The Avengers

2012

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Joss Whedon

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by Zak Penn, Joss Whedon

Based on the Marvel comic book “The Avengers” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

My love affair with THE AVENGERS goes back to 1968.  That’s when I bought Avengers Annual #2 which featured Captain America going back in time with teammates Hawkeye, Goliath, The Wasp and The Black Panther and through a cosmic mixup find themselves doing battle with Giant-Man, The Wasp, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk.  I was hooked and from that year to this one, The Avengers have always been my favorite superhero team.  Way back then my friends and I fantasized about seeing The Avengers in a live-action movie but until a few years ago I never really believed it could be done.  It has.  After five previous Marvel superhero movies it’s all led up to this.  And it’s been done with such fresh intelligence, unique wit, humor, creative consistency and downright fun that as far as I’m concerned THE AVENGERS is the best and greatest superhero movie ever made.  With this movie, the bar for superhero movies has been raised so incredibly high that I don’t think it’ll be topped anytime soon.  At least not until “Avengers 2″

The meat of the plot is actually quite simple.  After being thrown off the destroyed Rainbow Bridge by his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) during his attempt to conquer Asgard, The God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston) found himself in a hostile dimension.  He has made a deal with the leader of the warrior alien race known as the Chitauri.  If Loki retrieves the ancient artifact known as the Tesseract he’ll be given command of a Chitauri army to conquer The Earth.  Loki manages to remotely use the Tesseract to open a portal by which he returns to Earth.  Loki steals the Tessarct from the S.H.I.E.L.D. research facility where it is being studied by Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard)  Loki escapes, destroying the facility in the process while turning Dr. Selvig, Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and half a dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into his mind-controlled lackeys.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) decides to reactivate “The Avengers Initiative” to combat this threat.  He sends Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) heads to New York to bring in Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.).  When Loki is discovered to be in Germany, it seems like the perfect assignment for Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) to capture him but that plan goes wrong when Thor shows up, intending to capture his brother himself, recover the Tessaract and take them both back to Asgard. And he’s got an outrageously big hammer to back up his intentions.

Surprisingly, Loki allows himself to be taken captive and imprisoned on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier.  Fury attempts to talk this wildly diverse group into becoming a team while Banner and Stark try to find the Tesseract and the true depths of Loki’s scheming soon become obvious to all.  Divided and disheartened, The Avengers must learn how to work together as a team to save the world from Loki and the overwhelming onslaught of the Chitauri hordes pouring out of a interdimensional  portal above Stark Tower.

That’s the bare bones of the plot but there’s so much meat on the bones that it flat-out astonishes me how much Joss Whedon and his co-writer Zak Penn gets in there without the movie feeling rushed or over-bloated.  There are some great character moments aboard the Helicarrier and the scene of The Avengers bickering among themselves had me chuckling even though it’s a deadly serious scene.  But as a long-time Avengers fan, I’ve seen this scene played out in I don’t know how many issues of the comic book and it feels absolutely right in here.

We get astounding superhero battles such as Iron Man vs. Thor and Hulk vs. Thor while the actual alien attack on New York is jaw-dropping in its scale and level of sheer spectacle.  It’s also where we get to see The Avengers finally working together as a team and it’s one of the best moments in superhero movie history.

The acting is dead on-point with Mark Ruffalo being the stand-out.  I expected everyone else to be good as they’ve played these characters before and they know the tone they’re supposed to take.  But Mark Ruffalo comes in cold and nails Bruce Banner with an ease that is truly impressive.  He’s just as good as Eric Bana and Edward Norton and I could even see the progression in both The Hulk and Bruce Banner through Ruffalo’s performance.  They both have come a long way and Ruffalo as Banner reflects this.  Nothing he does invalidates or violates the Bana or Norton performances and actually builds on them.  And both Banner and The Hulk get some of the best lines/scenes in the movie.  Including the one between The Hulk and Loki that had the audience I saw the movie with laughing, cheering, clapping and high-fiving for at least five minutes.

Jeremy Renner makes for a far better Clint Barton than I thought he would be.  This incarnation of Hawkeye as well as The Black Widow are darker versions of the traditional characters but I didn’t mind.  These characters I’ve always admired and loved since they don’t have superpowers.  Even Captain America has the Super-Solider Formula going for him but Hawkeye and The Black Widow are superbly trained humans who through virtue of guts, heart and their outstanding skills prove why they’re worthy to be Avengers.

So should you see THE AVENGERS?  What a silly question. of course you have. As for me I’ve seen THE AVENGERS and it’s the Avengers movie I’ve been waiting since 1968 to see and it was worth the wait.

143 minutes

PG-13

 

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20 comments

  1. Hmm I just don’t git the unmitigated love of this one. I really think you had to be a die hard Avengers fan, or at least a fan of all the previous movies to love this one. The first half was pretty slow and the fight in the woods didn’t make any sense to me, particularly with Loki waiting unguarded on a nearby hilltop as it went on. It just felt like fan service, with the heroes slugging it out for no real reason (and kind of impulsive and out of character – particularly for Tony, who body tackles Thor in mid-sentence).

    The invasion plot was kinda meh. I thought a similar storyline was handled much better in The Ultimates comic and could’ve probably made it to the screen with few changes and turned out better. I also totally lost track of Hydra’s part in the whole affair.

