Thanks to LA Times HeroComplex and Hollywood Ginger, I saw one of the most-anticipated genre films of the summer in IMAX 3D.
Short Version of my review?
It’s the promise fulfilled of a Marvel Movie Universe.
And its a whole lotta fun!
Long Version (Non-Spoilery)
Written by Zak Pen and Joss Whedon (based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) and directed by Whedon, The Avengers is about what it takes to make five individual superheroes into a team to confront an major threat to the world.
And I’ll be honest up front about two things:
-I’m a very big fan of writer Joss Whedon
-I was not sold on Joss Whedon directing this movie.
Between his work on “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Firefly” and Serenity as well as his comic work on “X-Men”, I knew Joss Whedon could serve the story and do it justice. His skills as a writer are the reason I connect and seek out his work. But the sheer physical nature of a movie like The Avengers is a massive undertaking, both in scope and in production. This movie has been the goal ever since Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury spoke one simple, sentence-”I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative.” It was a promise of doing something that had never been done in movies before; a culmination of individual character movies into one team movie. And as good a wordsmith as I believe him to be, I didn’t think Joss Whedon had the experience necessary to do something so grand and massive.
Well, I can say that I was wrong about that. Happily.
This is epic, enormous, high-stakes, end-of-the-world stuff here. But this movie isn’t about amazing set pieces and what new ways that things can be blown up spectacularly… though it does have them. What stands out for me is the reminder of what gets lost in so many big-budget, summer, “tent-pole” movies.
It’s about the characters, DAMMIT!
And Joss Whedon is all about character.
I may have gone to film school, but I love me mindless violence, gunplay and epic mass destruction as much as anyone else, much to the chagrin of several of my friends. I have purposely seen all 3 Transformers movies in the theater and giddily look forward to The Expendables 2 and maybe even GI Joe-Retaliation! But if you don’t know or care about those characters, why should you care when the big fight/s happen? Getting an audience to invest in the characters is what makes heightens the drama and makes that fight that much cooler. Too often that gets lost amidst the rush to get to that fight, treating the characters as simply props for the big bash.
Even with so many characters to deal with, everyone gets their time to shine and to show something more personal. We get moments of humor (Captain America being a man out of time has some great laughs), bravery(Tony Stark out of his armor “smack talking” Loki), pathos (Hawkeye and Black Widow’s past), terror (Loki as Hannibal Lector) and tragedy-all tied into the characters. Granted, some of get more revelatory time than others, but such is the nature of an ensemble.
The ease to which Robert Downey Jr.(Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) brings to these characters is excellent to see, with no one of them trying to take the lead. Tom Hiddleston (Loki) is a wonderfully compelling villain, with a wounded heart and soul. Mark Ruffalo (Dr. Banner/The Hulk) does an excellent job of making a character that has lived with his monster and has found a balance, not only with the Hulk but with the previous two actor’s characterizations of Banner. Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye) and Scarlett Johannson (Natasha Romanov/Black Widow) get to be flesh out their characters beyond the simple bad-assery of their initial movie introductions and it works. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury was the one that caught my eye. This movie gets to show you exactly what Fury is and why he’s in charge. He’s a spy and a manipulator, capable of doing what is necessary-and it’s not always the right way.
While The Avengers invests in its characters, it also WANTS to get to that big fight, not only to show the fight but to show those characters coming together as a team. It wants to give you those heroic moments, of which there was many. It wants to give you hope in your heroes.
What was a bit of a revelation to me was how amidst all the chaos and carnage, the film was bright and damn good fun! Now, I LOVE what Christopher Nolan has done with his Batman films. The Dark Knight rises looks like the third act to an apocalyptic opera and I am looking forward to it with glee. But that’s what works for Batman, but not for the Avengers. This is a reminder that not all comics are dark, brooding and angst-ridden. They can be hopeful and positive and, well, comic book-like in the best sense of the words.
And I’m happy to live in a world where both these movies can exist.
I’ll be interested to hear from people who’ve only seen a few or none of the previous movies. Because it starts off running, its possible that some viewers will be left behind. There are elements of all the previous films that help sew together the story, but I don’t believe it detracts from it. Because it moves quickly, its possible that story elements get glossed over quickly. I think I’ll have to get another showing in to say for sure, but the ride was more than worth it.
For me, The Avengers was a fun adventure with great characters that fulfills the promise of a Marvel Movie Universe. With this movie, it gives you a new promise.
This world, this universe has now been broken open.
This is now a place that can have Tony Stark consult with Hank Pym & Dr. Strange, Captain America can meet Union Jack, SHIELD can battle HYDRA and the Avengers can go into the stars.
The Marvel Movie Universe is now rife with potential energy.
WORTH PAYING… Evening Prices if you looking for a fun comic book adventure.
WORTH MAKING TOYS? Already out there now by Hasbro and 12″ figures by Hot Toys! (SOOOO want them!)
And Warner Brothers?
These are your blueprints you should be looking at to get to a JUSTICE LEAGUE movie.
Look long term and build each movie up on its own, as well as towards the goal of getting them all on the same screen.
When you do?
Give them someone/s worth facing.
Make it epic.
Make it mean something.
Remember-It’s about the characters, DAMMIT!
(If you need help, email me. I’ve got some ideas…)
And one more thing… When I saw The Avengesr, there was a during-the-credits moment for Marvel fans. But there also appears to be a rumor of an end-of-the-credits moment as well.
If there is, it was not on the print we saw!
Guess I’ll just have to see it again opening day to find out!
UPDATE 5/4/12: YES, there are two “stingers” in the movie; one during the credits and one after. And I’m happy with them both…
Thanks for reading.