The Avengers. It's been out a few weeks in the United States, and rather than do a spoiler-free review the day after, I waited until now to finally sink my teeth into this movie review. Yes, this review will contain spoilers, so if you still haven't seen the film by now (and really, shame on you if you haven't), stop reading immediately.
Since 1998's Blade, Marvel comics have been taking their great characters out of the pages of the comic books, and placing them on the movie screen in big-budget proportions. I'd be lying if I said all of them were great. Yes, as good as films like Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, and X-Men: First Class were, there have been less than stellar "gems" in Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, and Elektra, to name a few. Needless to say, however, that since 1998, Marvel has gotten to a unique position.
In 2008's Iron Man, the audience was introduced to the "Avengers Initiative." Comic fans such as myself were extremely giddy with excitement, and the average, non-comic reading audience didn't really understand what it meant. Flash forward to a few more Marvel movies such as Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger and 2012's The Avengers, and we now have what some call "the be all, end all of superhero films." I respectively disagree with that statement, but I'll get to that later. Let’s review this beast.
The film begins with the film's antagonist, Loki, who was seen in Thor prior to this film. He gets a scepter of great power that's been given to him by a mysterious figure. Loki's been given the assignment to obtain the Tesserect (I'm calling it the Cosmic Cube from this point on), and to also basically unleash all hell on Earth, a world that his brother Thor holds so dear. The Cosmic Cube is in possession of SHIELD, and it supposedly holds the source of unlimited power, something that Earth needs. Right off the bat, we're given a fantastic antagonist, and two motives: one personal and one for a greater power: so far, so great.
Eventually we're introduced (or re-introduced if you've seen all the Marvel movies) to our heroes. First, is the new face: Hawkeye. Hawkeye is a master marksman who proves that the bow and arrow are still useful in 2012. On top of that, he's a great martial artist, as well as a partner to Black Widow, a character that had been introduced in Iron Man 2. Throughout almost half of the film, Hawkeye's mind was taken over by Loki, so the audience was never really given a chance to see the character grow, unlike the rest of the team. For this reason, Hawkeye was this film's weakest point. It isn't entirely bad, however, because he had a few action scenes that were really great during the grand finale.
Next, we're re-introduced to Black Widow, played by the voluptuous Scarlet Johanson. As the only female on the team, I expected the most from her, and with the combination of Joss Whedon's dialogue and her kick-ass martial arts, she was one of my favorite characters. There was one scene in the trailer where the Avengers were grouped altogether in a circle, and all she had was a pistol. When you compare her tiny gun to that of Thor's hammer, you'd think "what is she going to do with that?" Believe me: if this movie accomplishes anything, it's that she is more than capable of keeping up with the heavy hitters, and that she contributes something unique to the film. One scene in particular that made me fall in love with her was her "interrogation" with Loki. She is such a good actress and liar that she manipulated the God of Mischief himself. Bravo, Black Widow. I really hope you get your own film. You deserve it.
Now that those two are out of the way, we'll look into the film's four characters that have already had movies dedicated all to themselves. Because of this, I expected to see everything that wasn't already in their own films. Needless to say, I got what I wanted.
Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, was literally frozen in time and thawed out prior to this film. Whedon did a great job in making this character’s mindset so out of place in this new world of flying helicarriers and giant green rage monsters. One scene in particular, the scene where he meets Loki for the first time, is a scene that truly sums up who Cap is, and what he’s all about. The fact that he was also the one to bark the commands in the huge final battle was not only respectable, but extremely enjoying to watch. Captain America may have not been my favorite character, but anyone who can boss someone like Iron Man or Thor around is a huge winner in my book.
Tony Stark is arguably the most popular character that has been introduced in the movies thus far. He’s narcissistic, he doesn’t play nice with others, he’s spoiled, but he’s so damn lovable. As awesome as his stunts as Iron Man were in this film (and believe me, there were a lot of those), my favorite use for this character was his yin to Captain America’s yang. Those two have chemistry unique to every other character in this film, and I give Joss Whedon major brownie points for establishing that. This film did something that Iron Man 2 failed to do, and made Iron Man a redeemable and respectable hero. The minute he stopped the nuke from leveling Manhattan, the minute I thought “He did it. He’s a real superhero now.”
