THE AVENGERS – Review ***SPOILER FREE***
In the western world, in the culture of Hollywood, we have made films the apex of a property’s existence. When any creative, artistic or entertaining endeavor reaches a certain level of popularity, respect, profits or prestige we turn it into a film, or possibly threaten to turn it into a film, if its isn’t already a film itself. So we’ve grown up salivating for certain things to come to fruition. Impossible things. For better or worse many of those things in my generation, due to new technology powered by James Cameron’s ego, have come into being as live action romps of varying degrees of success.
Well as far as “things” go, The Avengers is most certainly one of those “things” for me. The good news being that I went completely ape-”fecal matter” for the movie. I sang the praises of Sir Joss Whedon in my Cabin In The Woods review not long ago, and here I’m not even sure that singing is going to do him justice. The man is having a good year, so good in fact that his career is probably going to take a different path from now on. Avengers most certainly has the potential to skyrocket him into the big leagues of Hollywood Event Filmmakers like Michael Bay or Stephen Sommers, but the good news for us is that, unlike those guys, Whedon makes sure to take care of character and story first. However, once those are locked he will let loose on the action spectacle with the best of them. He has the potential to be, and I apologize for saying this, a “thinking man’s Michael Bay.” If you remove all the storied history of the characters involved with the Avengers that is what it boils down to: a Bay film where you actually care what happens amidst all the silliness and explosions. Joss Whedon: Man of Emotional Explosions.
Unlike Cabin though, Avengers is “A Joss Whedon Film,” written and directed in full. I’ve been yapping to everyone who would listen that my main satisfaction with this movie is that it truly feels like a comic book script, as in, a script written with the intention of being drawn, inked and printed for Marvel to distribute. It’s very comic-book-like. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I don’t know really. I suppose if my hand is forced to explain I would say that is has that ever so sacred balance of comic book reality, physics, logic, and tone without ever delving into being stupid or silly. It’s not cynical of its own source material, this movie is proud to be sopping wet with comic book mythology and atmosphere. At no point does it shy away from the exaggerated world of comicdom. It’s as big, awesome, and faithful to the source art form as Joss Whedon is a fan of that art form himself.
The reason Avengers fires on all cylinders is balance. Whedon is no stranger to the group dynamic in his writing and it most certainly shows here. Thor, Banner, Cap, Stark, Hawkeye and Black Widow all share the screen with things only slightly tipping towards Iron Man. However, that isn’t a problem, this is Iron Man’s film and it makes perfect sense. Cap is still reeling from his 70 years under the ice, his rise to leadership is not cemented especially considering this is an “origin” story of a team. Not to mention, that as far as the public is concerned Tony Stark and John Favreau’s triumphant first Iron Man film is responsible for this whole gargantuan undertaking in the first place. It’s impossible to deny Downey’s presence as well, with a character as “large” as his version of Stark on screen it’s going to take at least two films for the cream, or in this case the Captain, to rise to the top.
It’s an impressive achievement on Whedon’s part as well that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow not only have presence in the film but actually prove themselves useful and interesting in the face of being over shadowed by a super soldier, a demi-god, a genius billionaire, and the ultimate engine of destruction. Tom Hiddleston proves once again that he was perfectly cast as Loki, at every turn, even when he’s losing he is deep in character without flinching. Chris Evans gives a convincing take on a recently unfrozen and confused Captain America. Chris Hemsworth probably has the most unsung hardship of the entire group as he succeeds in playing Thor with an undercurrent of shame and disappointment in his adopted brother Loki and the horrors he is bringing about on earth. Fans might complain that Thor doesn’t get as much time to strut his powers this time around, but he is mentally focused on his brother and the plot unfolds as such. I think once we get a Loki-free Avengers flick we will truly see Thor cut loose. (Also, I still say that Hemsworth is quite possibly the best casted superhero role ever. The guy just exudes Thor at every turn. Just my opinion.)
Oh, and Sam Jackson knocks it out of the park playing Nick Fury as…well…Sam Jackson.
There were two huge standouts of the film for me. First is Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. His screen time isn’t long but the little he gets he sells hard, going so far as to give his character a lot of heart and a lot of balls. Second is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Now, I admit right here and now that I am a lifelong Hulk fan. The comics, the TV show, the movies, I love the Hulk in all his forms, always have. As a credit to Whedon and Ruffalo I would go as far as saying that with the exception of Bill Bixby, Rufalo might be might favorite live action Banner ever. This is the first time in this new era of cinema tech we get to see the green guy “smash” as a hero instead of a menace and it is incredible (sorry.) That is especially a compliment considering Ruffalo did all the motion capture himself. When Hulk is unleased in this film, especially in the last third of the movie, it takes the “awesome” to a whole new level of incredible (sorry again.) However it isn’t just the smashing that wins me over, it’s Ruffalo as Banner. Much like Bixby, Ruffalo is playing a Banner who was been to hell and back and has begun to live with the curse instead of trying to fight it, this movie particularly furthers that very narrative. Of course all the buzz Hulk is getting from audiences and critics for Avengers is due to the smashing, I’m just saying for the rest of us who love the character this movie has other things to offer as well. Hats off to the design team too, the green guy has NEVER looked more accurate, and just plain perfect, to the source material than he does here.
Thanks for reading and for the love of Thor: STAY AFTER THE CREDITS!!!
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