Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Avengers movie review.

Nearly two weeks after its official release, it would appear I'm off to a late start. Well, better late than never.

Starting in the Summer of 2008 with the first Iron Man film, and wrapping up with Captain America last July, Marvel finally brings the "Avengers Initiative" full circle in high fashion. The Avengers finally arrives, receiving mad critical raves, and smashing box office records (Specifically grossing $207 million dollars opening weekend, more than any movie in history), and all for good reason. The Avengers is straight up one of the most thoroughly entertaining movies ever made. It's the Raiders of the Lost Ark of superhero movies.

Here's the gist of the plot: Exiled god of Asgard Loki returns to Earth, and attacks the base of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division) to retrieve the powerful tesseract, and unleash his vengeance with an army of creatures known as the Chitauri. To fight this new threat, SHIELD director Nick Fury decides to call in the help of sarcastic billionaire Tony Stark (Iron Man), superstrong patriot Steve Rogers (Captain America), ill tempered scientist Bruce Banner (Hulk), Asgardian thunder god Thor, Russian double agent Natasha Romanov (Black Widow), and expert marksman Clint Barton (Hawkeye). Six heroes for the price of one, with an awesome cast and action sequences that would make even Spielberg jealous, all directed by fanboy extraordinaire Joss Whedon?! I want a sequel, now!

The Avengers from left to right: Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Hulk.
The achievement that The Avengers represents is simply unprecedented. All of the previous singularly released Avengers movies were wonderful in how they took their time and delivered consistent quality. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were all wonderful breaths of fresh air that delivered the laughs and the thrills. Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk may have been slight weak links, but still remained enjoyable. To have The Avengers bring this idea all together so seamlessly is terrific, but it also makes just as good a separate achievement, a heartfelt, hilarious, and exciting ride to behold.

Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Phill Coulson (Clark Gregg), agents of SHIELD.
With such a big cast of characters, the fact that they all feel satisfyingly developed is something of a miracle. Not everything is always perfect, but as both a writer and director, Joss Whedon is spot on with how he treats these characters. He gives them all their equal share in the spotlight, and literally NO ONE stands out amongst the others. Robert Downey Jr. is delightfully deadpan and sarcastic as Stark, Chris Evans continues to play a very likable character with Rogers, Chris Hemsworth's Thor is just as fun and hammy as ever, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner are aces as Black Widow and Hawkeye, and Tom Hiddleston brings a fantastic villain out of Loki. As for Mark Ruffalo (replacing Edward Norton), his calm and cool personality as Bruce Banner is the perfect opposite for his split personality, and the green muscle man is so awesome - and hilarious - when he finally takes the stage. Hulk smash, and we love him for it!

Thor and Captain America fight the Chitauri in the film's awesome third act.
This isn't even mentioning the bravura action sequences. Whedon is smart to not overwhelm the audience with braindead action without first giving an honest emotional investment, and throughout most of the movie, he's smart in how he spreads them out. When the movie's epic 30 minute climax begins, that's when Whedon finally lets it all loose in genuinely, gleefully exciting fashion, complete with stellar visual effects and awesome sound design. Also, this is a really long movie, nearly two and a half hours, but it doesn't even feel that long. I honestly felt like I could have watched it for even longer, maybe even all day. The original cut of this movie was apparently three hours in length, and I would have loved to see that version, just because the whole thing just flies by so smoothly.

With such a great kick off to the Summer movie season, we can only hope that everything else will be at least half as fun. The Avengers is the ultimate in Hollywood nerdvana, and I can't wait to see it again.

****1/2/ *****

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