Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Avengers

Here it is. After years of buildup and several movies to introduce the main players, The Avengers (2012) has finally arrived in theaters. At this point, about a month and $1 billion in box office receipts later, a review almost feels pointless. Does it live up to the hype, and is there anything I can add to the discussion? Let's find out.

The usual suspects are present and accounted for. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and Mark Ruffalo as the third actor in three movies to play Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Also getting a chance at being more than glorified cameos are Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. As in Thor, the villain is Loki, again played by Tom Hiddleston, and this time he's got an army of intergalactic baddies looking to invade earth.

A great part of The Avengers' appeal is seeing how all the heroes fit in with each other and tie in from their other movies. Writer/director Joss Whedon really knows his source material and plays to the strengths of the characters, and I appreciated how each member got their own little storyline and time to shine. Based on my experience with the X-Men movies, I was afraid it would turn into an affair in which each character would pop for one scene, demonstrate a cool power or ability, and then be gone, but the heroes here get more to do. I particularly liked the animosity between Captain America, the proper, traditional hero who follows orders and has a strong view on right and wrong, and Iron Man, the modern, bad-boy who plays by his own rules and is kind of a prick. Banner is trying to keep his violent other half in check, Thor still has his family issues with his brother Loki, and Black Widow and Hawkeye are repaying old and new debts.

I was disappointed Loki was brought back as the main villain. Loki is an interesting character, and Hiddleston plays him very well, but fundamentally, we've already seen him beaten by Thor. What challenge should he be to six heroes?  Still for the purpose of the Avengers' first get-together, he's adequate. I especially liked his scene where Black Widow interrogates him, and he gradually gets under her skin and plays on her emotions. He's at his best as a conniving manipulator, not a fighter.

The actions are visually exciting, and the special effects are impressive. When Loki's army invades New York, there are hundreds of flying baddies and several giant, metallic slug-like creatures they ride causing destruction. We get several iconic moments: Thor's hammer smashing into Captain America's shield, the Hulk rampaging in the streets, and more. Still, I never really felt much tension or suspense. It's hard to get too invested in a potential self-sacrifice by Tony Stark during the climax when we already know there are plans for Iron Man 3 and more Avengers sequels.

But the real accomplishment of The Avengers is how its seems part of a greater universe. The way everything has been building from all the recent Marvel movies and all the hints and plot developments fit together really give the movie a deeper and richer sense of scope. If nothing else, The Avengers sets a respectable bar for future entries in the series and presents a number interesting story threads to build on.  I am excited about where this can go, and it makes me want to go back watch everything that led to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment