The Avengers

You want jokes? We got jokes. When The Avengers was released throughout the rest of the world last week (April 25th-27th), I experienced what it must feel like to be benched on the sidelines during a championship game, while my team took part in the excitement. As the reviews started pouring in, the list of superlatives used to describe Marvel’s latest offering were no less than some of the most glowing reviews I’ve ever read in my life. Given the unrestrained gushing in the Twitterverse, the movie seemingly placed somewhere between Citizen Kane and The Godfather as the greatest movie ever made. It in fact currently outranks Citizen Kane on The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) in their subjective poll as voted by users. Now the U.S. can see what the rest of the world has been raving about.  While it doesn’t have the grand mythology of 1978’s Superman or aspire to the high art of 2008’s The Dark Knight, The Avengers is still a thoroughly entertaining affair.

The Avengers doesn’t really try to reach out to the uninitiated. It speaks to those already familiar with Iron Man, Captain America and Thor by way of the movies in which they starred. In a sense, if those were the appetizers, this is the main course. Thor’s evil brother Loki is planning to attack earth. He’s been given a scepter by a race of aliens called the Chitauri. He seeks to obtain the Tesseract, this blue cube of untold power, so the Chitauri can take over the universe and in return they will be an army for Loki against his takeover of planet Earth. For much of the picture, the story is set on a massive floating military base in the sky. It is here that Nick Fury, played by Samuel L Jackson, looking like an elder statesmen amongst this group, assembles his dream team of action heroes to neutralize the imminent threat that is Loki.  Although all of the superheroes have their moments, virtually all of the best moments belong to The Hulk.  Two sight gags with the Hulk, one involving Thor, the other Loki, got the biggest laughs at the showing I attended.

Credit Joss Whedon for the success of the narrative. In some parts of the world, The Avengers was retitled Avengers Assemble! to avoid confusion with the 1960s British TV show. While I personally associate The Avengers with the Marvel Comics property, this version has director and cowriter Joss Whedon’s stamp all over it. The quick witted pop culture genius known for TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, never passes on any opportunity to be funny.  Visual jokes and witty one liners abound. This cannot be minimized as there are some really funny gags.  For all intents and purposes, these bits work and enliven the standard action set pieces expected in these sorts of movies.  The writing is so sharp that it may not be surprising that the climatic battle in New York City, pales in comparison. It’s during the various overinflated CGI moments that the action feels like a Michael Bay film. I enjoyed the witty repartee amongst our Avengers jockeying for status so much more. Even the engaging dialogue of non-superheroes like Pepper Potts, Iron Man’s personal assistant, and starstruck agent Phil Coulson, is well written. What gives the story strength is the way in which these divergent characters are all unified into a coherent whole to form an articulate film. Whedon juggles a large cast and does an impressive job at giving decent attention to each character. The script is witty, fun and exceptionally humorous. And that’s more than what you’d expect out of a summer blockbuster. Be sure to stick around for the second post credits scene. True to the nature of the film, there’s one last joke and it’s like the sarcastic icing on an already lighthearted cake.

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31 Responses to “The Avengers”

  1. I just got back from seeing “The Avengers” and am still trying to recover. It was a thoroughly entertaining movie and did not feel at all like its 2 hour 22 minute running time (yes, I stayed through the very long credits to see the visual joke at the end). I loved all the characters and their interaction. I too felt a bit ripped off that the rest of the world got to see a wholly American adventure before we did, but at least there was just a delay of a week, unlike some other movies. I think it’s a bit insulting to the Brits that the studio thinks they’re not intelligent enough to distinguish a Marvel comic book superhero movie (Marvel is actually in the title) from a TV series over 40 years old.

    • You’re right about the running time. I usually hate long films, but this was well paced.

    • I can’t believe the people complaining about waiting a week to see a ‘wholy American’ movie (Tom Hiddleston – British, Cobie Smulders – Canadian, Chris Hemsworth – Austrailian, Stellan Skarsgård – Swedish). In other coutries we sometimes have to wait months and months before being able to see something, by which time any spoilers have well and truly been published online, i think it’ll be humbling.
      With regards to the movie being renamed Avengers Assembled here, i HATE that title, i hope this is rectified when the movie is released on blu ray, otherwise i’ll be hoping the U.S. version is not region coded, so i can import it, i want The Avengers dammit, not Avengers Assembled! They’ve renamed the Mel Gibson movie from ‘Get The Gringo’ to ‘How I spent My Summer Vacation’ over here too, it’s ludicrous!
      Don’t know why, but suspect it’s due to the Olympics this year, we’re also getting Prometheus a week early.

