‘The Avengers’ Review
An astounding success that sets a new bar for Marvel and superhero movies in general.
Marvel has done the impossible. Or to be more precise, director Joss Whedon has done the impossible. Taking a sizable amount of high-profile superheroes and making a decent superhero film out of it is no easy task, but Whedon has gone even further. ‘The Avengers’ sets the gold standard for superhero movies with breathtaking action sequences, surprisingly effective humor and a well balanced sense of fun that makes it Marvel’s best film to date.
When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) descends upon Earth with an army of otherwordly creatures with plans for world dominance and destruction, S.H.I.E.L.D. has no option but to activate the Avengers initiative with the help of Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). They enlist Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Despite their differences in opinion that sometimes leads to disagreements within themselves, they have to band together to save the world from the biggest threat it has ever seen.
Marvel has been planning ‘The Avengers’ since they unleashed ‘Iron Man’ into cinemas and made sure that every single movie that followed was strictly in the same universe and riddled with interconnecting references that can later be resolved. While ‘Iron Man 2’ heavily suffered with the studio’s interference by adding needless Avengers subplots into that film, the rest of the films fared better and were enjoyable on their own right. But all eyes were on fan favorite director Joss Whedon to work on something this big in scope and deliver a film worthy of the sky high expectations that it was burdened with. And you’d be happy to know that he passed with flying colors.
With an ensemble cast of superheroes like these in the running, it’s very easy to lose sight of them individually and skimp on character development. And here’s where Whedon turns your assumption around with his masterful screenplay for the film. Whether it’s a cock Tony Stark or a confused Steve Rogers struggling to survive in the modern world or a conflicted Thor fighting his brother, the script gives every character enough time and development to shine on their own. Each character has a stark (zing!) personality to it and some of the best moments of the film come when two characters disagree over something and clash over it. It’s great to see two superheroes like Captain America and Iron Man in a war of words about what makes someone a hero. At the same time, Whedon wisely keeps the script humorous and light hearted with classic Joss Whedon style of humor that has excellent timing and is surprisingly very effective. There’s witty one liners by every character, well placed sight gags and funny elements like that make ‘The Avengers’ an even more enjoyable crowdpleaser than it is.
But it wouldn’t be a Marvel movie without heavy doses of action and though Joss Whedon is not the first name that comes to mind when it comes to big budget action, he excels in ways most directors don’t. The set pieces here are extremely well thought out and highly memorable. From the first trailers, it looked like he was trying to mimic those big loud action scenes that Michael Bay usually does. But Whedon adds a lot of character dynamics to those normally generic action scenes and elevate them to something great, doing it better than Bay ever could. One of the highlights is a long action scene on the hovercraft that acts as the group’s base and it’s extremely fun to see each superhero actually work on battling a different part of it while at times they’re battling each other. Some of the most memorable scenes are when characters argue and actually pick fights among themselves, including a high flying fight between Thor and Iron Man and later a fight between Thor and Hulk. And speaking of Hulk, goddamn.
There have been two renditions of Hulk in two different movies by two different actors and while ‘The Incredible Hulk’ was a very good effort as a standalone Hulk film, the potential for the character still felt untapped. This time, Marvel enlisted Mark Ruffalo to play Bruce Banner and he gives a less angst-ridden interpretation of the character than Edward Norton did (which is the one I still prefer). But when it comes to the Hulk himself, ‘The Avengers’ finally understands what the character is all about and how he can be exploited in film form. Let’s just say this – Hulk is the best part of the entire film. Every single scene of him in ‘Hulk form’ not only received loud cheers from a very entertained audience but it was highly amusing to watch him wreak havoc on the opponents. It definitely makes me forgiven them for shortchanging Edward Norton for the film and actually understand what they were going for. It makes the finale much more exciting to watch. Which brings me to the finale itself.
If you can find a single fault in all the previous Marvel movies, it’s that their finales are usually the weakest. ‘Iron Man’ had a pretty generic robot battle at the end, and the sequel had an even more bland and short boss fight. Even ‘Thor’ wasn’t completely satisfying in its finale and ‘Captain America’ was plain old anti-climactic. But Joss Whedon truly wanted to change that and saved the best for last. The third act of “The Avengers” is over thirty minutes long and is one of the most awe-inspiring finales that the genre has seen just in terms of scope and writing. There’s a lot of CGI and fast-paced destruction, but it’s so dynamic thanks to how the team works together in tackling the threat they face that it’s brilliant to watch it unfold. Add to that the Hulk as mentioned above and this becomes an extremely memorable ride which in itself is better than ‘Iron Man 2’ and ‘Captain America’ combined. If nothing else convinces you to see the film, just watch it for the non-stop action in the finale and you’ll feel like you got more than your money’s worth.
The only flaw I can find with the film is the 3-D, in the sense that there wasn’t any. There’s almost not a single 3-D moment in the film nor does it do anything to immerse you into the film. It’s one of the countless post-converted 3D conversions that were hastily added at the end to take more money from audiences and adds nothing to your experience other than dimming the screen. If possible, avoid the 3D viewing and catch it in plain old regular 2D which is what it was filmed to be shown as.
Robert Downey Jr. is excellent once again as Tony Stark and actually gives a surprisingly intense performance when most would expect him to play the same old arrogant playboy schtick again. Chris Evans is more restrained but as the lead of the film and the leader of the group, he’s very effectively and does full justice to his role. Chris Hemsworth was born to play Thor and once again shines in the character although I felt like his character wasn’t given too much to do compared to the other heroes. Jeremy Renner is introduced as Hawkeye and as always gives a physically impressive performance. Scarlett Johansson would usually be expected to just provide eye candy for the viewers but she’s surprisingly effective in her character. Tom Hiddleston is a brilliant character and probably the best thing that ever happened to the character of Loki, and plays his villainous role here with impressive command. Samuel Jackson doesn’t have much to do this time around but even playing a version of himself is a perfect fit for Nick Fury. As previously said, Mark Ruffalo is actually very different in his rendition of Bruce Banner and though he doesn’t beat the more nuanced Edward Norton performance, he makes the role his own and fits the way Hulk is shown here.
‘The Avengers’ is an astounding achievement for Marvel and sets the bar pretty high for superhero films to come. It’s a highly entertaining summer blockbuster that succeeds on every level and should see record box-office. Which it very well deserves.