Review: The Avengers (by Chris Bumbray)
(Read JimmyO's review HERE)
PLOT: When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) escapes his exile, and steals the phenomenally powerful tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D, it's up to Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson), Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to get it back before he unleashes an alien invasion that will enslave mankind.
REVIEW: I'm not going to be the lone voice of dissent on THE AVENGERS. While I'm a tougher sell than many on Superhero flicks (although I've liked all the Marvel Studios films outside IRON MAN 2), I have to admit that I had an absolute blast with THE AVENGERS. From the first frame, to the very end of the closing credits, THE AVENGERS is a 142 minute roller-coaster ride that's sure to please even the most die-hard fans, and just about everyone else- judging from the screening I saw this at.
I'm really taken aback that THE AVENGERS works as well as it does, as I honestly thought grouping up all these heroes in one film was a bad idea. Sure- it works in the comics, but as a film- where would any of the franchises be able to go after this point? While that remains to be seen, mastermind Joss Whedon has proven himself to be the ideal choice to bring THE AVENGERS to the screen, with him having directed a Marvel film that surely ranks up there with the best (X2, and X-MEN: FIRST CLASS for me) they've done.
What's most impressive about Whedon's work here is that he's managed to give each character plenty to do, without making the film feel overwrought or episodic. For my money, that's an almost Herculean feat, as this could have easily just been a series of bombastic action scenes. And while yes, there's oodles of action, Whedon doesn't skimp on character development for any of them- with each having something to overcome- not to mention the fact that he provides the audience with a couple of really good belly-laughs now and then to keep things from getting too melodramatic.
Most significant are the arcs for The Hulk- with Banner being forced to confront his fear of the Hulk in order to do what he must, and Black Widow's anguish over past misdeeds- with her having lots of “red ink” to make up for. Johannson and Ruffalo really are the standouts here- and both should get spinoff flicks of their own (provided the material is a high-calliber as what Whedon gives them here). While Norton was quite good in the surprisingly strong INCREDIBLE HULK, I was really taken with Ruffalo's approach, and hopefully third time will prove to be the charm and he'll stick with it. On the CGI side of things, significantly, The Hulk- for the first time really, looks 100% convincing, as the technology seems to have finally caught up with him.
Meanwhile, all the other favourites get plenty to do, with Stark clashing badly with goody-two-shoes Captain America- and Thor battling with his own guilt over Loki's decent into madness. As for Hawkeye- Whedon does something fantastic with him early on, but I won't spoil it here. Even the lesser characters get some nice scenes, including a standout bit for Clark Gregg as the hapless Agent Coulson. I especially liked his fanboy man-crush on Captain America. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is probably the only one of the gang who comes off a bit one-dimensional, but then again- he's pretty much used as The Avengers' version of M, so that's not a deal breaker. HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER fans will also enjoy the fantastic Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D agent Maria Hill. Franchise stalwarts Stellan Skarsgaard, Gwyneth Paltrow, also turn up here and there, with Natalie Portman and Don Cheadle being the only two who seem to have been sidelined.
On the villainous side, we get Tom Hiddleston as Loki- with him coming off almost as a super-powered Hannibal Lecter. Despite the fact that he's already been defeated- single-handedly at that, by Thor in the last film- he's still a credible villain, and Hiddleston is even better in the part than he was in the last go-round. As far as menace goes, it helps that he's backed up by an army of aliens- and the last half-hour ramps up the pyrotechnics to near-TRANFORMERS level, albeit a cleverer, better-written iteration.
Of course, if one were to nitpick, there are a few things about THE AVENGERS that aren't perfect. The biggest thing for me is the fact that Whedon decided to shoot this flat, in 1:85:1. Considering the epic scale, it feels like a bit of a cheat not to have it in 2:35:1 (as all the other Marvel films have been)- but at least it looks different, so I'll give him that. Perhaps in IMAX the 1:85:1 will come off better than it does on conventional screens. Also- the 3D, at least in the print I saw, is really nothing special, and if I see it again, you can bet it'll be in 2D (3D really is a gimmick that needs to go away). I also thought the score by Alan Silvestri was essentially wallpaper, which is too bad, as none of the Marvel movies thus far have had really good scores (unlike the Nolan Batman's).
Then again, this is all nitpicking, and I really did have a great time with THE AVENGERS. It really is the best possible case scenario as far as this premise goes, and an amazing (almost too good) kick off to the summer of 2012.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Stay till the very end of the credits. THE VERY END!!!|