The Avengers Review

The Avengers
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon (screenplay), Zak Penn and Joss Whedon (story)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner

Well, here we are. The ambitious plan set in motion by Marvel Studios four years ago with the release of Iron Man has finally reached its inevitable zenith, with all of their superheroes coming together in one mega-blockbuster to rule all blockbusters. Despite the fact that this movie is a fanboy’s wet dream on paper, in reality, it probably shouldn’t work. All of this star power and all of these disparate characters vying for screen time had the potential to result in an incoherent mess. And yet somehow, not only does Joss Whedon pull it off, but he also makes it look easy.

I came into this movie with without any real expectations or built-in affinity for the characters, feeling that Marvel’s track record on the big screen had been somewhat hit and miss. However, despite the fact that I’m not really a hardcore comic book geek or a Joss Whedon devotee, it became clear to me that he has captured the essence of superhero comics and translated them to the big screen in a way that is almost pitch perfect. Is this the best comic book movie ever made? That depends what you want out of your comic book movies, but I will go so far as to say that The Avengers is hands down the best Marvel production to date.

The story wastes no time getting straight to the action, opening at a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. compound where they are housing the Tesseract, a cosmic cube of immense power that previously appeared in Captain America: The First Avenger. The cube opens a portal in space, allowing Thor’s brother Loki to suddenly materialize on Earth where he steals the cube and escapes into the night, bringing a few captives with him. It is revealed that he has an agreement with a mysterious alien being who promises him an army to help enslave humanity in exchange for the Tesseract. Nick Fury is left with no choice but to enact the Avengers Initiative, bringing together all of Earth’s mightiest heroes in order to combat their most formidable foe to date.

There are no origin stories here, not even for the villain, which enables a quick start and assumes immediate investment in the proceedings. In place of the usual humdrum first act of superpower discovery, we get to see the team being assembled, which is a lot of fun in and of itself. As the heroes start to come together, it becomes clear that the thing that will make this movie memorable is not the special effects, but rather, the performances. There is no shortage of chemistry and charisma on display, and it is a joy to see all of these different personalities finally able to bounce off of each other instead of remaining within their self-contained movie franchises.

Whedon’s writing is a lot more crucial to this movie than his directorial skill. His script has a fantastic sense of humour and it winks at fans without feeling forced. It’s clear that he is a comic book fan himself, and anyone familiar with his Astonishing X-Men comics knows that he has a firm grasp of team dynamics. There is a long stretch in the middle of the film where we are subjected to scene after scene of group conversations, but it never gets boring because it’s so well written. Unlike the majority of recent blockbusters, which seem to endure endless rewrites by multiple creative teams, one of the main reasons why The Avengers succeeds is the fact that Whedon was allowed to write the script on his own with a minimum of meddling.

It’s no wonder fanboys are drooling over this movie: almost every member of the team is compelling and each one gets an appropriate chance to shine. The plot is pretty forgettable, but there is a sense that you could watch these characters doing their laundry and it would still be enjoyable. Seeing Robert Downey Jr. ease into his fast-talking schtick as Tony Stark, I was reminded why I really enjoyed the first Iron Man film (as opposed to the bland sequel), and both Thor and Captain America provide plenty of fish out of water jokes without being corny. Whedon even manages to make Hawkeye and Black Widow seem useful, but it is the Hulk who arguably steals the show. Not only do we get to see him in action like never before, but he also consistently provides unexpected comic relief.

If there is a weakness in The Avengers, it might be the lack of a strong villain. While I like Tom Hiddleston as Loki, he feels somewhat overshadowed by most of the other actors. Of course, you could say that he isn’t the real villain of the piece, but the aliens are also somewhat forgettable CG creations. Fortunately, the movie makes up for this by generating a lot of the conflict from within the group and we get to see various heroes square off against each other in dream match-ups. We can finally settle such longtime geek debates as “Would Thor’s hammer break Captain America’s shield?” and “Can the Hulk lift Thor’s hammer?”. There is a lot of enjoyment that comes just from seeing their limits tested.

There is a well-balanced progression of action sequences featuring different combinations of heroes that all build up to a massive half hour finale involving the entire team. Although this extended action sequence reeks of mindless Michael Bay-style destruction, once again it is the character moments that anchor it and provide true thrills. That’s not to say that the action is inferior, however. Despite the overload of CG and sketchy compositing, there are also some impressive continual shots where the camera swoops and dives around the city showcasing each of the team members kicking ass.