    And can I say once more, I can’t stand Black Widow? She’s totally shoehorned-in. Couldn’t the one female addition have had superpowers too? Every time the plot swung to her I sorta settled in and rolled my eyes, waiting to get back to the more interesting characters.

    Once they reached the helicarrier things picked up and yeah, the interactions there were pretty spot on. I also agree that Mark Ruffalo made a fantastic Banner/Hulk – my favorite of the lot. And the end fight was definitely a lot of fun.

    I think it was better than Captain America and Thor, but still nowhere near the greatness of Iron Man (1). Probably on par with The Incredible Hulk for me.

  2. “Including the one between The Hulk and Loki that had the audience I saw the movie with laughing, cheering, clapping and high-fiving for at least five minutes.”

    Yup. You nailed it all over this review. Nothing speaks to the greatness of this movie more than all of the spontaneous laughing, clapping, and high-fiving from the audience. If there was one problem I had with this movie is that it wasn’t possible for me to watch it for the first time with every single friend who loves movies, too, because AVENGERS isn’t just a great movie, it’s also a celebration of all those elements we love about stories and superheroes.

    1. And that’s what I love most about the movie, I think. It’s about superheroes BEING superheroes. Not mopey, whiny, angsty or just plain bitchy which I don’t want to see in a superhero movie.

  3. I’ve said this elsewhere I think, but it bears repeating. British cinema audiences are normally quiet during movies. Very little laughter, certainly no cheering or clapping. Just not the done thing don’cha know.

    But the Hulk/Loki scene? The first time I saw it (seen it 3 times now) I missed ‘Puny God’ because of all the cheering and laughter. And anything that gets that reaction of a British audience is just fine with me :)

  4. It really is a worthy movie. And if you don’t drop your jaw at the teaser scene in the middle of the credits, you are NOT a fanboy!

    1. I’m planning on seeing it at least two more times in the theater and when the Blu-Ray is released that’s a Day One purchase right there.

      1. I’ve seen it three times now and the Blu-Ray (unless its a triple play release – in which case I will make do with the DVD) is a Day One purchase as well

      2. I’n definitely pre-ordering it in HD from iTunes if they have it. And if there is a director’s cut with Whedon’s extra half-hour inserted into the film, iTunes better release that as well, or else it’s gonna be Perry Smash!

    2. Isn’t there supposed to be another half-hour of footage that is centered around Steve Rogers? I hope so. Shit, it wouldn’t bother me if there were another three hours if they’re as good as what we’ve already seen.

  5. I thought it was a fantastic movie as well but if I had to lay one complaint at its door, it would be that it practically requires that you see the previous movies. Barely any effort is paid to fill you in on who these characters are, if I hadn’t seen the solo movies I think I would have been quite lost at times.

    Also I must confess I’m not getting the huge Mark Ruffalo love that people are having. Don’t get me wrong I liked him as Bruce Banner but he was given so little to do that I think people are basing everything off a handful of cool lines. It’ll be interesting to see what a solo Hulk movie starring Mark Ruffalo is like.

    One thing I loved about the Hulk though was the difference in his behaviour between an involuntary change and one that was deliberately triggered.

    For me the stand-out performance was from Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow. You can really see and hear her pain when she’s talking the Loki on the Helicarrier. I would love to see a solo Black Widow movie, it could be easily done in the vein of the Bourne movies.

    Well I’ve typed movie a lot so I’ll go.

    1. The movie gives each character a specific introduction and tells you what you need to know about them to follow this film. You are told that Tony Stark is super-rich, super-smart and has a bitching suit of armor. You are told that Cap is a Super Soldier who’s been on ice since WW2. You are told that Thor is a god who can control the weather and the brother of Loki. You are told that Bruce Banner is a scientist who can transform into a giant green rage monster whenever he gets angry. You are told that Black Widow is a former assassin who’s now working for SHIELD. You are told that Hawkeye is a SHIELD agent who turned Black Widow. You are told that Loki is Thor’s brother, wants to be king, and is pretty powerful.

      What else do you need to know?

      1. @ Percival Constantine:
        I
        In addition I think he’s given Bruce Banner a new catchphrase: “Oh, I’m ALWAYS angry.” That was another scene that set off a fresh round of cheering and clapping and high-fiving in the theater.”

        And why shouldn’t it? Banner speaks for an awful lot of well-behaved people who do regular battle with their inner monsters–but wouldn’t mind just the right occasion to turn them loose.

    2. Did you see the same movie I did? Just between the scenes Bruce Banner had with The Black Widow in India and with Tony Stark on The Helicarrier, Mark Ruffalo did a helluva lot right there. There’s an old saying; ‘There are no small roles, just small actors’ and Mark Ruffalo proved to my satisfaction he’s no small actor.

      In addition I think he’s given Bruce Banner a new catchphrase: “Oh, I’m ALWAYS angry.” That was another scene that set off a fresh round of cheering and clapping and high-fiving in the theater.

      1. Agreed. I’m rewriting my Widow-specific reaction to the movie now, and one of things that I talk about is how this is a much more psychologically complex script than it’s being given credit for being. Whedon doesn’t oversell his character development, but he does get the absolute most out of every bit of development that he puts into the movie. The scene in India is the perfect example. Or the way Widow acts on the Helicarrier concerning Hawkeye. The movie moves fast, but if you stop and think about what’s going on, the experience becomes an even richer one.

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