Chris Evans | Chris Hemsworth | Film | Nathaniel Rogers | Superheroes

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Now Playing: 'The Avengers'

Avengersassembled
Roll Call: Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS

If Agent Natasha Romanoff can interrupt an espionage interrogation to attend...

If Thor can find a way back to Earth without his rainbow bridge...

If Tony Stark can stop erecting enormous arguably phallic odes to himself for a moment...

If Captain America can get back in shape now that he's out of deep freeze...

And if Dr Bruce Banner can come out of self-imposed exile to join Marvel's THE AVENGERS, then I really ought to be able to revive this review column! Let's go.

After roughly four years of movie-length commercials for The Avengers (formerly known as: Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger) "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" have finally assembled. To fans of the superhero genre, this probably feels like an impossible dream realized. To non-fans of the superhero genre this might play like the perfect time for a showstopping climax -take a bow and give mere mortals some movies again! The latter group should brace themselves. This particular blockbuster is lively enough to greenlight an even bigger movie family of men (and hopefully some women) in tights.

Marvel wisely handed the reigns over to writer/director Joss Whedon who is still best known for creating one of the greatest TV shows of all time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and who has only directed one previous feature (Serenity). Though I'm a big Whedon believer, the opening moments worried me. The film starts with a brief but dull outerspace prologue designed to tell us that the Earth will soon be threatened (Duh! The superheroes have to protect the world from something). Without context this unfortunately brings Green Lantern's information overload opening to mind though it's happily the last completely useless scene in the film. Once Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steals the glowing cube of power known as the Tesseract from Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) at S.H.I.E.L.D., the story is jolted to life. (Loki also steals Jeremy Renner but who wouldn't?)

Why is Hulk chasing The Black Widow ?

Superhero vs superhero and other visual wonders AFTER THE JUMP...

Avengers-hulkscarjo

Sorry but I can't tell you!

I don't want to spoil any plot details but let's just say that Joss Whedon is basically the world's greatest fanfic writer. He finds numerous clever ways to pit the superheroes against one another throughout the course of the action even though they're on the same side. Hero vs. Hero has always been a staple, however convoluted in the details, of both comic book narratives and fan fiction but we rarely get to see it onscreen.

Like most modern blockbusters that supersize themselves The Avengers, at 142 minutes long, has its duller patches. The heroes spend an awful lot of time on minor bickering and self doubt on an invisible floating ship that doesn't have quite enough character to sustain a third of the movie. Loki's outsourced alien army is also depressingly personality-free and derivative but that's a minor quibble as there's plenty of big personas around waiting for their turn to shine. The Avengers' multiple character introductions aren't as gracefully swift as Serenity's remarkable opening scene, but Whedon's dependable talent for finding the humor and fissures and alliances within group dynamics is put to fine use. Somehow they made an Avengers movie without any of Earth's Mightiest Egos demanding the spotlight. Even the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), merely extraneous eye candy in Iron Man 2, is used about as well as you could possibly hope for.

Avengers-loki

Whedon's bravest gambit in the storytelling might be the way he handles The Hulk (Eric Bana Ed Norton Mark Ruffalo). He pins much anticipatory weight on the where and the when and the how quickly Bruce Banner might Hulk out, confidently assuming the audience will beg for it, ignoring the fact that Hulk has a reputation for boring them on the big screen. Mark Ruffalo's wonderfully mellow screen vibe makes for a nice bit of counterintuitive casting yet you still believe him when he says he's angry all the time. Whedon and Ruffalo (through motion-capture acting) make the Hulk so entertaining, in fact, that he gets the single biggest laugh in the movie. It's a blink and you'll miss it comic beat in the middle of the finale's mayhem.

