Joss Whedon‘s highly anticipated The Avengers is here after years of careful preparation on Marvel and Disney/Paramount’s behalf. Finally, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and other big names are joined together for perhaps the biggest comic-book movie yet, both in terms of sheer size and importance. I’m here to tell you that The Avengers is a good film, in terms of big, mindless fun, but aside from all of the action and destruction, is there anything left beneath the surface? Nope, not really. It pains me to say this, but The Avengers is kind of a disappointment.
The world is threatened by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is forced to call upon the world’s greatest superheroes to help save the planet. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) all come together to defend the world from Loki and an alien race that he brings into the atmosphere. The stakes have never been higher and director Joss Whedon gets that point across loud and clear in The Avengers, it just takes him 45 minutes to do so.
My review might sound like I didn’t care for The Avengers, but that’s only because I can think of more stuff I didn’t like compared to stuff I did, but the stuff I did like worked really damn well, it just took a little too long to get there. The Avengers opens up on a weak note, with Loki attacking S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters. He takes some important cargo and latches onto some key characters while he’s at it.
The film quickly cuts to Nick Fury, as he assembles the team. Briefly, the film recaps and tells a back-story for each character. Captain America’s is summed up in a series of montages, while Hulk and Thor’s is established in a few lines if dialogue. Tony Stark aka Iron Man doesn’t need an introduction, because he’s the most obnoxious and popular of the bunch.
A feeling of boredom quickly takes over as the biggest film of the summer suddenly becomes hard to sit through. I wouldn’t call it bad pacing or editing, but something just doesn’t feel right. Loki essentially sits around, while the team has troubles settling in and Whedon tackles all of this in a campy, carefree way. On one hand it’s kind of fun watching Thor, Captain America and Iron Man beat the living shit out of each other in a forest, but on the other it keeps repeating the opening struggle of the film, which is no one is really a team player and that it takes a crisis to realize that.
Whedon makes you sit through the motions as the team struggles to find their footing and there reached a certain point when I almost gave up. But then the action comes, and in a big way. There are two big sequences in the film and together they total a quarter of the film’s running time.
The first one shows why Whedon was the right man for the film, because he successfully shows the team dynamics and how important that is to the film. He appropriately keeps the focus changing back and forth between everyone, making them all feel equally important, while still giving everyone their own time in the spotlight. It’s unreal watching Iron Man and Captain America team up to save everyone from a disastrous crash. You’re so used to Iron Man having to do everything by himself, yet right when he almost fails you have Captain America jumping in for the assist.
And then there’s the final ending action sequence that has been plastered all over the trailers and promotional spots. It’s as epic as advertised, if not more. Whedon keeps things contained in one area of the city, which helps everything feel focused and purposeful. There’s one particular shot that floats from each character in a single take, showing their current stance on the battlefield and it’s the kind of stuff that will have you shitting your pants.
Oddly enough the character I enjoyed most at the beginning of the film was Tony Stark/Iron Man. It’s no secret that Iron Man (1 and 2) are my least favorite of the recent Marvel films and yet I couldn’t get enough of Stark in The Avengers. I’m not sure if it’s because everyone else lacks a sense of humor or if it’s because Robert Downey Jr. has such a talent for working really well with the rest of the cast, whereas everyone else kind of keeps to themselves.
Watching Stark and Bruce Banner talk science for 10 minutes doesn’t sound interesting, but it really is. Whedon exposes the two characters and how they’re actually very similar.
Mark Ruffalo has been getting praise as Hulk, and he deserves it, just not as Bruce Banner. As Banner he’s focused on being a science geek, but his inner turmoil just doesn’t seem to come out, like Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. His transformation into Hulk is absolutely perfect though. Finally, a proper way to show Hulk smashing up the city without seeming too generic or repetitive.
Thor takes a backside for most of the film. Captain America steps up and leads the team, while Black Widow and Hawkeye sort of get enough screen time to warrant their own spinoff films, as long as they’re teamed together and not separate.
I feel like I’ll be in the minority when it comes to The Avengers. It’s a good film, just not as good as I was expecting. The opening 45 minutes really drags the film down. It starts out so uneven and non-exciting, which is the exact opposite of how The Avengers should start. Whedon does redeem himself with his ability to keep the teamwork strong and the action even stronger.
The ending action sequence is by far the best for a big-budget comic book movie. Move over Michael Bay, because Joss Whedon knows how make things explode AND tell a story. His camera placement is so precise, which helps things move along and actually progress. I’m so used to Bay and his action ways that involve bright lights, explosions, lots of sweat and a random ending. Whedon knows how to structure his action and make each moment count. Everything adds up to the final moments that are pieced together well.
Maybe my expectations were too high or maybe I need to give the film another go, but my initial reaction to The Avengers is a bit of a mixed bag. I must emphasize that the stuff that was good in the film was REALLY REALLY GOOD, but the stuff that was bad just came off as unexpected and kind of hard to sit through. If I could watch the film again, but skip the opening scenes then I’d easily give The Avengers a higher score, but that just isn’t how it works.
That leaves me with a film that I liked, with brief moments that I loved, but on that same note several moments that I didn’t care for. The Avengers is far from perfect, but it’s a more than worthy culmination of everything that’s come before it.
The Avengers – 8/10