May 6, 2012

Movie Review: Marvel's The Avengers

Here is the moment we have all been waiting for. Ever since Marvel got into the business of producing their own films and with the surprisingly great success that was Iron Man, this is the movie they have been building towards. The universe has had its groundwork laid down with the two Iron Man movies, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. It is here and it is good. Seriously, this is how you make a big overblown superhero action epic and make it work.

As I sit here, reflecting on my experience at the theater and trying to write this review, I recognize that there is little that I can say that hasn't already been said more eloquently by other writers. Every so often there are movies that I cannot think of anything worth saying about and I skip them, there are other even rarer moments where I enjoy a movie so much that I really cannot come up with the words to review it. Call it writer's block, call it being a poor writer, whatever, it happens and I have to deal with it. The problem is that sometimes I still feel the need to open my mouth or put fingers to keyboard and somehow manage to get a few bits of nonsense on the screen. For better or worse.

Story wise, The Avengers is pretty simple. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor's adopted brother, has set his sights on Earth. He wants to get his hands on a powerful cube, the same thing that Hydra used in Captain America. He sets out to do this with the help of an alien race called the Chetari (I have read they also go by the name Skrull). So, Loki shows up and knows he is going to have to deal with the response. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) responds by using his influence to get a bunch of super fellows together to fight back. This sets up our battle, Loki versus Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow.

The movie is a big popcorn movie. It is big, loud, funny, filled with action and personality, and flat out entertains. It is a movie that understands what it is, what the goals are, and what needs to be accomplished. It sees the goals and goes out and gets them. This is a movie about what happens on the screen, it is not about subtext, it is not about commenting on the human condition, it is about superhero action.

Writer/director Joss Whedon did a fantastic job crafting this film. It may, at its heart, be pure entertainment, but even entertainment requires a skilled hand to keep it all on track. This movie, more than any other is one that could have completely crashed and burned. This movie has so many characters and personalities that it very easily could have gone the route of Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, or even (gasp) Batman & Robin. It did not.

It was quite interesting to see the various superhero personalities coming together and the verbal and physical confrontations resulting are a blast, executed so well. The quips are fast and furious, the action even moreso. Each hero trying to one up the other. Everyone getting their moment to shine. It helps that all involved were committed to their performances. Mark Ruffalo does a great job as Banner/Hulk and is likely the best portrayal yet. Robert Downey Jr. is wonderful, as usual, great timing and rapport with the cast. Chris Hemsworth looks more comfortable in the role now. Chris Evans makes a better Cap than I would have though possible a few years ago. Jeremy Renner and Scarlet Johannson are both more than up to the task. Then there is Tom Hiddleston as Loki, he does a fine job of being menacing and creepy, although he was never one of my favorite bad guys.

Is it a perfect movie? No. I am sure the story could have been explained a bit more and some of the motivations been a bit clearer, but that is really nitpicking. What was accomplished here is a grand example of what a comic book superhero movie can be. In the past few years we have seen a couple of the best in this and The Dark Knight, two superhero movies that take the material in very different directions yet are both perfect examples of the potential.

Really, all I can say is that you should see this movie. I cannot guarantee that everyone is going to like it, but chances are good you will have a good time with it. I know I had a blast.

Highly Recommended.

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