BIGBMH's Avengers Video/Written Review
Is it the amazing movie fans think it is or is it just Transformers with superheroes? Find out what I think in this in-depth review! (spoilers only in clearly-marked final section)
The Avengers. Wow. What to say? As a fan reviewer, I like to take a different angle than most because I try to go in depth and focus on areas that might be improved based on my knowledge of the source material. With The Avengers, I run into trouble there simply because there was really so little that I could find fault with. I've been anticipating this movie ever since I saw the scene after the credits of Iron Man came 4 years ago. Even with all the reading I've done of Avengers comic books and episodes I've watched of the animated series since then, there's really very little I can look at with this movie and make a suggestion about how it could have been improved. I guess that's what happens when the creative genius that writes and directs the movie just happens to be a fanboy as well.
I've read and heard from many sources that the movie manages to give each Avenger due screen time so that it really feels like an ensemble instead of Iron Man and his Amazing Friends. Even with my expectations raised by these claims, I was impressed by the extent to which this was true. Things aren't exactly equally divided out. Thor fans probably won't be quite as satisfied as Captain America or Iron Man fans. However, every character has a purpose and feels like their presence is worthwhile. Steve and Tony probably have the most screen time of the Avengers and they're both pretty well developed (partly by how they're influenced by each other). Tony is still the same character we've grown accustomed to, but Steve has changed a little bit. He seems older and more mature than the "kid from Brooklyn" that we met in his solo film. There's at least one point in the movie when Steve calls a grown man "son" the way a much older man would. It helps to reinforce the idea that Steve really is 90 something years old and all these people are much younger than him. Steve is struggling to find his place in this new world. Meanwhile, Tony Stark serves as the embodiment of this flashy, modern world so he provides both a target for Steve's frustration and someone to prove himself against. Tony belittles Steve and makes him feel inadequate. Since Howard Stark had a great deal of respect for Steve, Tony likely (consciously or subconsciously) wants to prove himself against Steve so he can imagine his father would feel the same way about Iron Man that he felt about Captain America. There is a struggle for dominance, but it the end both find a leadership role within the team. Who is the leader? I think that's debatable, but when it comes to the final battle, the field leader is who most fans probably would hope and expect it to be.
Thor is the last Avenger introduced in this film and once he arrives, we're already pretty deep into the story so there wasn't much time to devote to him. As could be expected, Thor's main story is focused on his relationship with Loki. Thor understands that Loki is dangerous, but he still loves him as his brother so he wants to reason with him. I would have like to see a little more focus on Thor's internal struggle, but he was still given his moments in the spot light. Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who was established as a pretty complex villain in Thor, is much more menacing this time around. While Loki has always been an intelligent schemer, in The Avengers he's much more dangerous and a force to be reckoned with.
Like many, I was concerned about Hawkeye since he has had the least time on screen prior to this movie. Since he is relatively low on most people's priority list of characters to see, it's easy to imagine the studio throwing him in there with no purpose other than to please fans and add to the team's numbers without really driving up the special effects budget. While his back-story is the least developed and we aren't able to get as much of a feel for his personality as some of the others, he was definitely an appealing character that I hope to see more of. From what we do find out about Hawkeye here, it's clear that he's quite different from the classic version of the character. In the comics, Clint Barton was a criminal who became a hero, but kept his rebellious spirit. From what I've read, I believe his loose cannon personality often brought him into conflict with Captain America. In The Avengers, Clint is a much more disciplined agent of SHIELD. There is no conflict whatsoever between him and Steve Rogers, which makes sense. Steve already has his rivalry with Tony Stark which was the more interesting option to pursue given their connection through Tony's father. Anyway, when it comes down to it, non-fans who doubted that Hawkeye would be cool enough to be on the team will probably be eating their words. Black Widow's back-story was given a surprising amount of attention here. While not everything was revealed about her history we definitely learn a lot more about her and feel like we know her much better by the end of this movie. Most importantly, we find out where her sense of duty and responsibility come from.
