By: T.J. “What’s your secret? Mellow jazz? Bongo drums? Huge bag of weed?” Mulligan
After 5 years of individual cinematic releases and plenty of word-of-mouth hype as build-up The Avengers has finally hit theaters. Actually, hit may be a bit of an understatement. The thing has EXPLODED into theaters, shattering box office records and receiving critical praise for a comic book-based movie normally reserved for the likes of Christopher Nolan and company. I’ll admit, I saw this on opening day. I’ve seen it again since. I’ve wanted to watch it practically everyday since I first saw it, but I couldn’t bring myself to finding the words to describe it here. The problem was that I wanted to review it like I typically review all movies and this is no typical movie. As mentioned above this thing has made insane amounts of money - as of press time it has made over (raises pinky to lip) ONE BILLION DOLLARS worldwide - so a review in which I try to convince people to go see it seems irrelevant. People have gone, people are going, people have plans to go. This will likely become to most watched movie of all time without any help from me. Instead, I wrote down a couple of notes, both positive and negative, right after watching it the first time and will simply post them here with a little elaboration.
Warning: possible minor spoilers ahead.
Fun at the Movies: As I’ve previously mentioned in past reviews, the biggest seller for a film to me is that it’s fun. I understand that film is art and that sometimes watching a guy eat a sandwich for twenty minutes can deeply express the lament of the director at the time and blah, blah, blah, but when I’m putting down money to see a film, I want to at least be entertained by it. Films should tell stories, they should make the audience think, they should stick with them even after the house lights come up but, even if the subject matter is depressing as fuck, they should be fun to watch. This film has that aspect down, in spades.
Comic book mise-en-scene: I can’t really say that this film broke the mold or anything when it comes to cinematography in a comics-based film, but it does have the look down pat. From the ramped-up action sequences down to the low-key conversational moments, almost any frame of this picture could be traced out and filled in with ink and fit right in to any comic. The color, the lighting, the costumes all come together nicely to give this film a fantastic look and feel.
Effects: Feel how you want about the movie itself, but some have claimed that last year’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon set a new bar for CGI effects in movies. If it was set in that film then The Avengers at least meets it if not exceeds it. Fuck believing that a man can fly, this film makes you believe that an entire air carrier can fly. And poor New York City: at least your partial destruction once again on film looked prettier than ever.
Dispersion of action between characters and Setting up for individual and group sequels: The ambitious nature of this movie stems from the fact that, while not the first ensemble super hero movie, it is the first to feature such high profile heroes. Let’s face it, at least four of the characters making up this iteration of The Avengers are well known enough to warrant getting their own films before this film was even made. With so much star power packed into only one flick the idea of each character getting their fair share of screen time seems daunting - but by God if they didn’t pull it off. Once each character is properly introduced the action moves in such a way that each person has their specific duty and purpose, allowing them their time to shine before cutting to the next character, who is treated equally. Even when not engaged in the action sequences their individual stories are presented to the audience with deliberate care. What’s more, this film doesn’t just leave off by setting up Avengers 2 (though it does that as well), it also leaves them all off to have their own individual adventures again, which no doubt will manifest onscreen (Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and CaptainAmerica 2 have already been announced). This type of care in the script and onscreen is an investment for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it works well as such.
Joss Whedon: Maybe this should be “Marvel hiring Joss Whedon,” but the fact remains that this man deserves a hell of a lot of credit. His work on Firefly and Serenity proved that he knows how to work with ensemble casts, his work on Buffy proved that he knows how to mix action and story, and his seemingly constant involvement in the world of comics - whether as a writer, director or fan - proves that he knows how delicate to treat material that already means so much to so many people. There may have been some questions at first as to whether a man like him could handle something as massive as this, but, by now, I think they all may have been answered (one billion fold).
Walkie-talkie/Communication system: From the point all of the Avengers are together for the first time on the flying carrier to the end of the movie, it seems they all can communicate with one another regardless of the distance of separation between them. Now this makes since with Iron Man since his suit occasionally acts as a giant radio and he can seemingly disrupt or break into any communication system, even Captain America can get away with it since the helmet he wears in this film seems to have speakers near the ear section, but what about everyone else. The carry on conversations through battles, over great distances, but no one else seems to have even a tiny hearing aid-like device in their ears. Call it nit-picky, but that bugs me. Some explanation, even a quick scene of each of them being handed something would have sufficed. You don’t even need to really explain it, just have a random extra pass them out to everyone while Nick Fury is explaining something and show at least two of them put it in their ears.
Lack of explanation for the Chitauri: I get that keeping the identity of the man pulling the strings behind the attack by Loki and the Chitauri needs to remain a mystery, but the alien race, whose ultimate fate is simply to be fodder at the might of the Avengers, never gets a proper explanation. My friend and cohort Joshua explained them to me as “the Foot Clan of the Marvel Universe” and that seems to be accurate outside of the fact that the Foot Clan has an explanation for their existence. These guys seem simply to be a race made to fight and be destroyed.
The “new” Hulk: Seeing the Avengers finally meet on screen, all together, after 5 films of investment is such a cool feeling, but it’s one that ultimately feels a little off. This is due to Mark Ruffalo and his version of the Hulk. Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. all continuing to work in their roles as Thor, Steve Rogers and Tony Stark respectively gives the film a real mash-up/important feel, but not having Edward Norton reprise his role from The Incredible Hulk is awkward, especially since the film is considered cannon and events from said film are referenced in this one. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Ruffalo’s performance was pretty great and this version of the Hulk is equal parts intimidating and emotional (and even a little funny), but the weird feeling is one that I had trouble shaking the whole time. Also, what’s with the fact that he can’t control “hulking out” in one instance and suddenly can in another. It just goes to show that the character of the Hulk may prove to be the most difficult to ever properly bring to the screen.
All that said, this film is fantastic. It deserves every bit of money it’s getting and will be hard to beat as one of the best films to see in theaters this year.
I give The Avengers 5 (as if there was any question) shawarma sandwiches out of 5.