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Movie Review: The Avengers

May 5, 2012
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I feel bad being so late to this movie—granted this is the opening day, but it seems that for the past two weeks, everyone in the world has seen it already. And so, for the past two weeks, everyone’s been raving about it and saying that it’s the greatest superhero movie ever made; it’s the best movie of the summer; it’s better than a big sex sandwich, and so on.

The premise, if it weren’t already evident from the stingers Marvel’s added to the very end of every one of their movies for the past five years, is that a group of superheroes—Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)–need to recover the Tesseract, a glowing blue cube that generates unlimited energy and also, somehow, opens the portal to the realm of Asgard. No sooner does S.H.I.E.L.D., a shadowy government agency overseen by a committee whose purpose in the film is somewhat tenuous, discover this than the Tesseract’s stolen by Thor’s adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who also hypnotizes Hawkeye and one of the scientists from Thor, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) into doing his nefarious shenanigans, namely, opening a bigger portal to Asgard and invading earth.

Samuel L.Jackson, under the guise of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), rounds up the team, sending Widow to India to snag The Hulk, or rather, his alter-ego Bruce Banner, because he’s apparently the only guy on the planet who understands gamma radiation; thawing out Captain America; interrupting Iron Man’s alter-ego Tony Stark’s date night; and just happening upon Thor. In the meantime, they pick up Loki in Germany, where all the inhabitants, oddly, speak English, and bring ‘em to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying airship-fortress-thingamajig. Hijinks ensue, the group has its falling-outs and ins, and everything comes to a head for a climactic showdown in New York City.

The best bits, as can probably be expected from Whedon, comes from the dialogue, especially, if not almost entirely from Downey’s one-liners as Tony Stark. When he tries to weasel out of a phone call by claiming to be a life-like replicant of the real Tony Stark, well, it’s good to see the cocky Iron Man from the first movie. Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn (Incident at Loch Ness) have some fun with each of their characters (there’s a great callback gag with Thor and The Hulk, and another one with Black Widow kicking Russian butt while she puts a federal agent on hold), but there’s also a sense that they could have done more.

Outside of Stark, the rest of the characters aren’t very developed (despite nearly all of them having their own films to develop their personalities)–Captain America is stern, humorless, and kind of naïve; Thor just looks around trying to be helpful and doesn’t appear to have the kind of basic intelligence one would think a God to possess; Hawkeye’s personality is defined by his ability to shoot arrows with dead-on accuracy; Bruce Banner is sweaty and nervous; and Black Widow is curvaceous.

Being a superhero film, this may not be a serious drawback, but for the first hour and forty-five minutes, the best two scenes are simply the clashes between the characters—one sequence in particular has all of them talking over each other, voicing their disagreements and getting nowhere. They may be superheroes, but they’re still petty. Likewise, as soon as they’re all together, they establish high-school-level cliques; Stark and Banner, the nerds, against Captain America and Thor, the jocks. It’s a terrific theme that deserved more than a mere handful of scenes that end far too quickly, and soon it’s back to a lot of incessant plotting (though not as bad as Iron Man 2) and lots, lots, lots of unnecessary pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo. This has been a problem with many of Marvel’s movies lately, and I wonder if the fault lies with the producers—it’s almost as if Whedon’s being held back, and, if so, wrongly. There’s a lot of directors who can do straight action, but Whedon’s strength is dialogue, why shouldn’t they get what they pay for?

Whatever, it is an action movie, and my battle count was six: The opening chase; Captain America and Iron Man versus Loki; Iron Man and Captain America versus Thor; Iron Man and Captain America versus Loki’s men; Black Widow and Thor versus The Hulk; and the final battle. Half of those feature the heroes fighting against each other, which is a creative concept, and Whedon gets just as creative pairing and playing off each hero’s powers—Captain America reflecting Iron Man’s blasts off his shield; Thor charging Iron Man’s systems with his lightning. Still, oftentimes it’s the concept that’s more interesting than the action itself. The fight between Thor and Iron Man, for example, is basically two guys throwing each other at trees, and the same could be said for Thor versus The Hulk, just swap “trees” for “fighter planes.” There’s also a lot of Iron Man, who’s the de facto protagonist, and that’s fine by me.

That said, the final battle is stellar. Since the enemies are all the same, it gives Whedon an opportunity to show how each superhero would take down the same threat–one of the best moments in the movie is an unbroken shot of the entire team thrashing those naughty Asgardians in their own particular way. Similarly, you also get to see the team work in tandem, and I don’t think anyone won’t have a goofy grin on their face when Captain America delivers a plan of action, telling each hero where to go and what to do, and ends with, “Hulk: Smash.”

