Wednesday, May 9, 2012

THE AVENGERS Review He Said/She Said

Directed by:
Joss Whedon
Wirtten by: Joss Whedon, story by Zak Penn
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston and Scarlett Johansson.
Synopsis: A rag tag group get over their differences and stick together to defeat a common enemy.

 . Originally, we were going to post our usual he said/she said style reviews. After procrastinating over the weekend, I finally finished it and once reading it over, I realized this wasn't any good. Our thoughts were pretty incoherent, and we were just saying a lot of the same things. Why am I giving such an in-depth behind the scenes look at our process? It's just my convoluted way of saying that some of the thoughts and points will not necessarily be all mine, I might be taking some of Jonesy's points as well, so keep this in mind while reading this. At the time that I'm writing this review, I'll have seen this movie twice giving me a little better insight.

It's interesting to think that if fantasy football is the "jock" version of Magic The Gathering or some other stats based game, then THE AVENGERS is the "nerd" version of every sports movie where a rag tag team of clashing personalities gets together to fight a bigger cause. Before they do that, they have to work through their own issues within the team and also overcome adversity whether it's social, political, economical, or even godly or alien. That's the movie in a nutshell. Now, before I actually get off to review the movie, I have to ask you readers, how are you all thinking about this movie? As the culmination of a 4+ year experiment that worked out? Or a single movie that should stand on its own two legs? For me, I'm a little bit of both. I actually think that for a lot of it, you might benefit from not seeing the previous movies.

So what worked for me in this movie? A lot of it had to do with the dialogue, the characters interacting, and the action, but everything else is pretty flat. Director Joss Whedon is known to have a style that is more suited for television where relationships and characters can develop throughout various seasons. Both of the times that I saw this movie, the audience laughed so hard at certain points when all of the Avengers are just standing around and talking. If you haven't seen the movie yet, the phrase, "His first name is Agent," will make you laugh when you hear it.

The action set pieces were so much fun. For a director that is not know for action like say, a Michael Bay, there was such a sense of placement, and each action scene tells a story. Something about modern film making nowadays where you're up close to some CG creature and there's a upwards of a 10 cuts every 30 seconds leaves me pretty bored when it comes to action. Especially when you see the final battle scene, yes, it is busy, and there is a lot of action going on in the background, but by taking a few steps back and actually using some long continuous shots, Whedon creates action that has purpose. A personal favorite of mine was anything with Captain America action scene. He's a super powered man, but he is limited by the fact he is human.. He can't fly like Iron Man or control thunder and lightning like Thor or even apparently jump around  like a frog as Hulk does, but he is more powerful than Black Widow or Hawkeye. So his action scenes always felt the most "real" to me because they gave me a better sense of perspective in terms of the action. (For those that have seen it, there's a particular scene at the end that will remind some people of THE RAID: REDEMPTION).

Not to discount the big guys, but as Joss Whedon wrote them, I'm more interested to see a movie based on his version of Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo was a highlight of the movie for me, with his version of Banner having a very self-deprecating sense of humor that I don't recall the other Hulks having. In addition, holy SH*T Scarlett Johanson was in top form in this movie. I have a history of highly disliking her and anything that she's in, but the way that that she played Black Widow and the lines of dialogue she was given, she came off as a very interesting character that needs further exploration. Unlike the other members, you see very real human emotions coming out of her.

The genius of this movie was they knew that if they started out the with THE AVENGERS, there would not have been any time to give the main characters any depth at all because there are so many. You could say that the fact that there is very little to no character development for the majority of the cast (Iron Man, Captain America and Thor) is a flaw of the movie. I'm not discounting the fact that 90% of the people that are seeing this movie have seen all of the required movies already. However, while this experiment worked here, I don't think it's an excuse because just like I always say you shouldn't have to read a book for a movie to make sense, and you shouldn't need to view all five movies for this one to make sense. It's sort of like how people are complaining that is the case with season two of GAME OF THRONES, where you have to read the book in order to understand the nuances of the relationships being built.

Now, shifting along to some of the issues that I had with the movie. My big pet peeve wasthe way that Loki is being portrayed in this film. He was the absolute best thing about the otherwise lackluster THOR. He was complex, sympathetic, and I was honestly rooting for him over his brother in the movie. Here he is reduced to a 1980's villain that hates freedom and kicks puppies in his spare time. I'm still pretty confused about as to how he was picked as the big bad guy, seeing as how he was a very tiny threat in my opinion. He blows up cars for most of the movie, and it seems that he is being written as a weaker character than he should be, even down to the way that he is defeated.

Along the lines of Loki, I had a huge problem with Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. His character was so badly written, and his whole presence in the movie felt so incidental, I wish they had given more of a focus to Agent Coulson. The big problem with Nick Fury is you don't what his character is really like. In one scene he is portrayed as a hard-ass military man that will take the necessary risks to "protect" the earth with "Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" philosophy, and then he's a totally sympathetic and wanting to do right by The Avengers. The issue is that he is a walking plot point; depending on what needs to move the plot along that's the role that he will play. I really wish he didn't seems like such a flake throughout the movie.

I know that people are singing its praises as a great popcorn movie, and you know what? It is, but that doesn't discount the fact that when you boil down the plot, it's reduced to 2.5 big set pieces and a few connecting scenes of hilarious character interactions. I think that people in general are being too forgiving in general in this aspect. I would liken this movie to IRON MAN, where you really like the movie the first five times that you see, but upon reflection you realize that SPOILER the movie is just Tony Stark getting kidnapped and building the suit and one actual battle.

So overall, THE AVENGERS will go down in history for so many reasons. As of this review, it has already beaten the best opening weekend record with $200 million during the first three days domestically. It has also shown Joss Whedon's ability to handle big budget, and of course, it shows that the pay off from five years worth of build-up. Now, the interesting thing will be to see how Marvel and Disney handle this success. Will subsequent movies stop sacrificing the individual movie for the sake of the buildup just like what happened with IRON MAN 2 and THOR, or will we continue to get more movies like that? What will happen with our heroes next? This movie is now a big and very unique pop-cultural phenomenon that will have big repercussion in years to come.


  1. Awesome review- I had similar problems with this very enjoyable film. I tend to shrug at the hype coming from my fellow fanboys. There are choice scenes, great character moments, but for me the sum of its parts does not equal "the greatest superhero movie of all time." All scenes between Fury and Maria Hill are mind-numbingly stupid, the victim of illogical, lazy, incidental movie-writing. But Hulk... I want to buy him a milkshake and let him drink mine as well. In a non-sexual way.

    1. Adam,
      I completely forgot to mention Agent Hill. Sure she looked hot in tight military outfits, but as we said on Twitter, a highly recognizable actress in a minor role with no explanation is distracting. I understand she's a big deal in the comics, but I shouldn't have to read them to know this.

    2. I also do have to wonder where people say that this is the greatest superhero movie of all time. I'm glad I found someone that agrees with me.