So, Tara and I went to see THE AVENGERS last night. Midnight viewing, 3D presentation. For someone who is a big comic book freak, like me, this was a pants-staining exercise. For someone is who married to a big comic book freak, like Tara, this was a big noisy movie that she didn’t quite understand, but enjoyed as an action spectacle.
Note – minor spoilers may arise, but nothing to break your heart.
First, this is a spectacular movie in every facet. The cast alone contains 5 Academy Award nominees or winners: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, & Mark Ruffalo. Its a big movie – even the indoor sets are in the main spacious and give the feeling that big, important things happen in these rooms. The plot concerns a world-threatening attack by aliens controlling godlike levels of energy. These guys are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the movie does them justice; its not just a bunch of average folks suiting up to protect us. There is something special, something extra, about all of them – even the weaker members of the team. So thematically, the movie is consistent. And BIG, did I mention that?
Without spoiling the story by revealing specific plot points, fans of Marvel comics (more pointedly, fanboys with their obsessive knowledge of trivia, and insistence on minutiae being correct) should be generally pleased with the way this film unfolds and the way the characters interact. You can’t have a Marvel superhero team-up without the heroes first throwing down in some kind of misunderstanding – and in this movie we have six heroes meeting for the first time, ya know what I’m saying? There are nods to traditional elements of Marvel lore (in the original 1963 comic, Thor’s brother Loki manipulates the Hulk and the heroes respond as individuals before teaming up; Tony “Iron Man” Stark provides a headquarters for the team to meet; Hawkeye & Black Widow (the Renner & Scarlett Johanssen characters) share a past and are both outsiders/bad guys before joining the team – all of these plot points turn up, although not necessarily as you’d expect). The story also borrows heavily from recent comic storylines – the clash of idealogies between Captain America & Iron Man; the assembly of the team as a project by Nick Fury; characters like Maria Hill & Eric Solveig – these are all no more than a dozen years old. Yep, there’s something for everyone who’s an Avengers comics fan. There is a satisfying mix of OHEMGEE! effects driven action & laugh out loud moments, and an unexpected tragic turning point as well
The actors all generally turn in fine performances; given that there are 8 leads (Chris Evans as Captain America, Downey as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Ruffalo as the Hulk, Jackson as Nick Fury, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Renner & Johanssen) and a handful of important support roles (Stellan Skaarsgard as Solveig, Cobie Smulders as Hill, Paltrow as Pepper Potts & Clark Gregg as Agent Coulsen), its to be expected that this is not a movie which explores it’s characters in any great depth. The exception is Johanssen’s turn as the Black Widow, Agent Natasha Romanov. She is furnished some back story and we are allowed a couple of intimate glimpses into her motivations. But in the main, its an action movie and these guys portray archetypes – Hemsworth’s Thor is a Shakespearian good-time-guy with a sense of responsibility, Evans’s Captain America is a straight-up square from the 1940s transpalnted to the 21st century, Downey’s Iron Man is the manic genius egotist, Jackson is a BAMF giving orders with a scowl. I wasn’t keen on Ruffalo as mild-mannered scientist Bruce Banner, but I think he’s been cast because he actually looks brutish like the Hulk. Speaking of the Big Green Guy – if you saw the pretty confusing Ang Lee film (with Eric Bana) or the more recent Letterier INCREDIBLE HULK (with Ed Norton), don’t worry. This Hulk looks fluid and natural. He has some pretty good moments too, and partisans on both sides in the perennial “Who is stronger, Thor or Hulk?” debate get plenty to talk about.
There were some disappointments – both Thor’s and Captain America’s costumes have been slightly revised from their solo movies, and in my opinion for the worse. No doubt I’m not the only old-school fan who would have liked to have seen original comic book characters Henry Pym & Janet van Dyne used in some capacity, major or minor. The decision to give all the action during the extended climactic battle scene to the superheroes, after spending 90 minutes building up the agency SHIELD as a superior peacekeeping force with highly trained operatives and advanced weapons/tech, is kind of silly – if this was a real alien invasion, why wouldn’t they be on at least the second line of defense instead of the much more outgunned New York police? But in general, this is another well made Marvel comics adaptation – not as good as Thor or Iron Man, better than Captain America or Iron Man II. All in all, I give it 7 transdimensional portals out of 10.

Oh, yeah … stay through the credits for the obligatory teaser. And then Google “Infinity Gauntlet” if you don’t know what’s going on…..

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