Is it the greatest superhero movie ever? No–and I think many of the ravers are forgetting the first half hour and long stretches of the middle, leaving with only several laughs and the final battle in mind. But it is pretty good. It’s slow to start, frequently lags, and the villain is weak, but there’s a lot of laughs, some very good action, and I could listen to them bicker all day. And bonus points for a special guest appearance by Harry Dean Stanton.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Avengers is rated PG-13. Directed by Joss Whedon. Written by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof, and Tina Benko.

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7 Responses to “ Movie Review: The Avengers ”

  1. nerdboy on May 5, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Opinions are one thing, but mistaking remaining faithful to the material as a writing flaw is one of those things that reviewers can get away without having to do any research at all. by material I don’t mean the comic book, I mean nordic mythology. Thor has always been portrayed as an affable yet tempestuous oaf who loves nothing more than a good brawl. Assuming that gods have a certain amount of intellect is just lazy, myths provide a broad spectrum of character traits.
    I feel as though this blithe demonstration of ignorance reflects an all too common trait among the most lethargic critics of shallow analysis and the inability to critique their own work. if some small part of a critics review is so flawed what does that say for the rest of the piece? Everyone wants quality, critics are supposed to help is locate what we think will be excellent. In an era where the research is just a few keystokes away can’t our reviewers take pride in making their work excellent as we’ll?

  2. will on May 5, 2012 at 8:10 am

    They were not from Asgard. Captain America had plenty of humor in the film. Loki briefly explained how and why Thor got there. And they wanted banner because, as they say in the film, he understands it the best on Earth.

  3. Dave on May 5, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I think you were completely drunk that movie had a perfect blend of action super heroes and comedy beauty is that they all had time to shine.

  4. J. Silvia on May 5, 2012 at 8:28 am

    So is there like an intelligence and listening requirement to become a movie reviewer? The Avengers weren’t fighting Asguardians as your so ignorantly put it, but rather an Asguardian who had the backing of the Chitauri. There were more battles than six, if you count one-on-one combat before two-on-one, and one-on-many, then the number climbs substantially. It is painfully obvious that not only are you clueless about what you’re watching, but you’re also clueless about what you’d been hearing as well. That pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo you complain about was carefully chosen and actually quite accurate, if still hokus. Whedons scientific advisors are top notch – and Tony Starks dialog wasn’t the only thing driving the movie – perhaps you’ve been in New York so long you’re unable to listen to people who talk at normal speeds, and also, perhaps you could care less about the rest of the characters too. I think Thor was excellently portrayed as his step-brother was the primary antagonist and his focus was there. In case you didn’t watch Thor, it’s not that he lacks intelligence, it’s that he has different words for it all – and Captain America is a man misplaced in time, but his dialog was right on as well. All in all, I’d say that your 3.5 is pretty lame, given that this movie will have more repeat views and attention than Avatar.

  5. Nat Almirall on May 5, 2012 at 8:49 am

    So the only real complaint is that they weren’t from Asgard — a trite point that’s dwelt upon for about .5% of the running time. How humbled I feel.

    Save for J’s complaints, which, as I read them, boil down to: 1) It’s not Asgardians they’re fighting, rather it’s an Asgardian. 2) There were more battles if you use a different, mystical system of counting that concludes there were more battles. 3) Whedon has scientific “advisors,” [sic] so you cannot hear properly because you are from New York (which I’m not; perhaps you yourself should employ some of Whedon’s advisers). 4) Thor is focused on his step brother (which doesn’t strike me as a criticism, aside from your own error, as Loki is his adopted brother, a point made rather explicit in the film). 5) Captain America is a man misplaced in time (see point 4, and the Cap actually gets along quite well, as a joke is made of his adaptability).

    And to nerdboy, since you misspelled “well,” your entire comment is invalidated.

  6. KruJuice on May 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

    People, I will admit there was a bit of presumption on the critics part, however remember that a critics job is to analyze the strength of the film as a film, not as an adaptation.

    That being said the job was done appropriately.
    I gave the movie high marks as well, however like the rest of you (obviously) I’m also a comics fan.
    There was inherent weakness as was pointed out, perhaps not as badly as was indicated, however, cut them some slack.

  7. thegasmanlives on May 5, 2012 at 9:45 am

    To me, it appears that you liked the movie. 3.5 out of 5 is a 70%. That’s a nice B. Apparently, you didn’t like enough for most people.

    Also, you suck and you know nothing about movies because you don’t like the same things I do. Loser.

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