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Movie Review: This Summer, “Marvel's The Avengers” is King.
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow
When Thor's evil half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steals a globally destructive energy source called the Tesseract from the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, the organization's director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) forms an Avengers team of superheroes – – which includes Tony Stark's Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., always a joy to watch), Bruce Banner's The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steven Rogers' Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and master manipulator Natasha Ramanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) – – to stop Loki and retrieve the Tesseract.
What's Good About the Movie?:
It's always a dangerous thing to walk into a movie with towering expectations, especially one as hyped up as Marvel's The Avengers. It seems to be the case that whenever you do so, you almost always come out of the film feeling disappointed in one way or another, which was certainly the case when I went to go see The Hunger Games earlier this year. But Marvel's The Avengers is something special: a kick ass roller coaster ride that opens up the summer movie season with such an exhilarating bang that it's down right impossible to imagine any other film this summer topping it. This isn't just one of the very best movies of 2012; it's one of the best superhero movies ever made.
I have long denounced action movies where the set-pieces are filmed in shaky camera shots and edited into incomprehensible bits. It's just not exciting at all when they are done that way. That certain directors in Hollywood still make action set-pieces in such a way is as frustrating as it is annoying. Thankfully, director Joss Whedon is not one of those directors. Along with cinematographer Seamus McGarvey and editors Lisa Lassek and Jeffrey Ford, Whedon creates set-pieces that are seamlessly executed, phenomenally choreographed, and surprisingly suspenseful. The showcase set-piece, and the scene the trailers reveal the most, is the climactic battle in midtown Manhattan. It features the biggest special-effects in the film (the robotic, snake-like creatures are wondrous to behold), as well as the funniest gag as well (it involves Loki making a sinister speech, and suddenly getting cut off when...well, it's best not to spoil it).
However, as epic as the climax is, special mention must also be made of the scene where the Avengers are attacked in their air craft carrier. During this sequence, the movie cuts to so many different characters fighting their own battles, and it's easy to see where it could have been messy and jumbled. Yet look how seamless the whole scene plays out, and how much rhythm and focus went into its making. In the hands of someone like Michael Bay, it could have been an epic failure. Yet the whole scene is so perfectly written, shot, and especially edited that it should serve as a blueprint for future action movies as to how a action set-piece should be constructed. As a spectacle, Marvel's The Avengers certainly sets a high bar that will be seriously hard to top.
Yet as great as the action scenes are, and as spectacular as the special-effects are, what really makes Marvel's The Avengersworth seeing is its sense of humor. On more than one occasion, the audience I saw the movie with were in tears from laughing so hard. The earlier scenes where the heroes are distrusting of each other is good for a number of witty quips. This is especially true of the scene where Iron Man pokes fun at Thor's wardrobe earlier in the film. The movie gets a big laugh when Thor stands up for Loki when the others talk poorly about him, until he learns that Loki is responsible for the death of 80 people:
Thor: “ I care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother”
Black Widow: “He killed 80 people in two days.”
Thor: “He's adopted.”
And just wait till you see what the movie does with the Hulk character. Like everyone else in the film, Ruffalo's performance is spot on. Yet oddly enough, even though he is the darkest and angriest Avenger of the group, it is he who manages to elicit some of the biggest laughs in the film (I was in tears when he tries to give another one of the Avengers an affectionate punch on the arm).
Yet more than anything, what makes Marvel's The Avengers work so well are the well defined characters. Each of them has had their own individual film prior to this one, so they are all pretty much developed characters right from the start. That doesn't stop Whedon from keeping their emotions and their humanity front and center. A lesser screenwriter would've thought that since these guys (and gal) have already been introduced and developed in previous films, there's really no need to develop them any further, and would have reduced them to action movie ciphers. But Whedon manages to give each character enough depth and dimension, so that the spectacle never upstages them. It's one of those rare popcorn action movies where the substances motivates the spectacle, and it's all the more rewarding because of it.
What's Bad About the Movie?:
Nothing really stands out. There may have been a very brief moment or two where the pace may have lagged just a hair (this is especially true of the climax), but the acting is so good, the dialogue so sharp, and the story so engaging that I was never taken out of the film.
I honestly can not remember the last time a summer blockbuster made this much of an impact. X-men First Class? Nope. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2? Not quite. The Dark Knight? Maybe, but that movie was released four years ago. And while there have been more than a few great summer blockbusters made during that time (Super 8 from last year comes to mind), very few of them have packed such an exhilarating wallop like Marvel's The Avengers. It's a smart, exciting, funny, and stylish as heck action movie, and I can't wait to see it again.
Final Grade: *** 1/2 (out of ****)