And what glorious mayhem. Though The Avengers never reaches the pop iconography heights of Spider-Man 2 (my choice for Best Superhero Film) and it doesn't even attempt the majestic gravitas of The Dark Knight (most people's choice for Best Superhero Film) preferring to keep it light and quippy, its final act is so big and crazy and super-powered that you leave on a true high. I'm still thinking of its most eye-popping moments: Thor's hammer meeting Captain America's shield; Iron Man's unusually vertiginous costume change; A billion dollar complex sinking into the earth; Loki's sorcery and Tom Hiddleston's equally magic acting; The Hulk sliding down skyscrapers; Chris Evans' ass in sweatpants.

Joss-scarjo

That sound you hear exiting the theater is not just the aftershocks of multiple geek orgasms, but the crying jags of Warner Bros executives. They famously gave Joss Whedon the boot on the still languishing Wonder Woman movie. Damn, but she would have lassoed the world anew with Whedon guiding her. 

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

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Comments

  1. Yes, the laugh moment with the Hulk had everyone roaring in the theatre. Joss Whedon is the kind of director/writer everyone wishes George Lucas had turned out to be.

    Posted by: Azgaard | May 4, 2012 5:53:00 PM


  2. "After roughly four years of movie-length commercials..." -- wow, what lazy, cliched writing that you read somewhere else... months ago. All of those movies had plots and characters, and even the poor ones were better than most. Had they failed, this film wouldn't have existed. So, yeah, commercials. Again, lazy and written elsewhere by others long ago. This is why I rarely read your contributions to this site, because they are usually a waste of time. The Avengers is over 2hrs and 20 minutes long. It's got about 25 minutes worth of watchable material. The only thing weaker than the script Wheadon contributed to is his directing. Sadly, he hasn't the slightest idea of how to frame a shot to heighten the sense of action or drama. Evans is beautiful, Ruffalo is fantastic as Bruce Banner, Hulk steals the movie and no one actor disappoints, but script betrays them all at almost every turn and the director is, for the most part, a bystander.

    Posted by: Martin | May 4, 2012 5:57:05 PM


  3. Thanks for the fantastic review -- I've missed them! So excited to see the...after finals :-(

    Posted by: Andrew | May 4, 2012 6:16:06 PM


  4. I have to say its much better than I expected, but it isnt as clever or funny as it thinks it is. That pretty much sums up Whedons career.

    Posted by: Rovex | May 4, 2012 6:50:00 PM


  5. I haven't been excited or interested in a comic book/super hero movie since the X-Men came out when I was in high school and college. I wish I could enjoy them, but just can't get into it. I never read the comics or watched those particular cartoons growing up so that could be it.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | May 4, 2012 7:25:01 PM


  6. how funny you said the prior movies were better than other super hero movies and yet this one just sucked so much that 1/5 of the content is merely worth watching. It is not impossible; it is just really unlikely.

    For super hero movies, if you are looking for a lengthy and deep philosophical story or an amazing journey of cinematography, then you will be disappointed easily. Partially due to the studio budget, partially due to the audience's capacity and then there is the issue with attention span.

    So before you get personal on a writer whose job is to write his personal opinion on a movie, you might just want to take a chill pill or watch something else. I mean seriously, how dare he say something you don't agree with.

    Posted by: david | May 4, 2012 7:33:00 PM


  7. MARTIN NEED HULK SMASH

    Posted by: ger | May 4, 2012 8:23:38 PM


  8. Just saw it and thoroughly enjoyed the whole movie... script, acting, action, and comedy. There were several moments that had the audience cracking up.

    And it's a good thing Hulk was CGI. He ALMOST stole the comic lead from Stark.

    Posted by: sparks | May 4, 2012 10:31:29 PM


  9. there are so many talented film writers out there, i really don't understand why this guy continues to write for this blog. would love to see a great film writer on this blog, someone who could offer an actual stance on films, not just dance around them like pina bausch on muscle relaxers.

