‘The Avengers’ Review
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleson, Clark Gregg, Colbie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Lou Ferringo, Paul Bettany
Plot: With the aid of a warmongering alien race the Asgard god of mischief returns to Earth with an aim to conquer. In order to compete him Earth’s mightiest heroes must assemble.
Review: Ok, let’s not muck around. There’s going to be light to medium spoilers through out this review. If you want to skip to the end and see the final thoughts on the movie it’ll be in blue.
And so we have it. The culmination of the efforts of the Marvel studios and five big budget feature films starting with Iron Man. Marvel rolled the dice on that first outing, putting an actor who most casting agents wouldn’t look twice at and a lesser known character stepping into the spotlight. Now bringing him together with a group of title characters for the cinemas most epic team up seems like the most logical move in the world.
The story is basic, but not shallow. After setting the scene with Loki re-entering the Earth realm and taking possession of a McGuffin that will allow him to take over the world (as well as a couple of brain washed henchmen) we start collecting our heroes. Black Widow has an expanded role compared to Iron Man 2, and very effectively. She starts out in a compromising position and quickly busts out all kinds of awesome, which she follows up with recruiting Bruce Banner. InIron Man 2 she was just there to be sneaky and kick-ass, but these early scenes set here up as being more than that – she’s smart, smooth talking and crafty. Due to this slight tweak to a more independent spy rather than a Nick Fury lackey results in her having some of the best scenes in the movie.
Next comes Tony Stark being recruited by Agent Coulson, and in this one scene shows better and more in-depth character development between Stark and Potts than Iron Man 2 managed. You’ve seen the trailers, you know that Downey, Jr. is back on form and so is Clark Gregg as Coulson. The latter has become something of a fan favourite of late (due to the short films about him – check your Thor and Captain America blu-rays) to the point that the marketing department got chastised for not giving him his own poster.
Captain America, Nick Fury and Thor feel like they’ve just walked of the set of their previous films, still in costume and character. Neither of them get the level of character development as Stark, Banner and Romanov but they all have challenges to face that gives them all the opportunity to show off their acting chops. Jeremy Renner doesn’t get the chance to flex until later in the film, but he does nail the unescapable coolness of Hawkeye. The man, and the character, are pure ice.
Mark Ruffalo fills the role of Bruce Banner and The Incredible Hulk and without mincing words this is third time lucky. As the human version of the character he is neurotic and awkward, constantly in the way and unable to respond well to people. When he’s in his lab he’s in his place, but this is a side of the character that has been unmistakably absent in the past re-iterations of the role. As the Hulk he FINALLY looks the shit. He doesn’t look like an animated picture glued over the top of the footage – he looks like a real, giant green man. The motion capture approach has made a huge difference – it’s no wonder people have started asking for another Hulk movie. When he reveals to the team how he keeps the Hulk at bay it makes Norton’s attempts to calm himself look like new-age psychobabble.
One of the many reasons Joss Whedon was accepted by the geeks as the man for the job was his proven ability to write convincing relationships between an ensemble cast. This is one big shining gold star for the movie – the dialogue shines through-out. Each character is a real person with individual motivations and values instead of each having their own gimmick to distinguish them. The best relationship is, surprisingly, between Black Widow and Hawkeye who have a largely unspoken history that is well crafted even while they’re separated for most of the movie. Here’s hoping the movie gods bestow us a Black Widow/Hawkeye prequel movie.
So the characters we already know to be awesome, and under the pen of Whedon they are more awesome than ever before. The relationships between the characters is a prime example of what an ensemble piece should be. That is only half the pie. How about that big, noisy action?
AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME. Some of the big moments have been seen in the trailers, but they only scratch the surface. The opening action sequence is totally awesome, but it’s an appetizer. Then we have a couple of individual scraps with Cap vs Loki, Iron Man vs Thor, etc. Then the characters all get themselves together on the flying headquarters and shit happens. We get Iron Man and Cap. America teaming up, Black Widow and Thor playing tag team with the Hulk. It is clever, imaginative and awesome. This flows almost immediately into the massive third act showdown between the Avengers as a complete unit against the alien army.
It’s epic. Some films get confused about how epic action scenes should play out – they think the trick is to make them long. See The Incredible Hulk and Revenge of the Sith as prime examples – CGI characters flaying against each other for half an hour. This is a long, yes, but every moment is filled with something new and unique. We switch from character to character seeing them all in action. The choreography is hugely imaginative and the massive dollops of CGI is perfectly married with the live footage. The heroes seem like real people with them taking hits and getting hurt and getting exhausted to the point of almost giving up (thankfully without them stopping to monologue about not giving up ‘hope’.
***********************************************SPOILER FREE BELOW*****************************************
This is THE comic book movie. Whenever people ask why a grown man would read comics I’ll point them to Whedon’s The Avengers and say “that”. This is the comic book movie equivalent to Seven Samurai in more ways than one. It’s got the scale, it’s got the drama, comedy and action perfectly blended together and the classic ensemble of characters. If you don’t like this movie then I feel sorry for you.
Score: TEN outta TEN
P.S. Yes, stay through the credits. Not right to the end, but just about five minutes for a preview of…someone. If you’re in attendance with non-comic readers you’ll going to have some explaining to do.