Bruce Banner feels like a pretty different character this time and it's not just because of the transition from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo. Banner's intellect is center stage, but there is also a greater sense of darkness in regards to his condition. When we last saw him, he was actively pursuing a cure for his condition. Now he seems to have accepted what has become of his life. There's a definite sense of pain in Ruffalo's performance, but Banner isn't just some moping, useless loser. He seems to want to make the most of his situation. The Hulk has much more of a personality this time. It seems that with time, the Hulk has grown more intelligent so that he's not just a wild beast reacting to what happens around him. This time, the Hulk seems to enjoy himself and because of that, he's even more fun to watch. While part of me still wishes that Edward Norton could have reprised his role in order to give things a better sense of continuity, it's hard to be disappointed with the performance Mark Ruffalo gave as Bruce Banner and the Hulk.
Nick Fury still isn't really the character we know from the main Marvel comic universe. However, Samuel L. Jackson finally manages to seem commanding enough to be the man in charge of an organization as huge as SHIELD while not letting this role become a loud mouth caricature of himself. Nick Fury definitely has a heart and cares about people, playing a vaguely parental role to the team. Clark Gregg is more likeable than ever as Agent Coulson. While still the by-the-book character we met in Iron Man, Coulson has grown more entertaining and quietly funny in every appearance since then. Cobie Smulders seems like a suitable addition to the MCU as Maria Hill. Her role is somewhat small in comparison to the Avengers and the other main characters so we don't really get to know her very well, but I'm sure Marvel has plans for her .
It would be ridiculous to expect this movie to give each character the kind of development that a solo film can. In spite of this, fans should be satisfied by the quality of the character's stories as well as the actors' performances. While I can understand if some fans would have preferred this to be more of a character exploration in the vein of Watchmen, I feel like the amount of character work done and the quality of that work suited the film well. It's important to remember that The Avengers is part of something bigger. Unlike Watchmen, it doesn't bear the responsibility of being the first and last chance we have to get to know its main characters. It also is somewhat restrained by the fact that it has to leave room for the solo films to do deeper character exploration. For example, if The Avengers fully told the story of Steve Rogers coping with the loss of the world he knew and getting adjusted, it would have taken away one of Captain America 2's strongest potential angles. The Avengers tells some small, but important stories in a subtle way that may lead the movie to be misunderstood as lacking character development. I'll go more in depth with that in my supplemental scene analysis section containing spoilers. For now, if you haven't seen the movie just be aware that the pretty even division of focus among several characters means that The Avengers doesn't really serve as a full sequel to any of the solo films but is a suitable bridge to the characters' next stories as well as a nice beginning of them being a real team.
The action, as expected, is pretty awesome. There are some good action scenes throughout, but the final battle is in a league of its own. Not only is it on a very large scale, but there are several very cool moments within the battle that show that it was pretty carefully planned. The fight choreography as a whole is pretty great. The higher power level characters all have some displays of their abilities on par or better than what has been seen in their solo films. Black Widow and Hawkeye's hand to hand fighting skills are on a believably human level that's still cool to watch and of a quality similar to that found in a blockbuster spy movie. Last but not least, Captain America is much more fun to watch in action this time. Fans who were somewhat disappointed in the depiction of his fighting the first time around will be much more satisfied this time. He's strong, he's agile, and he's definitely skilled.
The effects are great, but a little bit inconsistent. I thought the CGI for the Hulk and the Chitauri was definitely solid, but the effects used to create what we saw of the Chitauri world in the opening scene were not quite on par with the rest of the movie. While on the whole, the final battle looked pretty great, there was one segment in which the camera travels around to different Avengers that stood out as having a particularly stylistic and unrealistic look. Even so, it was very fun to watch.
As many have said, the comedy was also great. I actually swallowed my gum when I was taken off guard by a certain joke involving a bet. One of the best things about the movie's humor is that ability to take the audience by surprise. The set-ups aren't obvious so there are several points when you're really not expecting an attempt at humor and the movie delivers a good laugh. It's also worth noting that Robert Downey Jr. wasn't forced to be the only actor providing comic relief. Tony Stark likes to joke around and Downey is great at delivering witty dialogue, but the script has comedic moments for almost every character that seem fitting. The way some of these moments fit the characters so well is part of why they are so funny. With the Hulk especially, there are moments that fans will love the most because of that feeling of "Yep. That's Hulk for ya." I disagree with those who have claimed that the movie is too comedic. While there is an abundance of comedy throughout, it maintains its quality and never takes much away from the drama. In fact, I believe it helps to highlight the seriousness because when the audience has gotten comfortable and think that everything is just light and fun, the transition into something dark, serious, and somber is quite jarring so that it possibly has even more of an impact than if the majority of the film was more serious.
