Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers.
When it comes to summer blockbusters it doesn't get any bigger than this. The years of teasing in post-credit scenes in previous superhero films finally comes to a head in The Avengers. Written and directed by Joss Whedon and featuring a plethora of stars, big budget special effects, amazing action and plenty of comedy and camaraderie, this movie is a fanboy's wet dream come true.
The story wastes no time in jumping right into the action. Its plot revolves around Loki, the evil Asgardian and brother of Thor, stealing the Tesseract (an all powerful energy source) from S.H.I.E.LD., which he intends to use to open a portal to another universe that will allow an invading army to reach earth and conquer it, installing him as King. Director Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., assembles a misfit group of heroes to defeat Loki and bring back the Tesseract.
Writer Joss Whedon, who knows how to write and reference pop culture, fantasy/Sci-Fi better than anyone, doesn't spend much time on backstory. He knows who his audience is. You're expected to know about things like Tesseracts and S.H.I.E.LD.. If you're wondering where the rich guy got his cool red and yellow metal suit, then you might still be able to enjoy the action, but you're going to have a steeper learning curve when it comes to picking up on the whole story.
As you'd expect from one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, the special effects and the action are all top notch. The heroes battle Loki and each other in several spectacular scenes, building to a climax in a devastating battle in Manhattan around Grand Central Station. I actually spent the extra money to see this movie in 3D, even though I'm not a big fan of the technology. Despite being just a conversion job and not actually filmed in 3D, I enjoyed it and some of the special effects do have a little extra pop because of it. Although I hasten to add, I'm sure it would still be just as entertaining in 2D.
Although the action is amazing, it's the interaction of the superheroes where the movie really shines. The cast works well together and Whedon provides plenty of humor. Robert Downey Jr. is a scene stealer as the egotistical Tony Stark. Mark Ruffalo, the only actor new to his superhero role, does a nice job as Bruce Banner and even gets to provide the face of the Hulk. During the climatic battle it is the Hulk who gets some of the biggest laughs in a couple of scenes. Chris Evans plays it straight as Captain America as does Chris Hemsworth as Thor, while Scarlett Johansson brings a much needed female touch to the proceedings.
I was reminded while watching this movie of a point Patrick has made on this site about how during the Silent era of movies it was rare for a movie to include more than one big name. So far, apart from the X-men, you could say the same thing about superhero movies. Some of my favorite comic books as a kid were always those that featured a group or a cross-over story. I remember they would sometimes tease a comic story out of Spider-man vs the Hulk that was supposed to decide who was more powerful, although they always seemed to end in a draw. There are several scenes like that here, with the Hulk battling Thor in one fight and Thor also taking on Captain America and Iron Man in another.
The movie does run long. It's nearly 2 and a half hours and of course if you want to see everything you have to stay right up until the end of the credits for two separate post-credit scenes. I was never bored, but the plot does meander a bit in the first 45 minutes or so and some tightening could probably have been done. Reportedly there's an additional 30 minutes of footage that will be included on the DVD, but then it's always easier to watch long movies at home where you have the power to pause.
This movie is what all blockbusters want to be. Not only is it big, loud and filled with eye candy, it's perfectly cast and even more importantly, it's well written! How many times have we seen movies like Transformers where it looks amazing, but the script feels like an afterthought? Whedon is a fine director, but it's his writing that benefits the movie most, particluarly his ability to insert comedy without reducing the tension.
When it comes to summer blockbusters it doesn't get any bigger or better than this.
Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in The Avengers
Bring on those 30 extra minutes. I wished The Avengers would never end. Sure this movie is longer than your average film, but when it is this good we want it to last. My one and only complaint about The Avengers is that is teases us with the relationship between Hawkeye and Black Widow. It hints at a romance, and considering the two of their careers, the affair would be an exciting one. I hope some of that extra footage covers their relationship.
As Scott wrote, The Hulk provides the film's biggest laughs during the huge final battle. The entire theater erupted with his surprise actions. Scott also mentioned Tony Starks's snide comments such as, "No hard feelings Point Break, you've got a mean swing." He says to Thor in reference to both their recent fight and a Patrick Swayze movie. Although Stark is clearly the team comedian, each hero gets at least one funny line.
Whedon wrote them all personalities true to who they are. Thor breaks into the plane to grab Loki. He is not being mean, but as a God he is merely too arrogant to be bothered by such things as asking. Steve Rogers is true red, white and blue. When he is told he has a new suit, he asks "Aren't stars a stripes considered a bit old fashioned?" Later, Black Widow cautions him that Loki and Thor are Gods and he responds, "There is only one God, and he does not dress like that."
Of all the actors to play Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo is the best. He plays it all as very mild mannered, yet with that glint in his eye, we know that he knows he is not fooling anyone. His Jekyll and Hyde issue torments him as well as makes him a valuable commodity.
The Black Widow has an awesome introduction scene. It demonstrates just how well she can interrogate someone. Another interrogation scene later on reasserts her talents as well as reveals a bit of her darker side. We have yet to learn her complete origin, but some details are given.
It is only Hawkeye, that gets the short stick here. Other than he and Natasha making brief references to their past, we learn next to nothing about him. When it comes to super powers, he is clearly the weakest in the bunch. The movie even addresses this once when he runs out of arrows. His relationship to Natasha as well as the other heroes leaves much to be explored. Please Joss Whedon, make a Hawkeye/Black Widow movie, or better yet, just keep making more of The Avengers!
Thor, Iron Man and Captain America in The Avengers.
I too enjoyed this movie, although I don't think it needed to be any longer than it was. As my brothers said it has all the right ingredients for a tasty superhero stew. The script is clever, it features a diverse and memorable group of heroes, the cast is great, the effects are impressive and the action plentiful. Perhaps it could have been given a slightly tighter edit but overall I can't complain.
The interactions of the different heroes is certainly the highlight of the movie. After all isn't that the attraction of these superhero groups anyway? The Avengers has a nice mix of personality types. You have the old fashioned traditionalist (Captain America), the wisecracking rich playboy (Iron Man), the hottie foreign babe (Black Widow), the arrogant mythological god (Thor), the mild mannered scientist with the huge green alter ego that likes to smash things (Hulk), and the enigmatic guy with a bow and arrow (Hawkeye).
Add me to the chorus singling out Mark Ruffalo's performance as Bruce Banner. And the Hulk absolutely provides the biggest laughs, even if the movie does make you wait quite a while to see him.
As Eric wrote, each hero gets at least one funny line or an amusing moment. One of my favorites is when a character mentions flying monkeys and Steve Rogers is pleased to finally get a pop culture reference. The Wizard of Oz movie having come out in 1939 a few years before he was frozen in ice. The Black Widow's interrogation skills during her conversation with Loki are worth a chuckle as well.
The level of devastation that occurs to midtown Manhattan is gloriously over-the-top. The body count of dead civilians is high, that's for sure. I'll go so far as to call the big climactic battle the most entertaining, action-packed and humorous superhero group fight-scene ever. Each hero gets their chance to shine and they look super cool in that shot of them standing together in the middle of the battle torn street.
I'm not a huge fan of bloated, special effects driven, CGI'd to the hilt, explosion-and-crash-filled summer blockbusters. But popcorn movies don't get much better than The Avengers.
Photos © Copyright Marvel Studios (2012)