Movie Review: The Avengers

I saw this hugely anticipated film on Wednesday when it came out, leaving a couple of days to think it over before posting a review. Enjoy.

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Starring:
Robert Downey Jr, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Ruffalo
Director:
Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly)
Rating: M
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And so it is that the superhero project seven years in the making finally arrives on our screens, carrying with it the kind of hype that can only be generated by five prior films loaded with teasing elements. The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger have all come and gone. While some of these films were more obvious in their hype-generating efforts than others (*ahem* Iron Man 2) and suffered for it, such trivial matters are in the past. The reality is that Marvel Studios’ The Avengers is one of the most ambitious action films of our time, attempting to tread the unprecedented ground of adapting a much-adored comic book super-team concept into a movie that doesn’t fall to pieces.

The reason it succeeds, more than anything else, is because it avoids just that.

The basic story conceit behind The Avengers should be familiar to anyone who has watched the entirety of any of the above lead-in films. S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) has been building a list of highly gifted contacts with the idea that if the world ever faced a crisis too large for the top secret agency to handle, he might be able to assemble them into a heroic functioning unit. When vain alien-god Loki (Tom Hiddleston, previously seen in Thor) comes upon a cubed source of unfathomable power and makes a deal with a powerful interstellar army to invade Earth, such a crisis comes about. But getting his heroes to work together is harder than Fury may have thought.

It is the bickering and violent disagreements between the members of the volatile team that makes The Avengers such fun to watch in its first half. The superhero vs superhero set pieces are an absolute treat to witness, and of them all Thor vs Hulk has to be a highlight, but the dialogue crackles along as furiously as the action and features a fantastic set of one-liners that had the packed cinema in which I saw the film laughing loudly and often. Such dialogue highlights continue beyond the inevitable ‘team unity moment’ as the team turns their wit against their common enemy, with terrifically entertaining results.

This is the direct result of Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame taking on both writing and directing responsibilities for the film. There is a reason the term “Buffy Speak” has been floating around the internet with such a following for as long as it has; Whedon‘s unique spin on the English language, packed with “like”s and hybrid words, is clever in its own bizarre way. It brims with sharp humour, transcending a “nerd-only” audience and giving the film a much broader appeal, yet moves a plot along with alarming efficiency.

Not that there is much of a plot in The Avengers. The story is as simple as superhero movies come. Yet anything else would arguably have been counter-productive, as the complex interactions between the major characters are paramount to the success of the movie and it’s easy to see how a convoluted plot might have impeded this. Some may question the inclusion of non-superpowered Avengers Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in this plot, but they are each given their own eye-catching action sequences and snappy dialogue to justify their presence alongside their more powerful allies.

Even so, they don’t exactly help the issue of character balance. The Avengers certainly isn’t a short movie at 142 minutes, but it still struggles to give every character quite enough time in the spotlight. Robert Downey Jr‘s Iron Man is the most noticeable exception, as his is the only storyline thread that is deemed worthy of including a love interest (Gwyneth Paltrow gets in a line or five while Natalie Portman from Thor appears in photograph form only). He is also central to the final conflict and has some of the best lines, though Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor gives him a run for his money in the latter department. Chris Evans‘ Captain America is treated well enough (ugly suit notwithstanding), though he perhaps features less than he should considering he is meant to be, well, the captain of the Avengers. Though he has the least screen time of them all, Mark Ruffalo‘s nervous Bruce Banner is a regular scene stealer and when he becomes the Hulk, the green monster fills the screen in more ways than one. In many ways, this is the best Hulk movie ever.

Ultimately the flaws with the film can’t help but feel a bit irrelevant. The Avengers succeeds as a movie event because of how surprisingly watertight it is; because of what it achieves as a realisation of a comic book fan’s dreams. It isn’t afraid to shy away from being deathly serious and have a bit of fun, making it kind of an anti-Dark Knight Rises. When that film hits in July, it will have quite a bit to live up to if it wants to take out the title of best superhero movie of 2012.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Holds together nicely, very cool action scenes, even better script, surprisingly broad appeal
Bad:
Hard to do justice to all the characters
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4.5 VsI N C R E D I B L E

3 responses to this post.

  1. Great review! I agree with how much fun it was, great movie. Check my review out when you get the time, I would be really grateful!: http://conordcfc.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/film-review-the-avengers-avengers-assemble-2012/

    Reply

  2. Posted by Comic Fan on May 1, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Can’t wait to see this movie!

    Reply

  3. Great to see someone else who rated it quite so highly! If you get a chance, please check mine out – got to share the Marvel love! http://iamnotwaynegale.com/2012/04/29/review-the-avengers-2012/

    Reply

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