Film Review: The Avengers

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Over the past four years, we have seen Marvel take on the task of building up a film series based on the core characters that make up the comic-world super-team known as The Avengers. It has been an unprecedented and daunting task that has required Marvel to not only enlist the help of three major studios, but also for Marvel to develop its own film division.

The prospect of a successful Avengers film, at one time, seemed near impossible to pull off. After a heavy investment by both the studios and the fans and the enlistment of super-geek writer/director, Joss Whedon, the time has come to determine if the unthinkable has become a reality.

The story for The Avengers is fairly straight forward. Earth is threatened by invaders from another world led by Loki, the God of Mischief, who is hell-bent on enslaving the human race. A group of superheroes (introduced to the audience during the aforementioned five previous films) known as The Avengers is brought together to save the planet.

There isn’t a lot of depth to this narrative, but there really doesn’t need to be. The goal of the film is simple: bring together the comic book heroes of our youth onto one screen and let them fight evil in the most spectacular of fashions.

Sadly, it takes far too long to get to that point.

I found the first act of The Avengers to be rather slow. Even though we have had prior films to introduce the characters to us, the first act finds itself re-establishing who every individual is. The main culprits being Thor and Iron-Man. Thor is slightly understandable due to Loki being the main villain, but Iron-Man is the only member with two of his own films.

Maybe this is something that is unavoidable. I suppose there will most likely be members in the audience that have no existing relationship with these characters and they will need to be caught up to speed. The film also has a different actor (Mark Ruffalo) playing Bruce Banner/The Hulk and there is some orientation required for him. Still, it seemed like it took the film 30 to 40 minutes to officially find its feet. My strong desire to see the team together taking out evil could have caused this anxiety, but I feel like there might have been a little tightening up that could have been done. Fortunately, the film takes off at the start of the second act with a big setpiece scene on the Helicarrier and it dashes to the finish from there.

While there are some gripes on the pacing of the opening act, I have nothing but positive words for the dialogue. The Geek god and writer/director of this film, Joss Whedon, has always been known as a strong writer who specializes in ensemble casted films. His work in The Avengers does not disappoint. Whedon has an understanding of how to write dialogue that works for the film without having superfluity. Each member of the team also has a defined roll and the screen time that is given to them has purpose. The fears of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) being swept to the periphery are laid to rest. Every member of the team is equally as important (slight exception to Tony Stark/Iron-Man and Captain America…they are sort of the de facto leaders after all).

Obviously, the team concept doesn’t work if the actors playing the characters aren’t able to mesh together. The cast that has been assembled for this film is nothing short of impressive. There is a nice mix of both strong veterans and rising stars that all seem to be enjoying what they are doing. No one gives a dull performance nor does anyone feel out of place.

Mark Ruffalo has no problem with fitting in with the cast and stepping into the shoes of the Hulk. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Ruffalo is one of the two major stand-outs from this strong cast. The work Edward Norton did in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk was by no means inferior, but Ruffalo just seems to bring the right energy to Bruce Banner in this film. The Avengers has a fun atmosphere and Ruffalo is able to be comedic all while playing a serious and intelligent character. I actually find myself wanting to see another Hulk film just to see where Ruffalo can go with the character.

The other stand-out would be Tom Hiddleston. I have truly enjoyed his work as Thor’s brother and main antagonist of The Avengers, Loki. Though his portrayal tends to lean toward the side of ham at times, it is all done with purpose. He is also able to bring Loki to serious and conniving levels as well which is made evident in a scene with Black Widow that happens about half-way through the film. Hiddleston’s Loki is comically arrogant, but is also a character that is feared and respected. Tom Hiddleston’s career is only beginning and if his work in The Avengers and Midnight of Paris is any indication of where it’s going, then there are strong performances ahead.

The look and feel of the film is very much of the summer-blockbuster-action film variety. A lot of wide shots of the action; cool, high-tech gadgetry; explosions; etc. The film is understandably heavy on the CG. There is a lot of stuff happening on the screen at any given moment with a Hulk and armies of intergalactic warriors running amuck. All of it looks great, especially Hulk. The facial expressions of the monster and just his general presence on screen are both believable. This is important because there are some great visual gags involving the Hulk in the final scenes of this film and they wouldn’t have gone over quite as well without the excellent execution of the visual effects.

The Avengers kicks off the summer of 2012 with a bang. The film sets out to accomplish the task of being a fun superhero film that appeases long-time fans as well as bring thrills and it does just that. Minor issues with the pacing in the first act aside, this is a film that should be seen by anyone with at least a passing interest. There isn’t a lot of depth to the narrative, but there is plenty of fun to be had. It is exciting to think where Marvel will be taking its franchises next.

I will quickly advise to avoid the 3D release. It is post-production 3D and looks horrible. It takes away from the film experience as opposed to adding. The fidelity of the CG is weakened by this 3D and the characters look like cardboard cut-outs at points. Save yourself the trouble and money. 

2 Comments

  1. […] Check out Jordan Wade’s full review HERE. […]

  2. […] to me. I have excluded The Avengers as I have already seen it and you can read my review for it here. If The Avengers was on this list it probably wouldn’t have been in my top five […]

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