Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Avengers

Marvel's The Avengers ~ I think I need to inform folks where I'm coming from on this one. One could say I've been waiting for this movie for over forty years easily. I learned to read on comic books, thanks to my cool big sister. First there was Batman, obviously influenced by the 1960s TV show, then I started reading my brother's Flash and Justice League. I was solidly a DC Comics guy as you can see, and then I discovered the Avengers. It would be quite some time before I became a regular Marvel reader but I knew instantly this was a different kind of comic. Avengers became one of my favorite comics, even today. So much so did I love the Avengers that for almost a decade I regularly reviewed the title online. Yeah, I'm a hardcore Avenger-phile. This movie is a little kid's dream come true.

In another sense, you could say I've been waiting for this movie realistically, and hopefully, since the end credits of Iron Man. Can I express my elation the first time I saw those few seconds when Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury wanted to talk to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man about the 'Avengers Initiative'? No, I can't. I am as speechless now as I was in 2008.

Who would have thought Marvel Comics/Marvel Studios could have pulled this off? Not only have they created a cinematic continuity, a movie universe as tight and intriguing as their comics universe, they also changed the way we watch movies. Does anyone (at least anyone who knows) not stay until the final credits any more. This is something that John Hughes used to do for a gag. It's something the James Bond films used to do to reveal the title of the next installment. Marvel has made it a genre-wide trick of the trade. You stay until the screen has no more light, period.

Speaking of James Bond, the other achievement Marvel has taken on is the building of a successful movie franchise - the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of which The Avengers is the seventh, or the sixth, depending on whether you count Ang Lee's Hulk or not. I think all of this would have been impossible without Iron Man, and especially Robert Downey Jr. Downey is the secret weapon, the gateway drug, if you will. Without Downey, I doubt that this film would be as mainstream as it is. It's not just comic book folks who are seeing this movie, it's everybody. Comics aren't just for nerds anymore, or at least comic book movies aren't. This weekend's box office, threatening to become the biggest opening ever, is proof of that.

Besides Downey as Iron Man, and Jackson as super spy Nick Fury, Chris Evans returns as the title role from Captain America The First Avenger, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, along with Oscar winner Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye from that same film, and Scarlet Johansson returns in her role as the Black Widow from Iron Man 2. Unfortunately, negotiations broke down with The Incredible Hulk's Ed Norton, so the role of Doctor Bruce Banner is more than adequately filled by Mark Ruffalo. As much as I like and liked Norton in the role, I like Ruffalo even more. This is a good thing.

Also returning from the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks are Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig from Thor, Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Paul Bettany as Jarvis in the Iron Man films, and of course the big bad, Thor's brother Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston. Natalie Portman's Jane Foster from Thor is mentioned but unseen. Cobie Smoulders is the perfect Maria Hill and although uncredited and only doing one very funny and wonderful line of dialogue, Lou Ferrigno voices the completely CGI Hulk. It is a stellar cast, top notch all the way, and all of the primaries - the Avengers, Fury, Loki, and the rest shine like stars when on screen. All are skillfully performed.

If I had to find fault, if I absolutely had to find a flaw in the film (other than characters or storylines I would want to see) it would be the lack of character development. But even that's not a flaw. The four majors have had at least one movie each to explore that before we got to this point. We get sweet spotlights on the two Avengers without movies, Hawkeye and the Black Widow, displaying their talents and personalities, and Nick Fury will have his own film upcoming for us to delve more into his character. So really, on that point I can't complain. What is really great about this is all of them come to this film fully formed. Especially in the cases of Captain America and Thor, their movies were essentially origin stories, now, here in Avengers we get to see what they can really do. These are not flaws.

I will try not to give away plot points, or any of the Easter eggs found in the film, but I will give director and co-writer Joss Whedon and his co-writer Zak Penn all the props possible for creating what is, without a doubt, the best superhero movie ever made, period. Let's see Whedon have a Wonder Woman script or a "Firefly" sequel turned down in Hollywood now. The man, to borrow the line from Titanic, is the king of the world today. Everything was perfect, from the characters to the dialogue, the special effects, the humor, right down to the two (count 'em, two) after-credits scenes, one of which will be having fanboys and girls squeeing with delight. Marvel's The Avengers is awesome.

The little kid in me who was mesmerized by his first Avengers comic book more than forty years ago was spellbound in the theatre. From Project Pegasus to the Black Forest to the SHIELD Helicarrier to downtown Manhattan, the Avengers were truly Earth's Mightiest Heroes on the big screen. The first confrontations between the heroes, and the heroes and the villains, are well done and believable, not just slugfest for the fun of slugfest. When Captain America confronts Loki in Germany, I had a lump in my throat, I was like, "It's the real Captain America." The scene is that good.

