Movie Review: The Avengers

Warning: This review will be spoiler-ridden. And really, this is a pretty big summer blockbuster movie, if you haven’t seen it by opening weekend – you’re not American enough.

Another Warning: I’ve never really read many comic books, so a lot of the “in jokes” and references that are made throughout the movie, I’m probably not going to get.

The Avengers is good, just not great

The Avengers begins the summer movie season for 2012: the end of the world fire sale of blockbuster seasons, where everything is a sequel or part of a franchise of some kind. It’s a fairly good start though, so that’s saying something, especially given that it suffers from a lot of problems that plague several other films.

The movie runs on the assumption that you’ve seen Iron Man 1 & 2, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk. At some point, I really do have to hope, that people are going to feel massively burned out on comic book movies. It’s not to say that they aren’t good but it often feels like the “mythos” of each picture focuses on the same origin storyline and churns out a trilogy in a matter of 7-9 years. Then it’s remake time (looking at you Amazing Spider-Man)!

Maybe that’s why Avengers works for the most part. Throughout the two-and-a-half hour runtime it’s an absolute ensemble – so it doesn’t have to spend too much time on why all of these characters are so emotionally broken. Everyone seems to have an integral part in the cast and everyone, for the most part, seems fairly developed. Hawkeye could use some more scenes, but what movie doesn’t need more Jeremy Renner?

We begin the story with Loki, Thor’s brother, who has sided with an evil alien race, coming to earth to steal the Tesseract, which is basically a powerful energy device. When he comes to retrieve it, he brainwashes Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and brings him along for some more fun. By stealing him he learns about the Avengers Initiative and its members. So, Nick Fury assembles them – there’s Tony Stark (Iron Man) who works closely with Bruce Banner (Hulk) since they’re both smart. Steve Rogers (Captain America) has post-traumatic stress and hates his life, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) feels bad Hawkeye was kidnapped and Thor’s pissed at his adopted brother, Loki. It sounds like a lot, but it’s an ensemble and it fits together pretty well and it’s actually pretty well layered – everyone seems to have at the very least been fleshed out.

That’s where the movie really succeeds. It’s well structured with a good pace. At two-and-a-half hours, it only really begins to feel sluggish during some of the incessant action scenes. At least there’s some fun to be had there with rather unique perspective shots of destruction instead of the standard fare that’s often regurgitated time and time again (looking at you Michael Bay).

But the action is just nonstop. There came a time when people decided that all summer blockbusters had to be two-and-a-half hours long and they all had to have action for 95% of it. There’s never any time to breathe or to let things simmer or to have any actual connection with these characters because we just keep things trucking along until the next big action sequence. For all the QUIRKY and FUN Whedonesque one-liners, there’s no actual connection to anyone here. The emotional gravitas and pull is totally missing – why is everyone so moved by Agent Caulson’s death? We know Tony Stark isn’t going to die (especially since Iron Man 3 is in the works) so…why should I care about him “sacrificing himself” for mankind. Speaking of caring – why do any of them care? There is no motivation for any of the characters to want to do any of this. The alien race that comes to earth to destroy us all are all one-note. Why earth? Why does Loki want earth anyway? It seems like a plot for plot’s sake. I mean it works but it’s more like a gelatinous square peg that kind of does fit in the round hole but you have this mess from where the gelatin was smushed out.

My biggest complaint with the movie is the obvious bloated department of defense budget. It just seems unnecessary to have a flying, camouflaging, submersible destroyer ship. You know why else it is unnecessary? Because it was practically fucking destroyed in a pre-climax action scene.

The best part is the ensemble. Most people would single out Hulk – which when played by Mark Ruffalo is the best Bruce Banner has ever been – but maybe Hulk is only good in small doses. It really is fun to see a large cast of characters working together in a cohesive manner. I just wish the movie focused more on that.

**½ /****

[The Avengers is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action THROUGHOUT, and a mild drug reference. It stars Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, and Jeremy Renner. Directed by Joss Whedon and written by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn.]

One Comment on “Movie Review: The Avengers”

  1. Kandi the Weight Loss Nut says:

    Since after watching The Dark Knight Rises the past weekend, I still think that The Avengers is the better movie between the two. For the praises and love that TDKR is receiving, it’s too serious for me. I’ve been a Whedon fan since Firefly and love the lightheartedness in The Avengers.

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