If Christopher Nolan proved that comic book movies could be taken seriously with The Dark Knight, The Avengers excels at the exact opposite end of the spectrum — it is colourful, cartoony and ridiculously fun. At almost two and a half hours, the movie is a bit of a beast, but I think the large cast more than justifies its running time. I will admit that the movie has some disposable elements and could potentially fade over time, but I can honestly say that this is the first Marvel movie that I’ve wanted to go back and watch all over again as soon as it ended. One thing’s for sure: now that the Avengers are assembled, this is going to be one hell of a tough act to follow. — Sean

SCORE: 4 stars



Recommended If You Like: Iron Man, X2: X-Men United, Serenity

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  • Kasper

    Glad to see you liked the movie, though I disagree on Loki – I thought he was an excellent and twisted villain.

  • James

    Loki was just a poser. Just an outright boring villan whose sole purpose is to drive the plot forward.

    The biggest problem I have with the movie is that there never is any stakes or any real threat/emotion. I just ended up looking at the film – not “participating”. The plot is coherent enough, but very uninspired and dull. Can’t they come up with anything other than a cosmic cube that can destroy the world? really? I remember people complaining the water vaporizer in Batman Begins.. Well that was at least somewhat crative. (not to start another lame fanboy war between these wildly different franchises).

    Another complaint is the ugly cinematography and the forgettable score. Other than that the film is saved by it’s witty humor and big glossy action set pieces.

    3/5

  • James

    That was poorly written, but you catch my drift

  • kyri

    with or without you…

    How about the 3d?

  • Steve Kasan

    In the Ultimate Avengers, did the Hulk pick up Thor’s hammer in his full on rage mode???

  • http://www.seandwyer.net Sean

    I saw it in 2D. Is the 3D actually decent?

  • Kasper

    The 3D is neither good nor bad. Didn’t really add anything – though people I know really liked it, thinking it “emerged” you more in the film like with Avatar. But I didn’t think much of the 3D in Avatar either, so…

  • James

    I agree with Kasper. Not very good, but far from bad. And I hate 3D.

  • Rick

    I will say that I am very excited to see this movie. I am also glad that it is a hit at the box office. NOt so much because I am rooting for the movie to excel, but mostly becasue I want it to slap Warner Brother in the face, get them off they’re asses and get to work on a justic leauge movie!

  • cap

    The problem with Justice League movie is not so much that Superman and Batman can’t coexist in one film, but that they are making those movies (Superman and Batman) independently from each other, whereas Marvel had a bigger plan dating back to the first Iron Man which resulted in somewhat coherent and consistent world buildin. And having Justice League movie set in completely different universe than Nolan’s Batman movies which don’t have even a hint of supernatural… would just be really tricky if not impossible thing to pull off. Unless they reboot Batman with JL already in mind and have similar plan to what Marvel’s done.

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1900778783/krak-gets-a-job scott

    Definitely the best. Lots of fun. Exciting teaser at the end. Loki was a perfect classic/modern villain. Better than expected.

  • Captain N

    The Avengers may very well be the best of the Marvel movies, but the bar was pretty low to begin with, and it barely made it over that hurdle.

  • patrik

    Thought it was awesome as well. I do think that Hiddleston is pretty strong though, his performance as Loki is just as good as the rest of them imo. I was surprised how much I liked ScarJo. I thought her character, and Hawkeye, would be sort of useless, but one should never doubt Joss Whedon I guess.

  • Steve

    Thanos is the “master”.

  • http://www.mossercasting.com/PlanBFromOuterSpace PlanBFromOuterSpace

    I’m not sure that we needed a new or particularly big villain, with this just being the first team film. I’m more interested in seeing the team get together and interact, and it’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll triumph in the end, so re-using Loki and setting up a bigger big bad in the end for them to fight in the next one seems like a pretty good idea, since we’ll have at least another 4 movies between now and then to develop the main characters on their own. More time can be devoted to this new villain and it won’t feel like we’re losing out when it comes to the hero stuff.

