, Hulk reminds us why he’s such an important member of the team.
The Subtlety: The story is solid and the progression is clear. The glue that holds the 6 movies together was subtle every time it was mentioned. The story didn’t get bogged down trying to explain why Capt America doesn’t get modern references, or how Thor came back to the earth realm when the Rainbow Bridge had been destroyed, or even why there was a picture of Natalie Portman in the middle of the film. The questions that need to be answered get answered and the ones that don’t don’t. If you didn’t understand what just happened because it was a idea from a different movie, it doesn’t matter, more important things will be happening on screen. The movie caters almost perfectly to both the new viewers and the veterans. Near the end of Act 2: Capt America calls out Tony Stark for being selfish and not willing to sacrifice himself. By the end of the film Stark proves him wrong by nearly dying, but neither character refers to the previous interaction. Its left for the audience to deduce it themselves. Things like this show that the filmmakers respect the audience enough to not hold our hands.
In the short time since I have seen the movie it has already completely consumed my psyche. The Avengers simultaneously is the funniest comedy, the most action packed action movie, and geekiest geek movie. Not since my initial viewing of The Dark Knight, have I so helplessly hyperbolized every aspect of a film. I will be seeing The Avengers at least one more time in theaters. Deep inside, I know that this film cannot be as good as I remember it, and its got to have flaws that I’m missing. That first viewing left a sheen of starry eyed wonderment so thick that right now its almost hard for me to picture myself enjoying another movie…ever.
Obviously that sheen will wear off, probably quickly, and The Dark Knight Rises will probably crush my brain in other ways, but for the film to have such a profound effect on me, a 29 year old, jaded, cynical, grown-ass-man, is a sign that The Avengers is a landmark film in the arenas of Comic Box movies, Summer Blockbusters, American Cinema, and 21st century culture as a whole.
I told you this review would be ridiculous and probably exaggerated, but its honest. Go see the Avengers, even if you haven’t done the homework with the other movies. Sure, Marvel and Disney will probably rake in a billion dollars at the box office when its said and done, but I personally see the Avengers as a gift from Hollywood. Its like they know we have sat through horrid movies like The Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Ghost Rider just waiting for the payoff.
Verdict: The Avengers is that payoff.