      • Yes, there are some international actors in the movie. However, the property is based on an American comic book featuring a character named Captain America and is produced and distributed by Marvel, Disney, and Paramount. Not to mention that a good portion of the action takes place in New York City. The story and perspective is purely American. I’m not sure why the studios felt that opening it internationally a week prior to the U.S. release was important. It’s not like the word of mouth was going to increase U.S. sales, as this is one of the highly anticipated releases of the year. It seems that a simultaneous release would be in order.

        That said, traditionally, Hollywood has released its movies in the U.S. first and then months later slowly open the films around the world. This was due to the fact that most of their revenue was generated domestically, and if a movie hit big, then they could generate a marketing strategy based on its success here. Suddenly, the attitude has changed so that the U.S. is the LAST country to get many of the big films. I can understand a film like “The Adventures of TinTin,” which was a European project initially and virtually unheard of in the States. As it is, it was a huge hit around the world, but didn’t make much of a splash in the box office here. I guess the feeling is like if McDonalds or Coke came out with some new product and gave to it everyone else in the world first before allowing Americans to taste it.

  2. Until about 6 months ago I associated the Avengers with the British show, I guess I don’t read comics.

  3. I absolutely loved the movie, and have seen it now 3 times, twice in 3D and once in 2D, the 3D is pointless throughout most of the movie, though thankfully when it is used it DOES work, a decent conversion, if totally unecessary. I agree that Whedon did an excellent job with all of the characters (would love to see a movie with Hawkeye and Black Widow showing the aforementioned (and briefly seen on a monitor) Budapest mission) and even with moments where not a lot is happening, the movie never slows to a boring pace or feels like it runs for two and a half hours.

    We got the first end credit sequence (setting up the inevitable – and wanted – sequel), but as we got the movie a week early, we didn’t get the additional shot at the very end, which is the punchline to a joke earlier in the movie that is pure Whedon. Here’s hoping that Marvel keeps him around for Avengers 2, it definately seems like he has an idea for it already mapped out, now we just have to wait 2-3 years to see it, thankfully in the meantime we get Iron Man, Thor and Captain America in 2013, just not all in one movie.
    If anyone is interested, my review was posted on our site last week (http://wp.me/p1LZxf-Ae – sorry for the shameless plug!).

    • A Hawkeye/Black Widow movie would be fantastic. Of course, if Marvel decided to do a S.H.I.E.L.D. stand-alone movie, then it would naturally include Nick Fury and one or two others that were seen in “The Avengers.” What I loved most about those characters is that they were normal humans (albeit with some extraordinary skills) and not “super” like the others on the team. If they fell from a height or were shot, they would die whereas the others had protection and could suffer a lot of violence. Yet Hawkeye and Black Widow showed incredible courage and skill to hold their own during the battle. I think I was rooting for them more than the others, which is just the opposite of what I expected to do because I thought they would be the weak links.

      • Supposedly, a Nick Fury movie is planned as part of Samuel L Jackson’s 9 movie deal with Marvel, think it’s slated for 2015. No idea on wether it will feature Hawkeye or Black Widow, but i would like to see a smaller budget movie done for them, even maybe straight to DVD (as long as done right), in particular showing the budapest mission referenced, i just liked how it was setup, it would also give a change to see the details of the red on their ledgers too.

    • I enjoyed the other Marvel films that Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, and Joe Johnston directed. It’s interesting that despite the different directors, they all feel part of the same unified whole. Joss Whedon had to work within the confines of the Marvel universe, yet this entry still showcased his signature wit. I hope he continues to direct Avengers 2 as well.

      Andrew, please feel free to plug away. I have been guilty of doing the same thing so I totally encourage it.

  4. Great analysis Mark! Although….I’m not quite sure you’re gushing along with the rest of us! I’ve had a week to let it sink in now, and while I believe the writing was spectacular in granting all the characters enough screen time and story, I have my doubts about its re-watchability in terms of getting similar levels of satisfaction…where do you stand on the debate of whether this is the best superhero film ever made?? Don’t tell me! We’ll discuss it on the BANG show! Have a great weekend!!

    p.s. loved your analogy of being on the subs bench…perfect!

    • Seen it 3 times, twice on opening day (first showing, and again at an evening showing with friends, both in 3D) and then a couple of days later (in 2D). Not only did i enjoy the movie as much each time (i may go see it again in theatres still) but i picked up on little things that i missed on the first viewing. While it doesn’t have the depth that some movies do, it does have several little references throughout that make subsequen viewings worth it.

    • For me, very few movies hold up to repeated viewings. I rarely watch movies more than once at the theater. Inception was a notable exception. Inception? Exception? Try saying that three times fast!