The most significant point of contention over the quality of The Avengers will probably be the story. Like I noted in a recent article of mine , many have complained that the film's plot is too simple. I will admit that The Avengers isn't exactly an amazing story on its own. I believe that to fully appreciate it, audiences should see the previous Marvel Studios movies so that they can understand the place of The Avengers within the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the past few year Marvel has begun to build up a fantasy world of connected movies in a way that no one has ever done before. The Avengers is the answer to those wondering if this was a good idea and if they could pull it off. It's not just a gimmick that plays off of hype or coasts on the popularity of its characters, but a respectable movie. The plot isn't full of twists and turns, but the movie does a very good job of taking us through its straightforward story in a way comparable to Die Hard or Raiders of the Lost Ark. There are very few movies that can match The Avengers when it comes to pure entertainment and for that reason I think it's very deserving of the praise that it has been given. To wrap it up for those of you who don't want to read any spoilers, I'd give The Avengers about a 9.6 out of 10.
SPOILER WARNING beyond this point
While there wasn't a lot of heavy drama going on, I do want to take a look at a few scenes that stood out to me. First, I think the death of Agent Coulson was handled very well. While not heartbreaking, things were definitely somber. Although Coulson was a familiar face, the audience was just getting to know him better the same way the Avengers were. In that way, the movie managed to make me feel like I understood the feeling of loss the Avengers were experiencing. Showing his almost child-like admiration of Captain America gave the character a greater warmth and innocence that we hadn't seen in his previous appearances which helped to make his death more emotional.
One scene that may be somewhat overlooked is the exchange between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark after the death of Coulson. I believe this was very crucial to the story this movie told about these characters. We see Tony fighting to deny his grief by hiding under his jokes and feigned indifference. With comments like "He was an idiot," Tony's words aren't exactly respectful or mournful. However, as Steve approaches Tony, we're able to see that there are tears in Tony's eyes. As much as he wants to reject this emotion and pretend like he's not affected, Tony really is very saddened by the loss of Coulson. When Steve asks him if this is the first time he has lost a soldier, it recalls the scene after the loss of Bucky in Captain America: The First Avenger. Steve blames himself, but Peggy tells him that if he respects his friend, he should honor his sacrifice. It seems that this is the mindset Steve takes in regard to Coulson's death. He's saddened, but he doesn't question Coulson's actions. Tony in his grief is more like the younger Steve, questioning why things had to be this way and looking for somewhere to place his frustration. He remarks that Coulson should have waited instead of trying to take on Loki. When Steve tells him that sometimes there isn't a way out, it's very likely that some part of Tony remembers Yinsen, the man who saved Tony's life by similarly rushing into a situation he couldn't handle. This is probably a turning point in the relationship between Steve and Tony because here Steve is finally able to see that Tony actually does care about more than just himself.
The last scene I wanted to take a look at is the exchange between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. While they're both very intelligent, these two are opposites in many ways. Tony has everything. Bruce has nothing. Being Iron Man is fun for Tony, while having the Hulk inside him is a curse for Bruce. In Iron Man, Tony tells Pepper that he shouldn't be alive and that he believes that he lived for a reason. Similarly, in The Avengers, Tony tells Bruce that the amount of gamma radiation that he was hit by should have killed him. Bruce is kind of skeptical, but understands that Tony is suggesting that in a way, the Hulk saved Bruce's life so maybe it isn't quite the curse that he thinks it is. By the end, Bruce seems to have come closer to accepting Tony's philosophy that he survived so that he could use his condition to serve a greater purpose. Since this is pretty applicable to Steve as well, maybe he could have been in the room so we could see his face as he listens to this conversation.
Check out the video version of this review, especially if you didn't feel like reading this whole thing. It's pretty much the same content, but shorter and more to the point.
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