Friday, May 4, 2012

This Review of 'The Avengers''

Quick Review: This is the superhero movie you've been waiting for.

Full Review: It began with one of the best post-credit sequences we'd ever seen. At the end of Iron Man, a movie that proved Marvel really got it when it came to turning its own properties into films, we were treated to one more scene. Tony Stark comes home and finds Nick Fury waiting for him. Fury, played by none other than Samuel L. Jackson, informs Tony that the hero universe is a lot bigger than he realizes, and they need to talk about a new team he's putting together.

That one moment changed everything. Up until that point, a superhero movie franchise was self-contained. Even though comic book heroes crossed over all the time, we never saw it in the films. Marvel, with its shiny new movie studio, decided to change all that. They figured, why not have Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury occupy the same universe? Thus began a series of movies that we knew would culminate in one of the biggest superhero movie events ever to grace our movie screens: The Avengers.

This was a pretty gutsy move on Marvel's part. Many studios have trouble committing to one big-budget blockbuster, and Marvel committed to at least six. Superhero movies are often hit-and-miss, and there's the fact that the longer a franchise runs, the worse the movies get. Marvel risked running out of steam before even reaching this promised movie, and they countered that by making sure each one of the movies leading up to The Avengers was solid.

Each of the lead-in movies was well-worth watching on its own. Of the five, Iron Man and Captain America were the strongest, but the other three (The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man 2) weren't slouches. But in addition to being great stories, each film (courtesy of their own post-credit sequences) served as an advertisement for and buildup to The Avengers. If we thought that those five movies were great, we were promised, just wait until 2012.

The world isn't going to end as long as my hands keep glowing.

The wait is over, and The Avengers is here. After four years, does this movie event live up to the hype, the fan expectations, the promises made by the five films that came before it? Is this going to be remembered as a huge fan letdown, or do we get the comic book movie that we've always wanted?

Captain America can't stand the suspense. Answer the question!

Let me put it this way. If you are even 1% geek and you don't get your butt into a theater to watch this movie, you will never forgive yourself. The Avengers is that superhero movie we've all been waiting for. It is every comic book team-up you've ever read and loved, and it is one of the best superhero movies ever made. What Marvel pulled off with this movie has permanently raised the bar for all superhero movies, and future franchises will be judged according to The Avengers. This isn't hyperbole, this is the new movie reality. 

This movie's a bad mother...SHUT YOUR MOUTH!
It's fitting that Joss Whedon was chosen to direct this movie. He was there for the first X-Men movie, back in 2000, that kick-started this current genre. Back then he was an uncredited writer who helped make the script snappier. Every funny line you liked in the first movie was probably written by him. Whedon gets heroes, having created his own with Buffy, and he gets comic books, having written many issues of the X-men comics. He also knows how to direct a genre film, as seen in Serenity. And he knows how to build to a very satisfying payoff, as seen in Cabin in the Woods, a movie he co-wrote.

No, Joss, you can't put in any vampires.

How did he do in this movie? We get an epic hero film that is also very personal. While we have giant set pieces and an epic finale, we also have smaller, more intimate moments. Whedon knows how to let his characters interact, and their personalities clash in ways that are both emotionally gripping and extremely hilarious. If there's one thing you'll get with Whedon, it's finding humor in any situation, and The Avengers is full of moments that made the audience I saw it with laugh and cheer, often at the same time.

That's often a problem with these big-budget genre films. They want humor but often try to force it in rather than let it occur organically. Watch Batman and Robin or Transformers to see how ti shouldn't be done. With The Avengers, the funny moments are character and context based and flow with the story.

Thor really likes knock-knock jokes

Much of this humor comes from the characters, and after five movies, we get to see our heroes interact all in the same place. The heroes play off each other well; they share the screen and don't hog it. Everyone has a few great moments, from Black Widow to The Hulk. The interaction between the characters is what makes this movie work. When they work as a team, they're unstoppable. When they are bickering, they are at their most human. When they get angry and turn green, it's everything you hoped it would be.

Hulk, you look smashing!

Speaking of the Hulk, a many fans were concerned when Edward Norton was replaced with Mark Ruffalo.After seeing this movie, my response is Edward who? Ruffalo is the best on-screen Bruce Banner we've ever seen, and I will definitely see any further Hulk movies he stars in. The rest of the cast reprise their roles and are in top form, especially Robert Downy Jr. back as Tony Stark.

The Avengers version of Gallant and Goofus

The Avengers follows the comic book rules of hero crossovers. First the heroes fight each other before they team up to fight the bad guys. It's a tried and true tradition, because deep down we always want to know who would win in a fight: Thor, Iron Man, or Captain America.While we never get a definitive answer, we do get to see a lot of knock-down, drag-out fights, and that's what we paid our money to see.

Now where did I leave that bomb?
The action sequences are big and spectacular, but never so busy that you can't tell what's going on. Whether it's a fight between two heroes or the assembled Avengers facing down an army, Whedon knows how to direct the action. There is plenty of spectacle to go around, and every hero gets a great moment or two. (Especially The Hulk. Trust me, you want to see what he does.)

As you can tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It's the culmination of four years of anticipation and hype, and it pays off beautifully. This is the comic book movie we're all been waiting for, and your inner (and outer) geek wil be most pleased. Go see it.

And stay until the very, very end. Trust me, you don't want to miss any of it.

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