A blog about movies and filmmaking.

AVENGERS Assemble!

In action on May 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Let’s just get this out of the way, right now. I loved THE AVENGERS. I’d put it right up there with the first IRON MAN movie, the second SPIDER-MAN and X-MEN movies. It packed everything into it that this kid who grew up as a Marvel Comics fan could hope for. And just like any of you that are intimately familiar with the source material, you’re bound to walk in looking to love what Joss Whedon has done with these characters, and walk back out gushing about all the brilliant things he did right.

Heck, I even liked the 3-D (which considering it wasn’t shot in that format, really says something), the effects, and the Whedon-esque touches that were placed on the movie. So, let’s side-track from the onslaught of what will become the highlights of this movie – the Hulk smashes; the shield and hammer throwing; and even the highly nerd-gasmic final scene(s) of the movie during (and after) the closing credits. (By the way, some people call this a “stinger”, which is cute, but I’ve come up with my own term. The “flam-blay-blah.” It may sound like gibberish to you, but just you wait, it’s going to takeover.)

The main thing I wanted to discuss in talking about The Avengers is the darkness that pumps through the under-side of the movie. And that is all rooted in the character of Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The movie starts with him, in outer-space (I like how places like Asgard, the Frost Giants’ lands, and wherever this opening takes place, is actually on a surface in space. Not on a planet, or a space-ship… They’re just hanging out in the cosmos.), being given a powerful staff to which he’s granted the power to return a lost alien item. These creatures have their own plan, but Loki also has intentions of his own. He wishes to rule Earth and he attempts just that a number of times throughout the running-time. In Germany, he makes an entire ballroom of people bow before him – until one person stands in objection. He routinely speaks of how humanity is not built to rule themselves, rather, made to serve a higher-being.

He tells characters about their deepest fears and how he’ll revel in seeing them brought out and driven home, just before they die. And even mocks the heroes for routinely falling for the same tricks. Loki is the main emotional center of the movie. From his wanting to rule, to his humbling moments at the hands of our intrepid heroes. The journey is his. Even with his unwillingness, the key to undoing all the damage and chaos he’s wrought turns out to have been in his hands, the entire time.

I think it’s this journey, and the bits of humanity we get from Marvel franchise regular, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and newbie on the block, Bruce Banner – also The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), that really center the movie. There are other beats dropped in, so everyone gets a fair shake of a full storyline, but it’s these three main characters that I really connected with, and sat forward in my seat when they were on-screen.

Moments with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), where he has to deal with the always frustrating council, hiding some covert plan from the rest of us and willing to supercede Fury’s plans at any moment. To Agent Colson’s (Clark Gregg) old-fashioned belief in true heroes stepping forward in a time of need. And even Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow’s (Scarlett Johansson) past together and the secrets they share. It all comes together nicely, but each of them are missing… just something. For the most part, they almost feel too small to deal with the weight the previous three characters are carrying on their shoulders.

It’s those undertones that has this movie sticking with me. Even muting some of the awesome action beats that still echo through my mind. Loki speaks to his brother, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), about how humans are beneath them, and their own tragic lives – how twisted and (purposely) Shakespearean they are. His comments to Fury, and Black Widow, that you can tell cut them to their core – only to then be countered with a fun retort straight from the mouth of Whedon. There is one conversation that occurs between Stark and Banner that really gets to what a hero is. Banner, always bashful about getting into any kind of confrontation, or being able to trust people, is timid and in a way looks up to these other super-beings, for the good they can do. When it seems all his giant, green alter-ego is capable of is smashing and destruction. But, Stark counters that when the time arises, Banner’s “armor” would also become useful.

Granted throughout this, a lot of exposition is spouted as well. You can’t have an Avengers team if, in some capacity, The Hulk isn’t able to be reasoned with. And unfortunately, there is one deus ex machina, that really upset my enjoyment of the movie. I won’t spoil it, but it is just so false. In a way, it needs to be there in some sense for this whole thing to be worked out, but it’s so clunky and goes completely against the way things were setup. And even worse, I can think of a number of ways in which it could have been less clunky to resolve the issues of the story. (Because, I’m brilliant, of course.)

There are some fun, cinematic flourishes that I enjoyed, as well. In the introduction to Bruce Banner: as a little girl travels through a small city, there’s a sense that things are growing more green in the set decoration and the lighting. The same for many of the initial scenes with Captain America (Chris Evans), before he dons the updated and modern (and to me, unimpressive) suit; everything has an old-fashioned tone to it. A classical look to the lighting. The clothing is from another era. The costuming for Thor and Loki, on the other-hand are leaps and bounds better and more “lived in” feeling than in Kenneth Branagh’s movie from last year. They look aged, and appropriate, and actually made of cast metal; suitable for these eternal beings. Even The Hulk has undergone some design changes. He’s not quite as giant as in previous incarnations. He also very closely resembles the actor portraying him. Only niggle with him, is there’s a few moments where he seems a little too ape-like, as opposed to just pure human rage… But, overall, for a complete overhaul since his last movie (in 2008), quite impressive.

Overall, the movie was very enjoyable. I see it, in comparison, again to 2008 when the first IRON MAN movie premiered. I thought it was my favorite comic-book related movie of the year. Though, I thought THE DARK KNIGHT was a superior movie.

I look forward to watching THE AVENGERS again in the theater, though. Probably not in 3-D, but I’d actually feel fine in recommending that medium this go-round. I also look forward to seeing where this movie leads the heroes’ individual franchises, and what indeed might bring them together again.

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