Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Avengers Review

The.  Avengers.  Four years and five films in the making.  A culmination of characters the likes of which we've never seen attempted in cinematic form.  And yet here it is.  And it is glorious.  I've decided on an initial spoiler-free discussion, followed up by a spoiler-heavy counterpart at a later date.  To quote Chris Hemsworth's character from Cabin In the Woods, let's get this party started!!

Right off the bat I want to say that I don't read any comics.  Well, I've read Watchmen.  And Brian Azzarello's Joker.  But that's it.  So this is to say that I'm more of a fan of the Marvel films that we've been treated to over the years, rather than the source material.  Its safe to say that some of the references and Easter eggs dropped throughout the saga have been lost to me (until I wiki them asap).  But I know enough about the characters to allow myself to be fully immersed in the world that Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios have developed for us.  I am quite fond of all five lead-in films, with my preference in descending order being: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, and Iron Man 2.  As previously mentioned, never before has anything like this been attempted in the realm of film.  Four main characters, in their own stories, brought together to form a barely-cohesive team to save the Earth.  And boy is it awesome.

The Avengers is by far now my favorite of the current Marvel chronology of films.  Its everything a fan could ever hope for.  I honestly couldn't stop grinning throughout the entire film.  There is just so much going on in this movie that its quite baffling to think about; not a single frame is wasted.  Every piece of dialogue, every shot, every scene has a specific purpose and meaning.  I'm sitting here literally shaking my head with a huge grin on my face just thinking about it.  When it comes time for my spoiler-ridden review I don't think I'll be able to include all of my favorite moments...because there are just so damn many.

For me, there are two standout aspects of the film: the action and the character interactions.  Geek God Joss Whedon has delivered unto us some of the coolest, well-staged action set pieces that I have ever seen.  For the most part the action is easily comprehendible and peppered with amazing visual effects.  There are few instances of the over-used "shaky cam" to add a sense of realism to the proceedings.  I used to be quite the fan of shaky cam, but I'm kind of getting tired of it.  There are also a few instances where I wish the camera had been pulled back a bit, allowing us a broader view of the action.  And those two complaints are quite minor in the larger scheme of things.  With regards to set-pieces, this film has by far the best third act/finale of any of the previous films in the series.  With the exception of Captain America (and maybe The Incredible Hulk), Marvel finales are a bit underwhelming (Iron Man/War Machine vs. Whiplash...I'm looking at you).  Thankfully The Avengers bucks this trend, and is hopefully creating a new one that will pass on to the next series of lead-up films (to Avengers 2).

Finally seeing these larger-than-life characters interact with one another is quite a sight to behold.  The trailers hinted at this, but there is a good bit of humor in this film, with most of it coming at the expense of one of our heroes.  As to be expected, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark is quite the quip-master and dishes some fantastic dialogue and witty one-liners to friend and foe alike.  Chris Evan's Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) is obviously the most grounded of the group, with his moral compass being grounded heavily in 1940s ethics.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is just as awesome as he was back in his own film, as is Thor's "brother," Loki.  Tom Hiddleston continues to devour scenes with his acting chops, making a sort-of demi-God with giant golden horns incredibly terrifying and menacing.  For me, the two stand-out performances come from Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow) and new-to-the-series Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk.  Black Widow was introduced in Iron Man 2 and didn't really get anything by way of back story.  Granted, this film doesn't really deliver on that front either, but her role is very much expanded to more than just a lackey for Sam Jackson's Nick Fury.  We get to see her in full-on spy-mode for a bit, adding an interesting layer to the character.  Ruffalo is fantastic as Banner; witty, intelligent, and intense when he needs to be.  I am definitely pulling for another Hulk film centered around Ruffalo.  I don't think I'll be alone in this, but I can't but feel that Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye was underutilized in this film.  I really would like to see a S.H.I.E.L.D. film in the future that lets us see Hawkeye and Black Widow outside of the shadow cast by the main crew.

Aside from the minor issues with the direction of the action, I have really only one major complaint.  And unfortunately that falls within the spoiler category.  Its a story-related issue, and will be discussed at a later time.  And it really doesn't matter, because Joss Whedon delivered a film that fanboys the world over will fall in love with and watch over and over again.  I'm already counting down the minutes till I get to see it again.  There is just so much awesomeness crammed into the seemingly fast-paced two-and-a-half-hour run time.  And it breezed by like it was only half as long.  For me, if I look at my phone to check the time, then whatever I'm watching isn't doing its job.  The Avengers very much did that job; I was drawn into the world from the opening moments, all the way until the now-expected end-credits scene.  Don't let yourself be burned.  Stay through the credits.  And just go watch this film.  I very much doubt you'll be disappointed.

Just a quick note: I saw this film in 3D.  And it wasn't terrible.  There are definitely scenes and shots that showcase the third dimension, but it didn't stand out to me as being particularly great.  I'm neutral at this point; if you enjoy 3D I'd say go for it.  If you don't care for it you won't be missing much.

The Avengers is not only the best Marvel film yet, but is also a fantastic action film its in own right.

The Bearded Bullet.


  1. Nice review Kyle. Everybody here is on their top of their A-game, especially the writing and direction from Joss Whedon. Perfect way to start off what's supposed to be a jam-packed Summer.