Posted May 4th 2012 by Frankie Aguilar.
Do you remember when you were little and you came out of movies mimicking the hero you just watched? Maybe you play fought your little brother with phantom lightsabers or pretended to fly like Superman. That feeling of elation, that inability to verbalize the awesomeness of what you'd just seen, leading you to act like a fool, is what I felt coming out of The Avengers. I was hyped, stoked, whatever hip adjective for happy you can come up with. I was happy because I felt like everything that led up to this movie wasn't in vain, that my fandom and faith were rewarded. And on top of all that, The Avengers is just great.
If there's one thing about The Avengers that I could complain about it's the pacing of the first act of the movie. It gives brief introductions of the most important of the characters (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury). And although it's a great refresher course for people that have seen all the movies starring the big guns, it's more geared towards anyone who chooses The Avengers as their starting point. The idea behind this Marvel Movie Universe is to allow for believable and sensible crossovers while still allowing for each individual movie to stand alone. The Avengers is the culmination of this philosophy, although it really relies heavily on your ability to suspend your questions and go with the Thor universe–driven machinations that gets this movie started. If you haven't seen Thor yet, I'd suggest it, more so for a bit of help understanding the nature of what's going on early in The Avengers.
After we're reintroduced to Loki, the main villain in The Avengers, and the Tesseract, the weapon by which he means to conquer our world, things start to pick up. We're introduced to Bruce Banner, this time played by Mark Ruffalo, and Ruffalo immediately establishes his take on the character. Not only was I immensely impressed with Ruffalo's superb spin on Banner and his relationship with the Hulk, but his ability to hold his own against the other actors, who have all each portrayed their characters previously, was admirable. And really, the dynamic between those aforementioned big guns—Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man—is not only the heart and soul of this film but also the best part about it.
I was really interested to see how the synergy worked between the actors and the heroes they played. Everyone knows that Robert Downey, Jr. is the quintessential Tony Stark, but on top of that he has arguably the most pedigree and name recognition in the movie (arguments of course for Samuel L Jackson). But traditionally, as far as the comics are concerned, Captain America (Chris Evans) is the de facto leader, which made for some interesting situations. Cap and Tony sparred verbally throughout the movie, something I think was expounded upon from their comic book counterparts. As easy as it would've been for that to come across as campy and rehearsed, both Evans and Downey, Jr. made that venom and tension palpable and believable. Add to that the Shakespearean quips of Chris Hemsworth as Thor and the scientific techno-babble going constantly between Stark and Banner, and the perfect blending of all the separate movies becomes apparent.
But it's the action and visuals you want to know about, right? All anyone on Twitter that adhered to their gag orders could talk about was the how the third act was a nonstop action thrill ride, and believe me, those words don't do it justice. I don't think enough can be said about how amazing all these fantastic otherworldly scenes look, and on top of that, how believable they come across. There have been plenty of superhero movies that have done a good job getting stuff completely wrong when it comes to their CG components (the adamantium claws in the Wolverine movie come to mind), so to see this level of craftsmanship achieved on such a grand scale is something to be truly admired.
It's not just the CG that makes The Avengers as cool as it is, although the beautiful monstrosity that is the Hulk could probably get an entire review out of me. The costume design, outside of the Hulk and Iron Man, brings a sense of reality to this incredibly unreal world. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, from Nick Fury down, don't look like some hokey Dr. Evil–grade henchmen, but members of a realistic intelligence agency that just happens to operate out of a flying aircraft carrier. And the job done making the suits of Black Widow, Hawkeye, Thor, and Captain America functionally believable without forsaking the comic book look is commendable.
The best part about the Marvel movies, specifically the ones that have come out of the Marvel Studio camp, has been the ability to create a generation-spanning sense of whimsy, which has a lot to do with the humor persistent throughout the films. It's amazing that within the confines of anything from frantic battle scenes to tense introspective character-driven conversations, the characters never lose their humor. And it never feels forced or out of place, which goes a long way to keeping them relatable and grounded. A great example is a scene shown in the previews where Captain America challenges Tony Stark about what he is without the armor. His response is classic Downey, Jr. and by extension classic Stark, and of course it gets an audience-wide laugh: "A genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist. " But when you see it in context of the rest of the conversation you can really understand it as more than just a cut away soundbite.
And folks, don't for a second think that this is the last you'll be seeing of The Avengers. Of course there's after-movie goodies, one before the credits role hinting at the next movie's villain and another afterwards just for giggles. But there's subtext and subterfuge throughout the plot that really get you wondering what's next. Is S.H.I.E.L.D. really a sustainable part of the Avengers squad, or are they the puppet masters? Can Nick Fury be trusted as an agent of righteousness or is he merely a zealot of progress? Trust me when I say that there's more to this movie than Hulk Smash.
Congratulations are in order for Joss Whedon, whose status as Nerd Jesus can no longer be called into question. The fact that he wrote both the story and screenplay and directed this groundbreaking cinematic experiment to such a superb level of awesomeness is beyond amazing. He had the weight of the collective comic enthusiast hive mind on his shoulders and he delivered. There was a lot of bank riding on the success of this movie, and while I know "true" success comes down to the dollars, The Avengers is a shining example of just a totally fun movie. The action sequences are mindblowing and chock full of those "Holy shit dude, did you just see that?" moments. And trust me when I say that the Hulk was used to his fullest rage-filled potential.
The Avengers was everything I wanted it to be and more. I could geek out and nitpick, sure, because that's what all passionate comic fans do. But the sheer brilliance of this movie so far outweighs the few slow, uneventful seconds sprinkled throughout that I truly hope you're reading this review while waiting in line for tickets.
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