"The Avengers" Movie Review
Hey everybody! So to kick off my new fansite, I thought I would post some of my old movie reviews that I wrote for my Facebook page. Starting off, we have my review of "The Avengers" which I orginally wrote on Sunday, May 6, 2012. Hope you enjoy it!
"And there came a day, a day unlike any other... when Earth's mightiest heroes found themselves united against a common threat... to fight the foes no single superhero could withstand...on that day, The Avengers were born."
Now that I've got your attention, this is it everybody. The big one. The culmination of a plan consisting of four years and five movies (2008's "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk", 2010's "Iron Man 2", and 2011's "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger", respectively). The goal of that plan? To do something extraordinary that has never been done before: to create and establish a common universe that all of these movies exist in, and then have it all lead up to one epic film that sees Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and all of these other characters team up on the same screen for the first time ever.
Now five years ago, anyone would tell you that a movie of this scale would be dauntingly impossible. And even since then, we've seen what happens to overstuffed superhero movies that try to work too much in, like "Spider-Man 3" and "Iron Man 2".
So the only question remains: is there balance here? Did the Marvel Cinematic Universe plan pay off? Was "The Avengers" worth the wait and the hype? And is this the end-all be-all game changer that fans of the superhero movie genre have been waiting for? Stay tuned and find out as I give my thoughts on Marvel's "The Avengers"!
Here's a plot summary courtesy of Wikipedia. If you plan on seeing this movie in theaters (and you really should), don't read any further! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FROM THIS POINT!!!
"Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives at a remote research facility during an evacuation. The commander there, agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), explains that the Tesseract, an energy source of unknown potential, has activated and opened a mysterious portal. Through it, the exiled Asgardian god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steps. Loki takes the Tesseract, and uses his abilities to control the minds of several S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel including agent Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), as well as physicist consultant Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), in order to aid in his getaway.
In response to the attack, Fury reactivates the Avengers Initiative. Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson) is sent to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), while Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), approaches Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and requests that he review Selvig's research. Fury himself approaches Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) with an assignment to retrieve the Tesseract from Loki. During his exile, Loki encountered the Other (Alexis Denisof), an alien conqueror who, in exchange for the Tesseract, offers Loki an army of the alien race called the Chitauri in order for him to subjugate Earth.
Rogers, Stark and Romanoff travel to Stuttgart, Germany, to apprehend Loki, who is recovering iridium needed to stabilize the Tesseract's power and demanding that the civilians kneel before him. After a battle with Captain America and Iron Man, Loki surrenders and is escorted back to a S.H.I.E.L.D. plane. However, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki's adoptive brother, arrives and attempts to free Loki to reason with him. Stark and Rogers confront Thor, and Loki is eventually returned to the Helicarrier, a flying aircraft carrier, and placed in a cell designed to hold the Hulk.
The Avengers are divided, both over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. planned to harness the Tesseract to develop weapons as a deterrent against hostile extraterrestrials. As the group argues, Barton and Loki's other possessed agents attack the Helicarrier, disabling its engines in flight and causing Banner to transform into the Hulk. As Stark and Rogers try to restart the damaged engines, Thor attempts to stop the Hulk's rampage, and Romanoff fights Barton. During this fight, a blow to the head knocks Barton unconscious, breaking Loki's mind control. Loki escapes, killing Agent Coulson as he does so, and Thor and the Hulk are each ejected from the ship.
Fury uses Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers into working as a team. Stark and Rogers realize that simply defeating them will not be enough for Loki; he needs to overpower them in a very public way so as to validate himself as ruler of Earth. Using a device built by Selvig, Loki uses the Tesseract to open a portal to the Chitauri fleet over Manhattan, summoning a Chitauri invasion.
The Avengers rally in defense of New York, but quickly realize they will be overwhelmed as wave after wave of Chitauri descend upon Earth. With help from Barton, Rogers and Stark evacuate civilians, while Banner transforms into the Hulk again and goes after Loki, beating him into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the portal, where Selvig, freed of Loki's control, reveals that Loki's staff can be used to close the portal.
Meanwhile, Fury's superiors attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the portal toward the Chitauri fleet before running out of power and plummeting back to Earth, but the Hulk catches him as he falls. Thor escorts Loki and the Tesseract back to Asgard, while Fury notes that the Avengers will go their separate ways until such time as a new world-threatening menace emerges.
In a post-credits scene, the Other confers with his master (Thanos) about the attack on Earth. In a second post-credits scene, the Avengers — gathered at a shawarma restaurant — eat in silence."
Now, I'm going to give my thoughts on as many aspects of this movie as I can, and close out on my general thoughts on the movie:
"The Avengers" was directed by Joss Whedon, a fan-favorite of many a geek, including myself! Whedon is most famously known as the creator of "Firefly", "Buffy", "Angel", "Dollhouse", "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog". He's also produced "The Cabin in the Woods", co-wrote the original "Toy Story" and directed "Serenity", the live-action film adaptation of "Firefly". So as you can see, this guy has quite the experience, making him in my mind the perfect guy to helm "The Avengers".