With a villain like Loki, you need a hero that knows him better than anyone. Who better than Thor? While it’s true, Thor had some of the best scenes and one-liners in the film; I felt that this character wasn’t explained as much as he should have. At the end of Thor’s film, it was made quite clear that returning back to Earth would be damn near impossible. Then, all of a sudden, Thor’s crashing into planes and fighting Iron Man like nothing happened. Yes, I’m aware that the dialogue exchanged between Thor and Loki should have explained Thor’s presence, but I strongly feel that his being there should have been literally seen by the audience. With Loki as the main antagonist, Thor should have gotten more development in this film more than anyone. What kind of makes up for it was his amazing battle with the Hulk, but all in all, I was a tad disappointed that we didn’t see as much of him as we should have.
Now onto the character that’s been a hit or miss on the big screen since forever: Bruce Banner aka The Incredible Hulk. I’m just going to say it up front: he stole the show. Yes, the Hulk, a character that was butchered in Ang Lee’s 2003 film Hulk, and was revamped in 2008’s “good, but not great” Incredible Hulk, was hands down the best character in this film. Until this point, Bruce Banner was always portrayed as a man on the run, and a sad, tragic man altogether. That’s fine and good, but for a summer blockbuster, we want action, comedy, and fun. With Whedon’s talented writing skill and Ruffalo’s surprisingly exquisite acting, they brought Bruce Banner back in such a way that made me think “I want to be this guy.” And that’s only half of the character.
The Hulk himself was the absolute best representation of the character that has ever been on a movie screen. The Hulk was played for laughs, and that’s how the character should have been played a long time ago. He’s big, strong, angry, and hilarious all at the same time. I’ve read a ton of reviews for this movie, and every single one of them had nothing but positive things to say about Hulk. When Bruce Banner said what now has to be his new catchphrase in “That’s my secret… I’m always angry,” and my personal favorite scene where he literally tossed Loki like a ragdoll, the audience lost it, and for a good reason. Hulk was the best thing about this movie, and I haven’t even discussed the excellent ending sequence yet.
For about two hours, this film sets up for a huge battle in New York City between the Avengers and Loki’s army. The whole battle itself is literally thirty minutes of mindless brawling, but it was the best thirty minutes of mindless brawling I’ve ever seen. People go to the movies to be entertained, especially during the summer season. This battle makes The Expendables look like Winnie the Pooh. It was so intense, so edgy, so awesome, and so epic that everything that led up to it was almost forgotten. It was the single-best action scene on film, in my opinion, in the longest time. Everyone played a specific part: Cap shouted the commands, Iron Man stopped a nuke, Thor and Hulk smashed the hell out of space snakes, Hawkeye shot the hell out of alien space bikes, and Black Widow closed the portal to hell. I can’t express how great the scene was. Honestly, if you had a problem with that scene, you’re the dullest person on the planet.
I’ll admit it: this film’s story was nothing new. In the end, it was a movie where a group of different people had to work together to achieve a common goal. We’ve seen it hundreds of times, and this movie brought nothing new to the concept at all. That being said, I can’t give this film a perfect score. Honestly, however, that is where the problems for this film end. Aside from the fact that we’ve seen the story before, this film redefined the term “summer blockbuster.” There’s a reason why this film is breaking records, including the highest domestic box-office opening of all time. This movie is fantastic, and rather than it being the “be all, end all” film people are making it out to be, I feel that this film is only the beginning to a new chapter of superhero films. Sure, we’ve seen the solo films like Iron Man and Batman, but after this film, you can be sure that we’ll be seeing more team-ups and awesomeness like this from here on out. The Avengers is my personal favorite comic book film, and I give it a score of 9 out of 10.
Stay after the credits for this film… but you should already know that. It’s a Marvel movie, after all.