    One thing’s for sure though. There needs to be a scene where Cap is able to lift Mjolnir. I imagine that in Avengers 2, with the villain they have lined up, he’ll be the last man standing.

  • Jonny Ashley

    Watched this in IMAX 3D today. While the climactic daytime battle at the end was kind of exciting in 3D, I couldn’t help feeling how distracting and useless it was for the rest of the film. I am so done with 3D.

    Thought the film was awesome. There’s some hokey “True American Values” thrown in there, but ironically I think it engages the viewer to question the use of those ideas which are present in this and with Comic Book blockbusters in general.

    A good old time. I’d give it a heavy 3.5 out of 4

  • Marveldom

    Reason why Loki was the main villain in avengers movie was to follow the exact same as #1 avengers of the comicbook.

  • Joe P

    I felt the superhero fighting was the smoothest and most natural looking of any comic book film to date. They all were confident warriors and used to their powers and limits. The film did a great job of integrating the lesser powered heroes into the team. I was worried that Hawkeye was going to look stupid and he turned out to be pretty menacing….I think he was superior to the comic book version.

    Good review Sean!

  • Joe P

    PS: The Hulk finally looked decent!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/hauntedsnowfort/ Glen

    The 3D was hardly noticeable

    Save your Gravol pills. See it in 2D.

  • 1138sw

    Movie was just a lot of fun! A popcorn fest in the highest form! Just what the doctor ordered for these dark times!

    The action was spot on in creating the best superhero fighting sequences ever! I was generally impressed especially when CG exposure is so commonplace nowadays!

    Joss did the Avengers proud! Was the movie a “thinker” with an intense plot? No. But it was brainless fun that was crafted with wit and energy that the summer movie season hasn’t seen in awhile.

    Bring on “The Dark knight” and “Prometheus”! Let the summer begin!!

  • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1900778783/krak-gets-a-job scott

    Saw in 2d and 3d. Thought the 3d was really tame and not worth it. Nowhere near HUGO levels. Awesome movie, but the 3d didn’t add anything. It was weird.

  • HFD

    Gratz to Joss Whedon and Avengers for smashing box office records! Joss has been jerked around by various studios, especially Fox, so it’s good to know he gained some clout in Follywood.

  • http://filmjunk.com Brittany

    When the credit scene rolled everyone in my theater was quiet and confused except for the two guys behind my that sounded like they creamed in their pants. Awesome.

    Bring on Thanos or he Skrulls!

  • Liam_H

    Loki was an awesome villain because of what Hiddleston did with the role. He just completely went for it and played up his snotty attitude. It was a given he was never going to succeed, but watching him think he will was so fun.

  • mark

    doesn’t hold a candle to spiderman 2. nonetheless a very fun film. if they do a series, i only see it getting better.

  • Chino

    I went into this movie expecting to hate Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, since Eric Bana and Edward Norton’s stints as the Hulk were disappointing. Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner and the way they fashioned the Hulk to have Ruffalo’s features really sold me on this Hulk. My sister had no idea what she was going into with The Avengers since she’s not a fan, so I recommended that she watch The Avengers cartoons on Dishonline. Ever since I started working for them, I’ve found that they tend to have many of the original cartoons I grew up watching. She thought the movie was much better than the cartoons, but mostly because of the star-STUDded cast. I just appreciate that the movie holds true to the feel of The Avengers comics. This is going to be a tough movie to top.

  • Jessi Rippetoe

    This film has replaced Blade Runner as my favorite film of all time. As a lifelong fan of the comics (I’ve been reading Marvel since I was three, I’m eighteen now,) I feel as though this was the perfect balance of The Ultimates and the mainstream Avengers series.
    In regards to Loki, he was better in Thor, but he was pretty amazing in this. Hiddleston takes the ro by storm and really makes it his own. I loved the subtle nod to Loki using the Hulk as a part of his plan. Great reference to the first issue of the comic. (I also love the fact that this backfired. Puny god.)
    Ruffalo is the absolute perfect Bruce Banner. I recall being exceedingly skeptical as to his being able to pull off playing my favorite character in the Marvel universe, but he was absolutely spot on. (I’m apologizing for my utter skepticism in my fan letter. I never posted anything nasty, but I still feel the need to apologize.)
    Overall, amazing film. I’m so glad it’s become this successful. 10/10 hands down.

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