Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers


For me, personally, seeing a movie like The Avengers is terrifying. For starters, it’s a comic book movie, which, in my book, doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. Secondly, because The Avengers was released weeks ago abroad, a sizable amount of positive hype accompanied the film into domestic theaters. Basically, it can be very difficult to fully enjoy a film that everyone else appears to be in awe of. Especially when that film is spawned from a genre I couldn’t care less about.

In short, I walked into The Avengers rolling my eyes and shaking my head, but walking out, I found myself internally repeating something Brian Cox’s Robert McKee tells Nicolas Cage’s Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation: “You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit.” That’s goddamn right.


But let’s back up. I haven’t enjoyed a single Avengers-related film yet. Both Hulk movies (especially the latter one starring Edward Norton) had too many faults to argue their case, Iron Man is okay, but made nearly forgettable by its lame sequel, and Thor was as wildly uneven as Capitan America. I don’t hate any of these movies, per se, but I could just as easily live without them. And if I don’t like them individualized, then how the hell was I going to be able to put up with them all together? Hell if I know, but I did.

I’m not even going to describe the plot of The Avengers, because what the hell is the point? Something about Thor’s weak-ass adopted brother flying onto Earth to possess some crystal that allows him to open a portal to his world. Once that portal is open, various flying beasts can enter Earth and take it over. Or something. It’s not that I didn’t pay attention, it’s that these comic book plots are so remarkably convoluted, that I get completely lost in the vernacular. Plot isn’t important here, action is, and for an action film, The Avengers sure does have a lot of talking. (Honestly, do the creators really think the targeted demographic for these films can attain all of the scientific, science fiction psychobabble that the characters spit out?)
It feels like an eternity before Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremey Renner) buckle down and start avenging. Because mostly, The Avengers is a film about superheroes talking about how they’re going to kick ass, without actually kicking much ass.

All of the circle-jerk expository dialogue (finally) leads up to no-holds-barred slugfest in which the Avengers take on the alien beings in uptown Manhattan, destroying practically half on The Big Apple. The sequence is long and thrilling and pure fanboy bliss. Hell, it even manages to provoke a handful of genuine laughs from the audience (all of which, it should be noted, are at the hands of Hulk). I loved every minute of the final action scene, but at nearly two and a half hours, I just wish the film wouldn’t have taken so long to get there.

I should end the review there, on a positive note, but I have two bones to pick that I need some honest clarification on.

One: how are the Avengers able to speak with one another when they are blocks apart during the final battle? Iron Man dishes out orders from his suit while flying high in the sky, orders that are verbally received by all of the other Avengers on the ground. But how? They aren’t wearing ear pieces. They don’t have phones. This, I simply do not understand.
Two: How does the Hulk go from an uncontrolled monster in one scene (who nearly kills Black Widow for no other reason than because she is in close physical proximity to him), to a calm, understanding Avenger who warmly takes orders in the next scene? I thought the whole point was that when Bruce Banner becomes Hulk, he cannot control his actions (every character with a speaking role in the film mentions this at least once). So how can he go from bad to good just like that?

Aside from these distractions, Joss Whedon’s film is one I can proudly recommend. I have no need to watch it again, and come Labor Day, you can bet I’ll be calling Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises the best blockbuster of the summer, but for now, The Avengers will do just fine. B

40 comments:

  1. Hmm...I never really thought about how they spoke to each other. I always assumed they had some kind of earpieces hidden away in their suits, but it's true you don't really see it....and as for Hulk, I was wondering that myself! He didn't have a lot of time to learn control from when he tried to kill Black Widow to when he turned up at Manhattan on his little scooter, haha. Although I think it was implied that Tony Stark believed he could learn to control it (though how would be a really good question). Still, I'm willing to let it go. I loved the Avengers, and that last battle sequence was so much fun!!! Hulk = best.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah Hulk really rocked the shit in that final sequence. Glad to know I'm not alone with those plot holes. I wasn't trying to be mean, I really have no idea if I'm missing something, or if the film is just taking the easy way out.

      Delete
  2. Good point about Hulk I too don't understand it at all. Great review, I liked the movie a lot but I didn't think it was particularly memorable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I think that's what I'm going for too - enjoyable in the moment, but it won't stay with me or anything.

      Delete
  3. To tell you the truth, I do not expect superhero movies that aren't directed by Nolan to do anything other than entertain me and I think Avengers does that. I had a bowl watching it. But, I will agree that if you try to make it anything other than that, Nah !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you on that one - the only standard I hold a super hero film to is that it should entertain me for its duration, which The Avengers (mostly) did.

