3

Thursday, May 10, 2012

At the movies: *The Avengers*

Avengers movie teaser poster/wallpaper download

Marvel’s The Avengers
Action/adventure, SF/fantasy (2012)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo
Written by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn
Directed by Joss Whedon

Synopsis, via RottenTomatoes.com:
Marvel Studios presents Marvel's The Avengers-the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins. -- (C) Marvel
When The Avengers ended, I told Tall Paul “I could watch this movie two or three more times!” And that’s a good thing, because I probably will. I saw it the day after it opened, and there’s an excellent chance I’ll be seeing it again next weekend. You may have heard that this movie broke all sorts of opening-weekend records, and if you had any interest at all in seeing it, you may already have (at least once). And if you haven’t--well, don’t wait for this to come out on DVD or Netflix to see it for the first time. It’s one of those big-ticket, big-budget movies that warrants a big-screen experience.

The build-up to The Avengers has gone on for years, as most of its central characters were introduced in movies of their own. We’ve already seen the origins of Iron Man (two movies, one great, one...not as great), the Hulk (two movies, neither good), Thor (one movie, OK but unremarkable), and Captain America (one movie, surprisingly good), so not much time is lost on explaining them here. Then again, we don’t get a lot of backstory on Black Widow and Hawkeye, the two characters who haven’t had their own features, either.

Having said that, a newbie still shouldn’t have too much trouble making sense of who’s who and who does what--these characters have to get to know each other, which provides a means for the viewer to get to know them as well. And even if you do already know them, you’ll see them from different perspectives here, and for me, that was one of the most interesting aspects of the movie. Tony Stark is still more interesting than his alter ego Iron Man and gets many of the best lines, but in this context, his--well, let’s call them his less-socially-acceptable personality traits--seem more pronounced. The personality contrast is strongest between him and Captain America, Steve Rogers; “Cap” isn’t just a “super soldier,” he’s a really decent guy (and I understand even better now why he’s my husband’s favorite superhero). The Hulk really doesn’t have a personality--he’s a giant two-year-old tantrum--and that may be part of why his movies didn’t turn out so well, but Dr. Bruce Banner’s struggles with that inner green monster helped give him a pretty interesting one. Thor doesn’t have a ton of personality either--being a god doesn’t necessarily allow for inner complexity, I suppose--but he’s not hard to look at. However, Thor does have a rather problematic brother, Loki, and as the villainous catalyst for bringing this team together, he does an excellent job (I wanted to punch him almost every time he showed up).

It take a while to bring the team that would become the Avengers together, and they don’t exactly bond right away; the scenes where they hash things out with one another, verbally and physically, are some of the most entertaining in the movie. Once they do figure out how to work together, they do make a very effective team, but I get a sense that’s what they are: a team, not a family. These are not the Super Friends. (Yeah. I know, the Super Friends are DC characters, not Marvel--just trying to make a point. Go sit down, Comic Book Guy.)

The character development works, the story held my interest (although I really feel like the movie could be about fifteen minutes shorter) and the dialogue is sharp--Tony Stark gets many of the best lines, but not all of them. The Avengers doesn’t transcend the comic-book-movie genre, but it does show how well it can be done, thanks to co-writer and director Joss Whedon. Seeing what the creator of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and Dr. Horrible would do with some of Marvel’s most prominent characters may have been at least as big a draw for some of those opening-weekend moviegoers as the characters themselves. He did well. I’m excited about seeing just how well a couple more times.

Disclosure: My family and I purchased our own tickets to see Marvel's The Avengers at the ArcLight Cinema.