I was hesitant to write this review on The Avengers for the longest time. On my first viewing I started doing a write up about three times before I scrapped it. Even after my second viewing I tried again but to no avail. I felt as though I couldn’t come up with anything other than just saying the movie was awesome over and over again. I eventually came to the conclusion that I was just going to let this one slide, because let’s be honest, no one really needed a review to go see The Avengers, and most of you have already seen this movie multiple times by now. However, I just got back from my third viewing and I decided, I couldn’t just let this one slide by after all. It’s out of character for me to post two entries back to back from the same author, but for this I’m willing to make an exception. I want to go ahead and start off by discussing my complaints with the movie first. I also should note that I’m not going to be as careful about the spoilers so if you haven’t seen the movie by this point, be wary. I’ll do my best to warn before I get into anything too major.
One of my major complaints that stayed with me even from the first viewing came from a scene when the three super heroes, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, finally meet. They have their little scuffle in the woods while they are all testing out each other’s strengthens. There are two really awesome scenes that had the audience in awe. The first was when Thor struck Iron Man with his lightning and it increased Iron Man’s power to 400%. The next scene was when Thor came slamming down on Captain America’s shield and created a sonic wave that cleared the forest around them. As cool as these scenes were I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that none of these awesome discoveries were utilized in the end conflict. I feel it goes back to the, don’t show a gun in the first act if you’re not going to use it, saying. I felt like it would have added to the already established dynamic of teamwork that they had going on in the end fight. A friend of mine made the comment that using the Thor/Captain America combo would have decimated the surrounding area in New York too much, but I don’t buy it. We see the Hulk running through an office smashing desks around, crashing through windows, and crushing buildings as he scaled them. I feel relatively speaking the damage done wouldn’t have made that much difference compared to the already destroyed Manhattan.
*Major Story Spoilers*
My second complaint comes from Loki. They did an awesome job of setting up Loki as the main antagonist of the film. He felt menacing, viewed humanity as worthless ants, and definitely had the confidence to back up his villainy. He felt like a formidable opponent for the Avengers, except for the moments where they were ridiculing him. There are a lot of moments where I feel like Loki is more of a joke than a villain. We’re constantly seeing him being shockingly knocked out of frame while giving his speeches, or of course the most memorable moment involving both Loki and the Hulk. There’s even a scene involving Black Widow and Loki where things seem to be in Loki’s control but it turns out that he’s been played all along. Although I’m not totally against these scenes, I feel like they could have cut out a few of them. It makes me feel as though all the awesome work that they did making Loki seem menacing is all for naught when he becomes the butt of the joke way too often.
*Major Story Spoilers*
Summing it up without spoilers, Loki was the butt of the joke way too often and it detracted from his character as the main villain.
My last complaint is a mild complaint, and really just something to balance out my pros and cons list of the movie. Whenever I discussed The Avengers with people it is generally positive, however for the few that had complaints it almost always turned out to be about the humor. A lot of people said that the jokes were very cheesy and fell flat. To be honest, I didn’t share the sentiment on my first viewing, and it wasn’t until my third viewing that I decided that yeah, I could see how some of those scenes may have fallen flat. However, I’ll make this argument. In most of my comic book experiences, the general tone is sarcasm and lighthearted banter. I feel that the movie nails down this aspect and in doing so it does walk the fine line of seriousness and silliness. Again, this is reaching and does not detract from the movie in the slightest.
I’m actually glad it took three trips to the theaters to do this write up. On my first go through I was a little kid in that theater the whole time. There was a lot that the movie could have gotten away with that I just wouldn’t have cared about. The movie does a fantastic job of managing all of the four main super heroes as well as establishing some new ones. The first twenty minutes of the movie feels a bit off, but as soon as the team starts getting together the movie really begins to pick up. I chalk up the first twenty minutes being odd due to the fact that opening film feels like the end of another movie that we didn’t get see. Although we see one or two familiar faces we’re being introduced to a lot of new people without any lead to really attach ourselves to. Even though we’ve seen Nick Fury multiple times in the previous Marvel movies, this is the first and longest time that we get to follow him. In all three of my viewings I remember specifically thinking to myself, well this feels weird, as the opening scene of the movie plays. It just felt out of place in the already established marvel universe.
