The Avengers (2012) Movie Review “An Achievement in the Genre”

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This was it.  Marvel had spent millions upon millions of dollars in their phase one features of individual superhero films, now this was the film to see if it was all worth it.  A careful and slow burn, Marvel carefully  crafted and introduced their characters and universe to the world with “Iron Man”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Thor”, “Iron Man 2” and “Captain America”; now it was time for their coming together.  Something that has been hinted at since the end credits scene of the first “Iron Man”, “The Avengers”.  Fanboy’s around the world would be holding their breath (and that would include me as well).  Of course this is also a film (like “The Dark Knight Rises”) some people just won’t let you levy any criticism towards.  Either way, “The Avengers”  would turn out to be the film we all wanted.  A fun, exuberant, and exciting team-up that uses nearly all of the characters to the best of their ability while never getting convoluted or too busy.

After Loki of Asgard descends upon Earth to rule all, Nick Fury and the rest of SHIELD quickly travel around the globe to recruit a team of specialized people to combat him.  Tony Stark (Iron Man), Steve Rodgers (Captain America), Bruce Banner (The Hulk), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) have all been gathered together and fight back against this threat.  With all of Earth hanging in the balance, the group of them have to come together without breaking themselves apart.

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Most comic book movie fans know the sad and painful history of filmmakers taking their beloved characters and overstuffing their movies with too much plot and too many big characters (“Spider-Man 3”, we’re looking at you).  Maybe some writers want to appease the fans so much that they try and get as many characters in from the comics as possible, but doesn’t always feel cohesive.  If anything, “The Avengers” is the ultimate fan service.  All of their favorite characters (minus Spider-Man and anything else Marvel didn’t own at the time)  together in one movie?  Sounds like a comic book reader’s wet dream, and trust me, it was mine too.  Something we’ve only seen in cartoon coming alive on the big screen was a pretty special experience (I just long for the day that we’ll get “The Justice League” on screen).  Still, it’s was pretty easy to get worried because we have  already seen Marvel overstuff one solo movie with too much plot (“Iron Man 2” would be guilty of that charge), yet Marvel Studios and director Joss Whedon manage to pull it all off.

This film flows very well.  It never feels convoluted or over crowded.  Joss figures out a way to balance out nearly all of the characters, giving each a moment for their individual personalities and traits to shine.  There would be no use for all their solo movies if you got a writer and director that didn’t understand their characters.  Fortunately, Joss does and he lets all their God like personalities bounce off one another in some wonderful written dialogue.  The interaction between all of the characters is part of what makes this movie so much fun.  This would be pretty boring if Tony Stark and Captain America just shook hands and teamed up to fight Loki.  Like a normal person in our own world, these guys bicker, argue, and sometimes that comes at the expense of others.  Part of the fun of this movie is more amplified had you grown up with these characters, and the novelty of seeing these characters together on screen together does amp up the movie’s excitement level on that basis alone.

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Yet for everyone who isn’t a hardcore comic book geek, “The Avengers” doesn’t try to appease our species of people, “The Avengers” aims for some crowd pleasing entertainment and delivers on that throughout.  It is a simple tale of good guys and bad guys, but that doesn’t mean it’s poor by any means.  In similar ways you could compare the morality of this tale more of a liking to the original “Star Wars”, and it works well within those ground.  The action is plentiful but none of it works without having characters to root for which makes all of the explosions and destruction all the more satisfying. You can’t get more big and epic in scale than this (although it’s sequel “Avengers: Age of Ultron” looks like it’s up for the task).

All the action is well done , exciting, tense and done with just the right amount of lightheartedness to put a smile on your face. Whedon’s cinematography definitely gives away that he works primarily in television but the action is anything but small scale.

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Carrying over from Kenneth Branagh’s “Thor” is Tom Hiddleston’s likeable but deadly Loki.  Still one of the few villains that Marvel’s got that worth talking about, Loki is less multi-dimensional in this and more pure evil.  He has got the smile and as much wit as Tony Stark brings to the table.  Twirling his mustache like a cane thinking he can break these “lost souls” before they ever have a chance to defeat him.  In some ways you could argue that making Loki more evil in this and less sympathetic robs something of his character, but it’s simple development from the conclusion of “Thor”. This carries over to “Thor: The Dark World” with more development from Loki, so in that sense I don’t think anything is really missing from his portrayal.  If anything, Hiddleson looks like he has broken all the chains off around him and is having pure fun in this movie, and it’s not hard not to have fun with him.

Taking over from Edward Norton is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk.  Most people here know I loved  Edward Norton in that role and would love to have seen more from him.  I can’t help but feel that had he’d stay we may have gotten to see another Hulk standalone that follows the hanging plot threads left over.  However, that all being said Mark Ruffalo owns the character of Hulk.  This is his best on screen portrayal yet.  Mark is able to show him of his hidden pain behind his eyes but also bring a lot of personality to him that maybe was a bit lacking in earlier incarnations .

There are a few small but never the less present flaws.  The usage of Hawkeye’s character is very forgettable and entirely fluff and pointless. Jeremy Renner does a good job in the role as he normally does, but the way his character was written could have been changed up and used by any other character.  There is also some potential plot holes concerning Hulk’s character and how his “anger issues” was tied up so he could join the fight at the very end.  I hesitate to say plot hole because the reason is alluded too but it’s very light on actual detail and decent reasoning.

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I have to think that if this movie was bad that would have brought Marvel Studios to a screeching halt (or maybe the 1 billion plus dollars that this movie made would be reason enough to keep going).  Either way this was a big success for Marvel and a big breath of fresh air for its fans and even non fans alike.  Fun, exciting, and all around crowd pleasing, this is great summer blockbuster fare.

Final Score

8.5/10       

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