Saturday, May 5, 2012

Film Review -- The Avengers / Joss Whedon, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg

So, I'm guessing most of you who read this blog have probably seen The Avengers at least once already, and are well aware of the box office juggernaut (pun intended) this film is becoming.  The advance reviews for it have been unprecedented in their uniform level of praise for a superhero movie, and the ticket sales back up the claim that this movie has not only been hyped, but anticipated at a ravenously frenzied level.  It has action, humor, and a narrative flow that never really bogs down the film, but by now you know this--unless you've been actively hiding under a rock.

And the reviews--oh, the scores of positive reviews--have generally said the same thing: excellent start to the summer movie season, best superhero movie yet, audiences of all ages and markets are going to love it.  The acting, writing, and directing is brilliant.  Excellent moments for all the characters.  Hulk steals the show.

But you already know this.

I'm well aware that any review I write of this film--which I will agree, was spectacular and mind-blowing and fun in a way I haven't quite experienced since Iron Man four years ago--is going to be yet another paean to a film that is racking them up left and right.  I'm also relatively late to this party.  So instead of a straight-up review, I'm going to focus on a few things that stuck out to me about the film and the experience of it.

Warning: spoilers ahead.  If you haven't see this movie and don't want to be spoiled, don't read any further.

I've seen this film twice now, and will probably see it several more times.  Iron Man, as I've mentioned previously, holds the distinction of being the movie I've seen the most times in the theater.  If there's a film that will break this record, it's this one, and I daresay it stands a pretty damn good chance of doing so.  Even after two viewings, my desire to see it again remains exceptionally high.

My first viewing of this film was a midnight showing, and as any fan knows, going to those is always an experience in and of itself.  The number of people in Avengers shirts, costumes, and gear was astounding, as was the overall atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.  I saw girls dressed up in Thor regalia, a Captain America who fashioned a shield out of a trash can lid, and a rather large gentleman who, rightly, got a loud ovation from the crowd when he appeared as the Hulk, his body and hair dyed green.  Applause and cheering were constant, from the moment the film began to the climax of so many excellent scenes, including the post-credits scenes.

The great thing about this experience is the sense of camaraderie and kinship you feel with these folks, all of whom share a high interest in what you do.  It's loud, raucous, and energetic.  It can also, of course, make viewing difficult.

One good example is during the scene where Loki gets beat down--authoritatively--by the Hulk.  We loved that scene.  I laughed harder than I had in a long time when I saw that.  And so did the audience, at length, and in that circumstance, it was all too easy to miss what the Hulk said to Loki as he walked away, leaving the Asgardian staring up at the ceiling in unmoving shock (a pitch-perfect "Puny god!").  I actually didn't catch it until the second viewing (where it was still hard to hear), and a friend I was with was upset that he missed the dialog due to the audience's loud appreciation of the prior moment.

Do you mind, Cap?  Bruce and I were having a moment!
I think the development that came out of this film that I liked the most was the budding bromance that developed between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.  It's no surprise that these two would connect on an intellectual level--they're both super-geniuses--but I thought it was pretty ingenious to have Tony express an admiration for Banner on both aspects of his life, and then essentially take him under his wing.  The biggest obstacle to this new friendship seems to be Banner's own distrust of his Hulk side, which Tony Stark seems eager to see.  Tony's encouragement of Bruce to embrace his green side was also a brilliant way to set up the idea that the Hulk's rampages can actually be a good thing, a fun thing, a pleasure and an asset, when properly aimed and directed.

I also have to begrudgingly give Joss Whedon his due, in the scene where Agent Phil Coulson is killed.  I didn't see it coming, and I think I may now understand how Firefly fans felt when Wash was suddenly killed off in Serenity.  I mean, that was a surprise too, but I hadn't been as emotionally invested when I saw it the first time.  Here, I was both shocked and horrified, but even as I mourned this character who'd connected previous Marvel films to this one, I found myself nodding in unwilling agreement.  His death was necessary for the Avengers.  After all, they needed something to avenge, if I may finish the character's final, uncompleted thought.

All of the characters have moments to shine, which are all pretty fairly spread out.  Cap gets to be a noble, heroic super soldier.  Black Widow shows she has many skills, including interrogation.  Iron Man is the epitome of Whedon snark and banter.  Thor and Hulk throw down with aplomb, and Hawkeye shows that he's more than a man with a bow and good aim.  Coulson gets to be super-fan and get the last word in with Loki before he fades.  And Nick Fury shows why he's the top spy in the world, keeping and defending both his ship and his command in all his Samuel L. Jackson badass-ness.

There's a million other things I could compliment and talk about in this movie, but chances are extremely high they're covered in other reviews, which you've probably read.  If you haven't seen this movie, do yourself a favor and do so.  Even as a straight-up popcorn action flick, you'll be entertained and engaged throughout.  And if you're a comic book fan, shame on you for reading this review before having gone and seen it already.  Get out of the house and go see it!

Overall, this is a great comic book movie that truly does live up to the massive hype around it.  Packed to the brim with moments of awesome for all of its characters, it's epic, fun, and very clever.  I don't see how you can like superheroes and comics and not see this movie.  Very highly recommended!

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