    Posted by: waitwait | May 5, 2012 12:17:41 AM


  10. Wow, this movie looks, like, sooo original.

    Posted by: Max | May 5, 2012 1:02:32 AM


  11. This movie can be appreciated on several levels:

    1. It had the action. Oh, dear, it had the action.

    2. Even though the dialogue came from the heart of the characters, it has the trademark sharp wit that can only be described as "Whedonesque." In other words, the dialogue is a ton of fun, with the character banter mirroring their struggles to form a cohesive group that could save the world.

    3. While Loki was a great villain in Thor, he had even more fun here... and it's kind o refreshing to have a new villain everyone can talk about that's not named The Joker or Lex Luthor.

    4. It pushes the over-arching Marvel story along for all the Marvel character franchises in fun ways... and I'm guessing a lot of us are invested in at least one of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor or The Hulk.

    All in all, this is one of the best Super Hero movies out there, so much so that it's almost in its own category (insofar as there's nothing quite like it). I almost dare Warner Bros./DC to take on Marvel with a Justice League film. The competition would almost make it that much more enjoyable.

    Posted by: Ryan | May 5, 2012 2:17:43 AM


  12. OMG to be on an invisible ship with THOR and CAPTAIN AMERICA ........... hmmmmmmmmmm


    Posted by: steve | May 5, 2012 5:06:11 AM


  13. Yeah, Nathaniel, you deserved to be spanked (and not in the good way) over the absurd and needlessly snotty "After roughly four years of movie-length commercials for The Avengers" bit. If you hate superhero films, why review them? Most of those movies were a lot of fun all on their own, with Captain American America particularly stylish and beautifully done (though perhaps not soaring quite as high as one might have hoped, it was really well done). The coomment was simply totally off-base.

    Posted by: Tarc | May 5, 2012 7:00:07 AM


  14. Anyone else notice recently that the comments on this blog have become so unnecessarily snotty towards the bloggers who post/write the stories? What's wrong with you people? Aren't we all on the same team? Can't we all just get along? Group hug! I personally can't wait to see this film! YES!

    Posted by: Gary A | May 5, 2012 12:30:37 PM


  15. I agree with Gary. Why do people take a difference of opinion so seriously and so personally. We're talking about a superhero movie, not the holocaust. Everyone please calm down and share YOUR opinion with some civility and humor.

    Posted by: Dave | May 5, 2012 2:29:16 PM


  16. It was a great movie. Chris Evans looked amazing, the dialog was fun, the plot moved well, I wasn't bored by the Hulk at all. The audience was very enthusiastic, and I caught the matinee, it wasn't full of kids....The weakest aspect was Scarlett Johansen as the Black Widow, and she was pretty good, really. I agree with Gary and Dave, people are getting evil on here. It doesn't help anything, it only hurts, so why do it?

    Posted by: Grant | May 5, 2012 5:22:04 PM


  17. Tots enjoyed this! I was incredibly skeptical about an Avengers movie, mildly mollified that Whedon would be writing/directing, and then outright blown away that he pulled it off so well. I can't think of another movie that tried to wrangle a herd-of-cats superhero group like this, let alone pulled it off.

    Posted by: AladinSane | May 5, 2012 10:56:11 PM


  18. The movie was great. It's not the best comic book movie ever like some are claiming (I'd put The Dark Knight & X2:X-men United ahead of it), but it's a strong, entertaining film. 8/10.

    Posted by: River | May 6, 2012 12:48:59 AM


  19. The "Avengers" turned this agnostic into a devout theist. I now believe in the god Thor. Who knew that god was a 6'3 blond hunk born in Australia?

    Posted by: jack | May 6, 2012 3:31:16 PM


  20. No, Wonder Woman would have died. Why? Because they have forgotten that it is Wonder *Woman,* not Wonder *Girl.*

    Why did Lynda Carter do so well? Because even though she was only 25 when she did it, she carried herself as a full-fledged adult and not a kid. Buffy worked because the integral core of the character was that of a kid who suddenly had to grow up and have the weight of the world on her shoulders while still wanting to enjoy her youth. That isn't Wonder Woman.

    Posted by: Rrhain | May 7, 2012 8:46:33 PM


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