The special effects are stunning. I love the way Thor's hammer always returns to him, and his effects are perfect. Cap's superhero costume, which I initially thought would look silly works wonderfully. If there's anything cooler than the SHIELD Helicarrier, it's the battle on board the SHIELD Helicarrier. Non-believers will see why Hawkeye is one of the coolest Avengers. The interaction between the characters is priceless, and in the final battle, their teamwork whether all together or in smaller teams is right out of the comics. It's beautiful.

I will probably see Marvel's The Avengers again a few more times in the theatre before it comes to Blu-Ray and DVD. Yeah, it's that good. The 3D effects are good, but let's keep in mind it still looks amazing in 2D, so you don't have to sell blood to see it. Highly recommended. A definite must see for comics and non-comics fans alike. This is the movie of 2012.


  1. Anonymous12:53 AM

    "This is the movie of 2012"
    ...I agree

  2. Good review Glenn. For the past 4 years, Marvel has been building and building this movie up and it finally lives up to every promise ever made. It's fun, hilarious, action-packed, and filled with all of our favorite characters and superheros from these stories.

  3. Yes, a fun movie. Kudos to Marvel for their long-term planning to pull it off - who ever thought we would see this?

  4. I agree with everything you've said. The best for me was the interaction between the characters. They were flawed, human and easy to relate to.

  5. I've been looking forward to your review since the movie began showing. We saw it on Saturday night, and your review is spot on.

    One of the things I really did like about the film is how true the characters were to their selves through out. In an ensemble film such as this, sometimes certain character traits become blurred, but in this film, each one remained true and distinct. Each one stood out as who we know them to be. Prime example for me was Captain America who you can tell, through his manner of speech and regard for others, as coming from a different era/time.

    Thanks, Glenn!

  6. Told you they'd give a plausible explanation for Cap's costume. Glad to read your review Glenn. We have similar views and reactions regarding the movie and it's highlights. I am curious as to what Easter eggs you saw... so I will know what to look out for when I see it again.

  7. Heironymous12:01 PM

    Haven't had time to see this yet, but if I had doubts and I had to trust one person to be my Avengers movie expert, it would be you. So I feel more confident about going to spend the $8.

    Though, I am surprised you were never convinced that Matt Sallinger or Reb Bbrown pulled off the "real" Captian America. I think you may have some revisionist history, old boy!

    No flaws? Where was the Wasp and Giant Man (or is it Ant Man, or was it Goliath?). I guess the CGI budget had to be curbed at some point.

    Oh, and just keep in mind what happened to Sam Raimi when he finally got that first Spiderman movie done and it was a box-office bonanza. Not sure a Wonder Woman feature film or Dollhouse revival would be my next project.

    I just hope Mr. Whedon will be wiser than Sam I Am.

    Good review. I guess you can now break out your Heroclix and recreate the movie in your living room?

  8. Wow! The best film of the year to date! Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Toy Story) did what every screenwriter and director should do in all movies - make the audience care about the characters and as a result - we'll follow them anywhere and believe everything!.

    This movie has action, adventure, drama, mystery, intrigue, gadgets, technology and two extremely important aspects....heart and humor! Starting from droplets of all the other films before it (Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger) this film tells the story of the brother of Thor (and a mystery off-world villain) Loki - played deliciously creative by Tom Hiddleston (Warhorse, Midnight In Paris, Thor) plotting an evil destruction of the Planet Earth.

  9. Thank you, Dan, I enjoy your reviews as well.

    Butch, there were a lot of cool things in the flick just under the surface. The end credit sequence of course is highest among them. I loved that it was Project Pegasus in the opening, because that is exactly what SHIELD would do with the Cosmic Cube, er, um, Tessaract. What I liked most is that the continuity is so tight within this cinematic universe. We all saw the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor, you know, that kind of stuff. I loved it, can't wait to see it again.

    Dom, you know I loved everything about the Matt Salinger Captain America except for his ears. I even dug the Italian Red Skull. Seriously, underrated movie. But that said, First Avenger blows it out of the water.

    Ant-Man, and possibly the Wasp, would have been introduced in their own film, but Edgar Wright got tied up in other projects. The plan was for the original Avengers team. I think Jeremy Renner and ScarJo make good subs tho. I am waiting for my fave Avenger to hit the screen though, hopefully in time to make the Avengers sequel. Word is the Ant-Man movie is in the pipeline, possibly after Nick Fury.

    I doubt it would happen at this point, but I would love to see Whedon's rejected Wonder Woman script produced. Word was it was perfection. And forget Heroclix, I've been using the new Avengers Legos. ;-)

    Mieke, Marie, and everyone else, thank you for the comments! :-)

  10. Right on the money as usual Glenn (and this comes from another picky fan who also grew up on comics in the 70's)! Who would have thought the Avenges would blow all of Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four right out of the water! Loved the team chemistry, the in-fighting, and Loki the most, and completely agree with you on your Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. analysis. I think the only thing I don't see eye-to-eye with you on is Cap's cowl, which I don't think they made as cool as it could be. Great kickoff for this franchise though and a great review.