My Review of Marvel’s The Avengers

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So, The Avengers.

Watch it.

If you’ve already seen it once, watch it again.

That’s what I did. That was more fate than anything. For event movies like this, you end up seeing movies with friends and family who all want to see it, and my wife, being a wonderful, kindhearted person, felt a little responsible and wanted more than one group to have a good time. That’s the magic of movies. You go there, enjoy yourself, and have a short time to relax and enjoy a great experience with the people you love. It’s not always about spoilers or how good the special effects is or whether the plot makes sense. Sometimes you just want to pump your fist and go, “Whooo! Awesome!”

And that’s the Avengers movie experience. Look, everyone knows what this movie is about. It’s not a dark, psychological profile of a sociopathic vigilante like The Dark Knight series is. It’s not about a brooding, angstsy teenager like the Spider-Man series is. It’s not about cramming as much origin story and alien threat into a short two hours like the Green Lantern movie is … which I suspected totally derailed DC’s plans for their own version of the Avengers movie (i.e., the Justice League).

No, this is about heroes being heroes, and you just don’t get that much these days. Seriously, look at the Spider-Man movies. Every time he saves the day, the filmmakers go Filmmaking 101 and toss Mary Jane Parker as the damsel in distress. Why? Maybe because they don’t think Spider-Man’s going to go into action unless there’s a carrot at the end of the stick. Like … saving the city from supervillains wasn’t incentive enough.

Or, with Batman, you always have this overrationalization of everything. Like, we’re always hammered the point that he does things because his parents died (or in the case of the second movie, his childhood friend died), and thus it becomes personal.

While there IS a great personal moment that unites the Avengers in this movie, the reality is that by the time we get to the final battle, the heroes don’t need an excuse to save the city. They do so because they’re friggin’ HEROES. It’s what they do. Captain America has the purest motivations: he sees a problem and dives head-first into it without second-guessing himself. A hero. This is probably why in the montage at the end most of the people of New York are sorta cheering on Captain America over the other heroes. (And that’s not a spoiler alert. Seriously, is it a spoiler to reveal that the city is saved and Cap survives?) I’ve always thought that this was the ideal way to portray, say, Superman, an uncomplicated symbol of goodness and justice. Instead, we get a mopey guy saddled by romance issues in the movies or a guy who needs other people to push him along to perform heroic deeds like on Smallville.

Mark Ruffalo is so perfect as the Hulk that I regret he was never that character in the previous two movies. The guy is nervous and twitchy, but when he gets in his element as a scientific genius he seems completely natural and at ease. This is why Tony Stark seems to take an immediate liking to him. The guy bristles with enthusiasm. But then there’s the dark side, something like an addiction, that Ruffalo as Banner is always wary of. There’s a fantastic scene where he reveals that he’s tried to kill himself before, but the monster inside is too strong. It’s such a grim yet great moment that I wonder why it was never mentioned on… you know… the movies that actually dealt with the Hulk?

Props to Chris Evans, too, by the way. The dude is totally underrated as an actor. He disappears into roles, totally becoming them, to the point where you believe he really is Captain America. The Captain America costume is goofy, by the way, but there’s an amazing heartfelt reason (not directly stated) that I imagine Steve Rogers goes to work wearing those duds.

Meanwhile, director Joss Whedon does a fantastic… FANTASTIC … job at getting every hero to shine. I am not 100% a Whedon fan. I think his dialogue gets cutesy at times, and it definitely does here sometimes. But, man, does it ever fit the material. The heroes could’ve easily disappeared into stereotypical behavior like they do tend to do in big comic book crossovers. Iron Man is a jerk! Thor is … strong! Or something! But for once Whedon’s verbal theatrics pay off. He manages to give each hero a personality without it feeling rushed or forced. As a result, ALL heroes feel like they go equal time to shine in this one film. Compare that to, say, the X-Men movies, where there are maybe three main players and the rest are background players. There was a parody trailer made not too long ago where the players snarked that this movie was going to basically be “Iron Man 3”. It’s almost a miracle that it didn’t happen that way. It’s a true team movie.

Was Loki a little bit of a wet noodle as a main baddie? Yes, but that was a nice node to Avengers #1, where Loki was the main villain. (And, by the way, having read that comic, Loki comes off a bit weak there, too. A hallucination of a bunch of dynamite on train tracks leads to the formation of the Avengers, huh?) Besides, he was pretty much perfect as a prototypical Joss Whedon villain. He’s a guy that’s obviously a villain, but he eventually discovers he’s in WAAAAYYYYY over his head. So when the hammer comes down (Thor joke!), you actually feel a little pity for the dope.

Besides, it’s perfect for the final sequence, where the Avengers fight off an alien invasion. There’s a fantastic tracking shot following all the heroes as the perform different roles defending the city. And the aliens soon discover what Loki feared: when these guys are working together, they are absolutely unstoppable.

And they’re a fun team. If you’re in the US, wait until the ending ending. Not the one that shows up in the credits after they mention that this is “A Joss Whedon Film Directed by Joss Whedon.” The one after the music credits and the one about the movie being filmed in New Mexico. (Oh, and some props for Weta Digital: the Hulk was amazing. Way more amazing than previous Hulks. Dang, you guys, you know how to put personality into your CGI monster dudes.) It hammers home a point about what makes these Avengers different from the X-Men.

With the X-Men, you have teachers and students. There’s separation there. A clear chain of authority. With the secret clip at the end of the Avengers, you realize that these guys are co-workers. Friends. And they don’t mind hanging out with each other.

At both of our showings, most of our party went home happy. One fellow, though, thought the first 2/3’s were a little slow. He’s not wrong. There’s a lot of talking going on in this film. But you know what was non-stop action? The Green Lantern movie. And there, the action meant nothing. There was no purpose. By the time the yellow alien creature came down, you didn’t think there were stakes in anything even though people were getting vaporized left and right.

But here, the final battle sequence felt like a culmination of everything. Will the heroes work as a team? Is there pay off to the previous 5 movies? And it delivered like crazy.

I noticed, by the way, that I really didn’t mention Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., ScarJo, JeremyRen, or SamJack, Agent Coulson, or any of the other fantastic performances here. They were all good. ALL GOOD. All … um … MIGHTY GOOD. But we’d be here all day if I were to go on a fanboy fever-rant about all the stuff I liked in the movie.

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