Sunday, May 13, 2012

Film: The Avengers (2012)

Last night, the family went out to see The Avengers at the local movie complex. Even a week after the American debut, the theatre was packed. They actually had to ask people to shift over seats before the film started. That's a good thing.

The Avengers, of course, was the culimination of a number of Marvel movie franchises and featured an all-star cast. We got Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (the Black Widow) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) as the heroes. Tom Hiddleston returned to play the villain of the piece (Loki), and we had a health dose of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well (Samuel L. Jackson as Col. Nick Fury, Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Colson, and Cobie Smulders as Agent Marie Hill).

And, of course, we have the screenplay and direction done by none other than the legendary Joss Whedon, the ultimate in fan-favorites.

Did I love it? Read on (warning - there will be Spoilers)...

Let me preface this by saying that I have been a fan of the Avengers comic books since the mid-1970's. My first issue that I ever picked up was number 156, with the team storming Dr. Doom's castle. I likely got it as part of one of those three-packs that they often sold at local Kresge's department store. I was instantly hooked.

Given that, seeing all of these iconic heroes together on the same big screen was amazing. The film featured all the elements I would expect when trying to do so: faithfulness to each of the franchise films, the traditional tension when heroes first meet - often resulting in combat with one another, and a ton of action. Yes, there is a good bit of set-up scenes up front but they were needed. We needed to see things established with S.H.I.E.L.D. and to bring each of the cast in properly. The scenes mirrored the tones of each of those earlier films, a tough thing to pull off well but Whedon did it. Once all the heroes are brought into one place, well, that's when the fireworks begin to fly.

So, what were my favorite parts? Here's where I might spoil some things - sorry, I will try to keep them brief:

- Robert Downey Jr.: I've said it before but I will say it again, he was made to play Tony Stark. He carries just the right amount of ego and heart. Another effortless performance here.

- the Hulk: they really got this character right this time. I've seen the previous two films, but this time the CGI really made it work. He was powerful, threatening and, yes, even funny at times. The scenes between Hulk and Thor were hilarious (when you see them, you know what I mean). And the fact that he just owns all the enemies in battle was great! Tell me you didn't love how he dealt with Loki. "Puny god" indeed!

- the Helicarrier: to borrow a phrase from another favorite super-hero movie, they made me believe a ship could fly! When it rose out of the ocean, the comic-geek in me seriously got a bit giddy. The whole film really did a good job fleshing out S.H.I.E.L.D. for the movie going audiences.

- Hawkeye: I have always been a fan of this Avenger. Loved him from the moment he joined the group back in the 60's (which I caught up on via reprints in Marvel Triple Action) and even more so when he stormed off to form the West Coast Avengers and even later when he moved on to the Thunderbolts. Whedon managed to capture the essence of the character perfectly in this script, showing how a normal man (albeit one who is the perfect marksman) could stand along side the likes of powerhouses like Thor, Hulk and Iron Man.

- Black Widow: the team needed a shot of girl power, and boy did she deliver! This film really helped define the character and she held her own against this "boy's club" just fine. The opening scene where she is called in on the case she was working showed exactly how badass she could be. And the fact that she later held her own against the Hulk, how she worked over Loki and how she was the one to help save the day all showed this is one former Soviet spy that should not be under-estimated. Again, this was another character I've liked since the 70's, though I do prefer her with the shoulder length hair versus the short cut as seen in the film.

- the first post-credit scene: folks definitely need to stick around for the credits, however the first one is the one that excited this long-time comic fan. We get a glimpse at who Loki was working for when trying to retrieve the Tesseract (which we comic fans know better as the Cosmic Cube). That villain again harkens back to my time of finding my way to Marvel Comics in the 70's and he's an ultimate Marvel villain to be sure. The line about "courting death" and the smile were perfect, defining character elements. Where he shows up next will be very interesting indeed (I guarantee that one film will not be enough to contain his sheer evil - I expect him to be the tying together elements of the next few films).

So, all in all, the Avengers has pretty much set the bar for super-team films that will be very tough to beat. Prior to this, the only ones we've had were the Mystery Men (which I need to talk about some day - a totally different league but fun) and the two Fantastic Four films (the first one was way better than the second, but again they are a different category as the FF is a single unit even though there are four of them - they just go together).


WillSuffice said...

Thanks for the review. Aloha, Will "Suffice" G.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one... Usually when the expectations are so high the disappoitments are just as big... And yet this is one of the most enjoyable ride of any action movie in the last decade. Silly of course, but nevertheless always aware of what it is, done with great care and attention and never insulting to human intelligence.
My review: