The Avengers Directed by: Joss Whedon Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson Running Time: 2 hrs 22 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 4, 2012
PLOT: Earth's mightiest heroes (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) join together to defeat an evil space alien (Hiddleston) from destroying the world.
WHO'S IT FOR? If you're the kind of moviegoer who saw the previous Marvel flicks leading up to this (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, The Incredible Hulk), then you owe it to those previous commitments to see what it all adds up to. However, if you haven't seen any of those aforementioned movies, this one is still a blast to experience. Basically, you won't enjoy this movie if you absolutely hate spectacle in your entertainment.
EXPECTATIONS: There's a lot on the line for co-writer/director Joss Whedon, so I looked it at The Avengers like this - this is his first directed movie since Serenity. Granted he's been busy since then, but how sharp would his helming skills be? How would he be able to make this series payoff, especially when the movies leading up to it weren't any better than a "7/10"?
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man: He snarks in the face of danger, and offers the futuristic stunt work and glorified walking video game existence that made him so darling in his two previous (and very successful) films. Of all the Avengers in this movie, he might be given the most screen time, but thankfully it is not too much - there are only so many random movie references from Stark that one can take before growing extremely tiresome of his rampant ego (again). Score: 7
Chris Hemsworth as Thor: Accompanied by a roar of applause during his surprising entrance, it's fair to say that last summer's superhero has done well in finding an audience. A large credit however, should go to his hammer, which is almost cooler than the actual Norse god himself. And just as with in the movie of his namesake, Thor functions in this film as both hero and punchline, especially like when Iron Man rips on him for being "Shakespeare in the Park." Score: 6
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk: This is the third Hulk we have seen in three different movies in the span of nine years, and it is relieving to see that The Avengers have finally got him right. Played intelligently by a shy Ruffalo, The Avengers turns this one-song hero (granted, a very loud song) into the movie's #1 crowd pleaser, one who takes part in super slapstick and impressive fighting much more than he does brooding. (It is worth mentioning that the original Hulk, Lou Ferigno, does voice this green giant as well). Score: 7
Chris Evans as Captain America: He's back for more soldiering, this time with the help of a shield that can stop anything (seriously, anything). Though he does have super abilities (he can jump really high), Evans' hero is made purely for typical action - he's right at home running from an explosion on top of a bus. And to keep this movie's idea of the Avengers being the saviors of The United States of Earth, he is shown saving people from "terrorists," and even has a bit in Germany where he saves some people from invader Loki. Score: 5
Tom Hiddleston as Loki: Last year in my review for Thor I only wrote this sentence about Loki - "... main villain Loki looks silly with his grasshopper helmet." With great thanks to whoever decided to give him some real attitude and not some sissy Shakespearean angst, Loki is made into an adversary who actually feels like a threat to the heroes on screen. While he still does not have much physical prowess, he has the darkness and general craziness to keep us wanting to see him overcome, and not to just go away. Score: 7
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury: Finally after only being recognized by people who kept watch on the previous Marvel movies, Jackson is given more time to Fury-it-up by aggressively wearing an eye patch and shooting a gun sometimes. Score: 6
Scarlett Johansson & Jeremy Renner as Black Widow and Hawkeye: Here is where the story's prejudice against the non-super shines the most. Because these two are simply good soldiers (Hawkeye with hysterically good accuracy for a non-robot) they are put into more typical situations, which feature any stunts done in a Jason Statham movie. Widow especially gets the "action hero" handling, as we are re-introduced to her while she tries to break from a tied-down interrogation moment, using both wit and physical pizazz. Score: 5
TALKING: Dialogue is just as much a part of the Avengers spectacle as the flying ships and super combat scenes. The script has characters fire lines at one another in a very precise manner, so much that the comic relief is perfectly calculated to win over (and not distract) audiences at the right moment. And it's not just the lippy Stark who gets all the zingers; everyone is given a shot to win amuse audiences with a sense of humor as well. What doesn't sit with the audience so smoothly is the movie's desire to use heavy science terminology, which sounds like the two writers worked overtime to try to make the concept of the "Tesseract" and its required technologies as believable as possible. Instead, these words makes for some confusing moments, and too much darn fancy language. Score: 7
SIGHTS: Borrowing from the aggressive cinematography style of Thor, The Avengers features a handful of lopsided "canted angles" that either add dynamism or dizziness to the moment being captured. Even more gripping are a couple of long takes in this movie, especially one that ties the action of all of the heroes together in one swift shot. Thankfully, the 3D is better than that of the previous Thor, though this movie still doesn't require the format. The incredible special effects will engulf you into this movie's joy without any darkening of the image, or even worse, having to watch it through uncomfortable glasses. Score: 9
SOUNDS: "Live to Rise" by Soundgarden plays during the final credits, which only compliments the indifference expressed by those who walk out of this thing while names are still running up the screen. (For the insignificant record, "Walk" by the Foo Fighters rocked more successfully in Thor). Score: 8
BEST SCENE: While the third act does feature a whole lot of genre-hopping mega craziness, the most exciting sequence might be the fight sandwich that happens on the sky-boat-plane, with its paralleling mini stories all moving at full speed to leave audiences really craving the inevitable, larger third act.
ENDING: Leaving the door open for the (heavily desired) second round, there is a small (and super nerdy) teaser at the end of the "fancy" credits ... and if you stay through all the credits, there is something else at the end as well (which they didn't show pre-screening audiences).
QUESTIONS: How much did Whedon improve upon co-writer's Zak Penn's original screenplay? Is there an entire story arc written by Marvel for any, if not all of its upcoming films, that is hidden away in some vault somewhere?
REWATCHABILITY: There's so much action and general greatness happening in your first viewing that it doesn't get tiresome. I'm not even sure a second viewing would be all that boring either.
While co-writer/director Joss Whedon may not be able to entirely erase chunks of Iron Man 2 and all of Captain America: The First Avenger, there doesn't seem to be much else that this director with superpowers of his own can't do. Burdened with the goal of making Marvel Comics' master education plan into a successful all-star event, Whedon proves to be a storyteller who absolutely knows how to tickle his audience. Because he loves his moviegoers, we love him back.
Working with proportions only previously used by Michael Bay, (a ton of flipped cars, constant explosions, and extremely impressive visual effects), Whedon keeps audiences fully on board with a commitment to story, and a strong sense of humor. Like with any blockbuster he bombards our senses, but the movie is so competently massive we never numb to it. That's more than can be said for any of Bay's Transformers movies.
The Avengers is certainly boosted, in some part, by any experience of watching the preceding films. Just as The Expendables featured the type of dreamy fight sequence between so-and-so, The Avengers offers the type of giddy charm of watching this blockbuster character fight against this other blockbuster character. And it does so, might one add, without becoming typical like Freddy vs. Jason.
With no hesitation, this is absolutely the most successful film to come from Marvel Comics' crazy money-driven scheme to throw every superhero and villain possible on the big screen, and such gratitude should be directed to Whedon. He is the master chef who treats the previous known brands as distinct flavors, not main courses, allowing them to effectively complement one another in surprising way ways. Although this is bound to spawn a whole new batch of insignificant spin-offs, he has made a delicious blockbuster du jour out of a group of superheroes who are not strong enough to carry whole movies on their own.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10