      Delete
  4. Good review, Alex, but I'm in the camp of liking it more than you did. And I'm not speaking as fanboy. I have only mildly positive thoughts about most of the pre-Avengers movies, but nothing that truly got me excited me for The Avengers. Perhaps it was my low expectations that allowed me to really eat up this huge event movie. I think I've become so cynical lately of these tentpole blockbusters, especially comic book adaptations. The Avengers finally struck the right tone for me, and it just worked. Is it "the best?" I don't know, I can't compare them to their comic form, but it sure is damn fun.

    As for your plot holes, I thought the same exact thing about Hulk. But like many, I chose to ignore it. He gave us some pretty big damn laughs in this movie, something I never expected to happen!

    Pretty bold, by the way, already assuming Prometheus and TDKR will be "better." That's a lot of high hopes. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dave, the first paragraph of your comment is EXACTLY how I feel about blockbuster/action/super hero films. I'm really glad you liked this movie... for people like us who have such little stock in the super hero comic book film, it's nice when one exceeds our expectations.

      Honestly, I think the filmmakers depend on those Hulk-inspired laughs to help detract from that massive plot hole, which kind of pisses me off.

      Me saying Prometheus and TDKR will be better than The Avengers only means that I think they will be better, not that everyone will think they're better, you know? I need some sort of darkness amidst the gloss.

      Delete
    2. See, I like my comics light and glossy. Something about seeing a guy in spandex and a cape makes it very, very difficult for me to take seriously. That's why Nolan's Batman movies (as strong as they may be) aren't all that great for me. I mean, Dark Knight was borderline depressing at times! lol

      Delete
    3. Ha fair enough buddy! You raise a good point: Nolan's Batman flicks are the anti comic book movies, which makes them so jarring, for better or worse.

      Delete
  5. Nice review mate. I gave it a B+ so I quited enjoyed it too but I'm not going to see it twice. Can't wait for Prometheus and Dark Knight Rises!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rock n roll man! Nolan, for the win.

      Delete
  6. i have no real desire to see this, but how was ruffalo? i was pretty confused by his casting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was good, he played it much differently then Bana and Norton. Everyone (literally... everyone) is fucking terrified of Banner turning into Hulk, so there is this constant fear surrounding him. Ruffalo plays Banner like a timid buffoon genius waiting to rage.

      Delete
  7. Good review Alex. Liked this one a lot and I can’t wait to see what they are able to do with the sequel. Or should I say, I can’t wait to see what Joss Whedon can do with this sequel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Nice clarification. After The Cabin in the Woods and this, I have a new found respect for Mr. Whedon. That guy knows his shit.

      Delete
    2. Dan/Alex -- if you haven't already, seek out Buffy The Vampire Slayer immediately! Whedon's genius is all over the damn place on that classic, brilliant, timeless masterpiece of a television show.

      (I liked it a little, I guess.)

      Delete
    3. I've heard nothing but good things about that and Firefly. I'm just afraid those kinds of shows ain't my bag. Who knows, maybe I'd like them...

      Delete
  8. So you up for a Hulk movie with Mark Ruffalo? I thought he pulled that character off better than both Bana and Norton. I want to start an Oscar campaign for his performance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess I'd be down for a Ruffalo-starring Hulk flick, but I'm just kind of done with that character all together. I agree that he did much better than Bana and Norton. Dunno about an Oscar nom though. But who knows... more far fetched people surely have been nominated.

      Delete
  9. awww i thought the build up was great. and i love loki! he's my favorite!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny, most of the reviews I've read say that either the build up was too long and the action was great, or the build up was great and the action was too long. I'm in the former, but I still thought the movie was good, for sure!

      Delete
  10. "Honestly, do the creators really think the targeted demographic for these films can attain all of the scientific, science fiction psychobabble that the characters spit out?"

    Actually, yes. Readers of comic books tend to have higher intelligence and better vocabularies than other people of a similar age in the general public. (And no, I don't read comics, but I did 15 years ago and I had no trouble understanding the scientific dialogue).

    As for the Hulk's difference it was all due to what caused the changes. In the first one he was fighting against the change and came out of it in a mindless rage. After Stark's words to him about accepting it for what it is (perhaps lost in the midst of the scientific babble) then the second change is entirely something that he not only wants, but embraces. The result is a more in control Hulk.

    As for them talking to each other they had earpieces. In a film with flying aircraft carriers, devices that open wormholes in space, and any number of other things beyond current science, they can easily build an earpiece that is smaller than current ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All really good justifications. Maybe I should clarify: I don't need to understand every single word that the characters spit out in a movie. When Jeremy Renner is diffusing a bomb in The Hurt Locker, it doesn't matter that I don't understand the engineering terms he's using, all that matters is that it is executed in an enthralling way. Which is something I simply cannot say for the never ending talking in The Avengers. There was too much to the point of incomprehension.