      I’m dying to analyze it further, but I’ll save those details for the discussion later. 🙂

  5. Wow. I’m just getting to this, the day you posted it, and there are already 12 comments. The definition of a blockbuster. 😉

    I do hope you’re kidding about the fact that it ranks between Citizen Kane and The Godfather. I haven’t seen this yet (I will tomorrow in a theater that, of all theaters, will NOT sell out because it’s my last resort that is more like a shack, plays only the three most popular movies, defines the colloquial term “ghetto,” has scratches in its screens, and charges four or five bucks per film–at least it’s cheap!!), nor have I seen The Godfather (I’ll see it before I can get stoned for not having seen it), but this topping Citizen Kane is unfathomable. I mean, I think Kane is a bit overrated–I would give it four stars, and I don’t think it should be #1 on the AFI’s “100 Movies” list; I even think the IMDb’s #1 (Shawshank) is more appropriate–but I can’t imagine a superhero flick outbeating a classic like that. Maybe it’s just another proof of the idiocy of today’s world. :/

    Great review; my expectations for this are high now. 😀

    • I didn’t say it ranks between Citizen Kane and The Godfather. I said “given the unrestrained gushing” on the internet, it would seem to rank amongst those films. I was exaggerating to make a point, suggesting that perhaps all the glowing reviews might exceed the merits of the actual film. This was even before I saw the film, Alexander.

      Have you read the overwhelmingly positive reviews this film has received? Most people (our friend Fernando excepted) have praised this film even more than I. It’s a fun film, but don’t expect a re-invention of the superhero film.

      I’ll be interested to read your thoughts after you see it.

      • My mistake, I must have misinterpreted (again). Sorry about that. And yes, I have seen a lot of great reviews for it. I was surprised by how much even Peter Travers praised it. Then I saw a 2.5/4 in the paper (didn’t check to see who wrote the review), as well as Fernando’s boredom with the film. I’m anticipating checking it out, even though I didn’t particularly love any of the ones from this tie-in I’ve seen (all except Iron Man 2 and Captain America).

  6. I enjoyed this, but not all that much. I really can’t comprehend all the hype.

    http://themoviefreakblog.com/2012/05/05/review-marvels-the-avengers/

  7. You know I don’t agree with the praise but this is, as always, a great review.

  8. atothewr Says:

    A great review. I kept thinking at the end of it. Wouldn’t it be nice to see Iron Man and Hulk do a movie together? Those guys had such great chemistry. I’ve gushed over this one a lot, more than I thought I would. Joss really nailed it. I was wondering how you could juggle so many characters and give them their moments. He made it work. I don’t feel slighted and I don’t feel any of the characters didn’t get their moments. I agree – love the two Hulk moments with Thor and Loki. The Loki scene might have been one of my favorites in the whole movie.

    • I’d even be interested in seeing a Black Widow and Hawkeye spin-off and the events that occurred in Budapest, to which they make reference to in this film. Thanks for commenting!

  9. The local theater’s parking lots were all full the entire weekend, so I’ve been holding off on going but I’m really looking forward to it.

  10. sanclementejedi Says:

    Nice review Mark, We loved it as well. I am going back for a second helping this afternoon with my boy.

    • Yes, looks like a lot of people are going back for seconds. They predict it will gross $1 billion worldwide. Amazing!

      • Gyah. All this hype is making me wonder if I was in a skeptical state of mind or something when I saw this. Maybe it IS, in fact, because I never really went crazy over the original Avengers movies that I DID see, in the first place. The same thing happened with Iron Man. I mention my lack of care for that one, the crickets start chirping, and silence is held until someone can gain enough of their voice to shout, “WHAT!?” I know I must respect that everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but as niggardly as I am, that’s hard to do with this kind of movie.

      • sanclementejedi Says:

        I was reading where Iron Man was smart enough to negotiate a percentage cut and is due for a cool 50 million pay day all ready.

  11. Great review. I am going to see this two days. It seems like it isn’t going to be anything revolutionary, but a really fun time.

  12. This movie was awesome. Joss Whedon did a great job. It was funny, action packed. And each character had their own unique personalities. Something the X-men movies can learn from.

  13. moviewriting Says:

    Great review, Mark. I’m very jealous you got an extra stinger at the end of the credits than we did! I have youtubed it though, pretty sure I would have been chuckling away in my seat! It’s so great though, I saw it in 2D and 3D; and still I wouldn’t mind watching it again – hopefully in IMAX!

  14. Summit10 Says:

    it’s a culmination of comic book culture and movie goers of all ages not just the fan boys made it a certified blockbuster hit!

    http://themoviemontage.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/the-avengers-2012/

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