Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Avengers Review

We all knew this day was coming.  Ever since the end of the credit roll in Iron Man back in 2008, we all knew that one day, The Avengers would assemble.  That day has now come.  However, gathering these heroes together is no easy feat, as The Avengers is not simply its own movie, nor is it simply the continuation of five movies that came before it.  It is also a movie that carries the weight of four separate film franchises on its shoulders.  The task ahead is not easy, not to mention the scale of the hype that has been building for four long years.  The Avengers could only go two ways.  Either it was going to be the greatest super hero film of all time, or it was going to be the most disappointing film venture in the history of cinema.  

When I review a movie, I try not to nitpick.  What I try to do is analyze what the movie did right or wrong from a more academic level.  That’s kind of the problem with Avengers.  I cannot think of any one thing this movie did that was fundamentally wrong.  I could nitpick, but even that which I would nitpick is just me reaching.  Of course, this makes for one hell of a movie going experience!  The Avengers really does deliver on the hype in a way that almost defies logic.  You would think that if any Marvel movie was terrible, it would be Avengers.  And yet, Avengers manages to be so good, that some of the other Marvel movies seem to lose their luster.  Yeah.  It’s that good.  Then again I am a Marvel fanboy, so maybe I am biased.

In Avengers, Loki has returned from his exile to conquer Earth.  Armed with his mysterious staff that has the power to control minds and an army of Chitauri (if you are Marvel-savvy you know that means Skrulls) he is bent on subjugating the world’s population to bow down before him.  We Earth folk have other plans.  Nick Fury, agent of SHIELD has assembled a team of extraordinary individuals to take Loki and his army head on, and show him why attacking Earth was the biggest mistake he has ever made.  That is, of course if the team can take a break from fighting each other.  At face value, you think its standard superhero team movie fare, until you realize that you have never seen a real superhero team movie.  In the X-Men movies, was there ever a character that was even remotely relevant beyond Wolverine?  Was teamwork ever emphasized?  No.  There was no teamwork or unity in the X-Men movies.  It was all about Wolverine and how the team can help him accomplish the task.  If someone were to ask me who the main character is in the Avengers, I would say it is the Avengers.  Everyone gets their shot at the limelight and each teammate is the main character of their own story.
Right out of the gate, Avengers starts strong with the introduction of Loki.  He has changed a bit since his days on Asgard.  No longer is he the tortured adopted brother desperately seeking Daddy’s approval.  Now he is a dastardly, sadistic super villain.  In fact, he is a classic super villain.  You know the one who breaks off and starts to monologue even when he totally shouldn’t (which serves up one of the funniest moments in movie history mind you).  He is much more like his comic book counterpart in Avengers than he was in Thor.  It is definitely interesting to see this level of character development from the villain.  Interesting and exciting.  As the movie continues, it just keeps getting better and better.  Each character gets their own individual introduction, bringing the audience up to speed on who they are and what their powers and problems are.

Joss Whedon, the man we know as the that really underrated director dude who graced television with such cult classics as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly (and his directorial debut in the movie follow up Serenity), handles Avengers with a masterful touch.  His background in character driven drama is well suited for this epic, and Whedon never skimps on character or drama.  In fact, the best part of Avengers is its clear understanding of the characters.  Whedon knows each member of the team.  He knows their strengths and their weaknesses.  But most of all, he knows what makes them who they are.  The conflicts that each hero has with each other are not only natural and organic, but usually quite tense.  There is no situation where a character dislikes another simply because the plot needs him to.  When these characters dislike each other it’s because they are simply incompatible.  A perfect example is the relationship between Captain America and Iron Man.  These two simply cannot, will not and do not get along.  And yet despite it all, they all have a common goal, common ground they can all stand on.  It is this story that is most interesting, the quest for these heroes to find common ground, despite the fact that they do not like each other.

Beyond the engrossing character drama, Avengers also has a great sense of humor.  Like most of Whedon’s work, Avengers does not take itself too seriously.  In fact, this movie is sometimes so funny, that it is hard to hear some follow up jokes and dialog because you (and the audience in my case) will be laughing so hard.  Even more interesting is that each character has their own comedic shtick.  Iron Man has his sarcasm and over the top personality.  Banner has this geeky awkwardness that invoikes laughs and sympathy.  Cap is this fish out of water who does not always understand the cheeky pop culture references.  And then we have Thor who has this boisterous charm.  “You are petty.  And tiny.” 

The action in Avengers is top notch.  It’s kind of like Michael Bay’s action, only much more coherent and way more creative.  By creative I mean the way that the action scenes are shot and by what the characters do when they go toe to toe with the Skrulls (or each other).  There is one shot in particular when the camera pans around the entire city during the climactic final battle that showcases not only the geniuses of the cinematography (which is phenomenal by the way) but also the brilliant use of the Avengers’ abilities and their teamwork.  It’s utterly genius.  Very few directors can manage to pull off the full spectrum of entertainment the way Joss Whedon can.  Some are good with the drama, other the action, still others with humor.  Whedon seems to be the master of all.  And then some.  Lucky for us, the guy makes summer blockbuster nerdfests.  Joss Whedon is this generation’s Steven Spielberg. 

This is the part of my reviews where I usually talk about what the movie did wrong.  In this case, I can’t, because as I said before, I cannot think of one thing that this movie did legitimately wrong.  That’s not to say it’s perfect, because, what’s perfect?  It’s that I cannot imagine Avengers being any better.  That is some significant praise.  It is literally everything we fanboys were hoping it would be.  Now, I’m sure there are some people out there who hate Avengers, for whatever reason, but come on!  Really?!  This movie was amazing!!!

The Avengers really is the greatest super hero movie of all time.  They are Earth’s mightiest heroes, and this movie did them justice well beyond what I was expecting.  Exhilarating action, a hilarious sense of humor, a commitment to its characters, compelling drama, brilliant cinematography, excellent music, razor sharp dialog, and fantastic performances contribute to the extreme excellence of The Avengers.  It is literally the most fun I have ever had at a movie.  I am not kidding when I say I was bouncing in my seat with joy and excitement.  And it’s not just because of the fan service (which Avengers offers in spades).  It’s just flat out entertaining as hell.  I don’t mean to sink into clich├ęs here, but if you only see one movie this year, see The Avengers.  And then go see it again.  And make sure to stick around for the entire credits to be done.  You will be glad that you did.  I give The Avengers a 10 out of 10.  In fact, I might give it an 11.    

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