      I put my Hulk quipped on Twitter the other day, and two people immediately responded with your exact reasoning, so that’s fair enough. The only thing I have to say to that is how difficult would it have been to clue the rest of us in? One line of dialogue (beyond, “I’m always angry.”) would’ve helped (me) significantly.

      The earpiece bit is pretty flimsy to me. The flick definitely boasts several technological achievements that aren’t real, and I have no doubt they CAN build small earpieces, but, again, it would’ve been nice to make that clearer.

      All of these were minor faults I had with the film, nothing game changing. Considering how much I disliked most of the Avengers-related flicks leading up to this, a 'B' is a very good grade for me to give a super hero film.

      When I posted my suspected plot holes of the film on Twitter, people fired back a few more that I’d like to ask you about, namely this one:

      “On Agent Coulson's vintage trading cards, why does Capitan America have his new suit on?”

      I couldn’t answer that one, but maybe you can…?

      Delete
    2. I would have to see a still to be 100% sure, but I am 98% sure on this:

      It's not his current suit; it's his stage costume from the USO shows. I am almost positive it showed his shield-shaped shield, not the round one which he got later when he really went into combat. One of the nods to the comics in the Captain America movie was his USO outfit, which was very close to his outfit in the comics, as opposed to his more realistic combat-gear outfit.

      Delete
    3. Ok cool, yeah I didn't have the slightest clue about that one. Way beyond my Avengers skill set.

      Delete
    4. I should have mentioned that Whedon obviously wanted the characters to look more like the comics because in addition to Cap's outfit in The Avengers, Thor also looked more like the comics (or at least more like when I was reading comics). The bare arms were the biggest thing.

      Any other potential plot holes I might be able to address? (By the way, I'm not implying that there are none in the movie. I just didn't happen to notice any obvious ones.)

      Delete
    5. Not from me man. Mine were minor and in no way ruined the flick for me. I take it you liked it?

      Delete
    6. I loved it. I'll have my review up some time on Wednesday.

      Delete
    7. Nice, I'll look out for it.

      Delete
  11. Now THIS is the kind of Avengers review I was looking for. I'm not a big fan of superhero films either, and have generally been unimpressed with any of the solo films so far (especially the lackluster Captain America). I have been apprehensive about seeking this one out, but if you liked it then I am sure I will as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice man, sounds like we're pretty much right in line with one another about these films. I definitely dug The Avengers, so I happily recommend it to you!

      Delete
  12. I didn't notice those two things, but you are right, especially the first thing- that's funny!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hardcore Avengers fans (like Chip above) explained them pretty well, but, as I always say, if a film needs that much explaining, something is probably being done wrong. Oh well, enjoyable flick at any rate.

      Delete
  13. Glad you liked this, I was worried we would disagree. :) You're right about the talking - there was a ton of it. Chip shares some of my reasoning - they were wearing earpieces to communicate (I guess). Note that the team alerts Tony when Banner arrives at the end, implying that Banner's not wearing one.

    And I thought the same thing about the Hulk - his first transformation wasn't under his control so he was mindless (although a scene that would further explain his control would have been great).

    I finally got my review up, check it out when you get a chance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice man. Yeah, I had a few qualms with the flick, but overall, it was an enjoyable experience. With that said, I honestly haven't thought about this movie in any capacity in a week. Movies like these never stay with me. Oh well.

      Gonna check out your review now.

      Delete
  14. I was going to answer your questions to the best of my ability, but I'll just say "What Chip said." And then add my own on anyway. :)

    It was hinted at the end of The Incredible Hulk that he was starting to be learn how to control it. So it didn't surprise me that he could control it to some degree when he intentionally turned into the Hulk, but that surprise pain, stress, and anger could break his control and allow the full rage of the Hulk to come out uncontrolled. I heard someone else wonder why the transformation took longer the first time, while the second time it was almost instantaneous - well, Banner was fighting it the first time, trying to hold it back, so it only makes sense it would take longer and be more traumatic.

    As far as the earpieces go, when Natasha is recruiting Bruce in the shack, I didn't notice it looking like she had an earpiece transmitter on, but she clearly did, as she activates it to tell the other agents to stand down. I guess you could nitpick why they don't have to activate it in the final battle, but I just assumed there as an always-on setting that made more sense in active combat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Someone tweeted me about The Incredible Hulk ending, to which I replied that I hope I'm forgiven for not remembering many details of that film haha.

      I hear you on the earpiece thing, but, again, it wouldn't have been difficult to make that clearer, I thought.

      Either way, thanks for commenting! I take it you liked the flick?

      Delete
  15. This film has great special effects and some like the memorable lines especially by Iron Man. The story-line is typical but the film to me is too long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I agree with everything you said.

      Delete