One of my biggest concerns going in was wondering how they were going to handle reestablishing the Hulk. Although Marvel had already done an origins movie for The Hulk with Edward Norton, things changed behind the scene and Mark Ruffalo took the helm of Bruce Banner. I had already fallen in love with Norton as Banner despite an average movie. I didn’t know how I was going to feel about Ruffalo especially since the movie already had an enormous task of managing the multitude of heroes on screen. Needless to say, the Hulk stole the show. A combination of both the writing and the acting of Ruffalo creates the best interpretation of the Hulk to date. You can feel just how tired Banner is after carrying this beast of burden for so long. You can feel how much he hates the other guy as he puts it. I also love that Banner/Hulk’s story line is that of acceptance and owning up to who he is. There’s an awesome exchange between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner where they discuss what it means to be who they are.
I was very wary of this movie up until release. Spider-man 3 had already left a sour taste in my mouth when it came to handling so many super people on screen. Rest assured The Avengers handles this, and handles this with ease. I remember my early comment to a friend of mine was that I loved how there was an attempt at order throughout the chaos of the final battle. The movie wasn’t about just punching the enemies into submission; they had a plan of attack and stuck with it. Captain America assumes the role of the leader and delegated appropriate roles to the others that suits them the best according to their talent. A lot of quips prior to the movie regard how humorous it was that Hawkeye and Black Widow looked with their regular weapons compared to the super powers of the others. However there’s a balance of power that makes each and every one of them feel vital to their role. There are also a lot of scenes involving Iron Man where we see him not just as a fighter but also as a supporting character in the field of battle. The first glimpse we get of Iron Man is of him using his suit to install an arc reactor below his tower to generate self-sustaining energy. Then later when the airship that S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is based on is crashing down we see Iron Man repairing the outside hull while the others take care of the fighting. I love that it adds a dynamic feel to his character. It’s not just about them beating the bad guys; they’re using their powers in other productive ways. It gives life to the character and I love that we get to see that side of Iron Man.
So there are two big questions that seemed to pop up over and over again when discussing The Avengers. Where do we go from here and does it top The Dark Knight? I feel that the reason this movie works so well is that the conflict was on such a grand scale. How do Joss Whedon and the writers top this movie without going over the top on the next one? I know the post credit scene hints at the direction that the next set of movies will be taken in but as a non comic reader I’m interested to see what the writers can come up with next. Will they be able to strike lightning twice?
Now for The Dark Knight question. I know this is going to sound like a cop out answer, but I feel as though you can’t compare the two movies. The Avengers is the definition of a comic book movie to the T. The smart writing and the witty remarks creates a fun action packed movie, but it never takes itself to seriously, nor does it ground itself too deep in reality. This is the exact opposite of Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe. Of course the movie has its equally smart writing and witty banter but Nolan and CO do a great job of grounding their movies in reality as best as it can. A lot of the movie feels so believable that it’s not too far fetch to say yeah, I can see a billionaire doing all these things. The Dark Knight is a gritty realistic take on the super hero world, where as The Avengers is fluid transition from comic book to the big screen. They are both on two different planes that I can’t say if one is better than the other. I will say this though; when The Dark Knight came to theaters I saw it 4 times in a regular theater, and once in IMAX for a total of five viewings. I only brought myself to the theaters three times for The Avengers, so take that, as you will.
The Avengers manages six super heroes on screen without there ever being a moment where it felt like one super hero was intentionally favored over the other despite the Hulk stealing most of the show. We get an awesome reestablished Hulk as well as a few more established characters such as Hawkeye and Black Widow. The faults are minor compared to the clever writing, well acted, and awesomely scripted action scenes. The Avengers hands down is an amazing summer movie that sets the bar extremely high for future super hero films. It’ll be interesting to see how Marvel maintains this level of quality with the next wave of Avenger movies.
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