First let me talk a little bit about "Serenity", the first big-screen mainstream movie that Whedon directed, and see how that compares to "The Avengers". "Serenity" is filled with snappy dialogue and colorful characters, big bombastic action scenes, great mood, and a lot of reverence for what's come before it, and "The Avengers" is no different. I'll get to the script later, but every character here is equally respected, fleshed out, and all get their own moments to shine. The last 30 minutes of this movie containing the battle in New York City is arguably the best fight scene in any superhero movie ever, the mood can go from dark to lighthearted with the flick of a switch, but always smoothly, and this movie makes sure to not only respect the comics and previous movies and throw in little tid-bits and easter eggs for fans of the source material, but also works to make a movie that can be enjoyed by people who have never heard of any of these characters or seen any of the other movies.
Joss Whedon constructs an exemplary superhero movie here, that has great action, characters, and completely balances it all out in ways that no other movie of the genre has ever even tried before. It's the first superhero movie I can ever say that feels like a comic book, which is probably because it was helmed by someone who UNDERSTANDS comic books, of which I applaud Whedon.
Script and Writing:
"The Avengers" was mostly written by Joss Whedon, with help on the story by Zak Penn, who previously wrote "The Incredible Hulk"'s screenplay, and helped write the second and third "X-Men" movies.
Like I said earlier, one of the trademarks of Whedon's writing is to mix sharp humor, pop culture-influenced sarcasm and sincere emotion, and all of the above are definitely present here. For example, there's a line when Tony Stark is talking by Thor, where he says: "No hard feelings, Point Break. You got a mean swing." This is pretty hilarious and humor like this is common throughout the movie.
And on that note, there is a lot of humor in this movie, mostly Whedon's doing. He's no Christopher Nolan, and of that, I am very, very, very happy. This is a movie that did not and should not be "The Dark Knight". But by the same token, it DEFINITELY did not and should not be "Batman and Robin" either. Instead, "The Avengers" maintains a delicate balance between light-hearted and dark, more keeping in tone with the fun mood of the "Iron Man" movies. But Whedon's not clowning around the whole time, and he's not afraid to have some very deep, dark, and dramatic scenes to get things serious.
All in all, "The Avengers" has one of the most seamless scripts, I think, since "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl". Every character has something to do, something to say, a reason to exist in the movie, and their own moments to shine. And not just the main characters, the supporting characters too! The plot is simplistic enough to be understandable, and is something that would come straight out of a comic book!
This script is generally one of Whedon's best, a perfect example of his writing style, and in my opinion, the crown jewel of the movie.
-Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man: Now of course, what can be said about Downey Jr. that hasn't already been said? He revolutionized the character of Tony Stark in "Iron Man", made Iron Man one of the most iconic superheroes of all time and Marvel's veritable poster boy, and basically carried "Iron Man 2" by himself. He has unbridled amounts of charisma, and can basically do no wrong as the character. So of course, he's just as good here as he was in either of his solo movies, if not even better! The best part about Jim here is that he has someone else to play off of now, besides Gwenyth Paltrow or Don Cheadle, and he seems to have great chemistry with everyone he's on-screen with. Some of great scenes of his are with Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo, but probably his best scenes are with Chris Evans, which give both actors opportunities to really become their characters and show the relationship that Captain America and Iron Man have, and even give Downey Jr. the chance to show off his dramatic chops. It's another great performance from Downey Jr. here, which we've come to expect from the previous movies and always enjoy.
-Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America: When "Captain America: The First Avenger" was coming out, I was really surprised by Chris Evans's performance as Steve Rogers and how spot-on it was. He really gets the character here too just as he did in the first movie, and brings a lot of heart and soul to the character. Chris Evans IS Captain America, and lot of his lines and scenes are testament to that and give him presence in the movie. And of course, like I said earlier, his scenes with Robert Downey Jr. are really great and make me wish for a "Civil War" movie.
Now when I saw this movie, I was a little disappointed that they didn't have more scenes of Steve adjusting to the modern day world. But then it dawned on me - that's not for this movie. That's for "Captain America 2"! And even with that being said, there are enough examples of Steve being the fish out of water in a new world here that are both funny and serious, that it satisfies me, and gets me really hyped for "Captain America 2". In conclusion, Chris Evans is once again great here, and truly embodies the leader of the Avengers that we come to expect from Captain America.
-Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk: The breakout performance of this movie, Mark Ruffalo gives truly the best performance of both Bruce Banner and the Hulk that I've ever seen. He's so subtle, low-key, and world-weary as Bruce, and he's much more accepting of the Hulk then previous incarnations. He doesn't angst about it, he just knows that it is what it is, and even sort of likes it.
And of course portrays the Hulk as awesome and cool as the character is, giving him some amazing scenes in the third act, where he basically steals the show. But this was actually the first movie involving the Hulk where I've actually cared for Bruce Banner more than the Hulk. Ruffalo totally owned both roles, totally knocked it out of the park and surprised me, and I can't wait to see him as the character more in the future.
-Chris Hemsworth as Thor Odinson: Chris Hemsworth's portrayal of the titular character in the movie "Thor" was a lot of fun, with Hemsworth playing Thor as likably arrogant yet charming. But Thor has changed a lot since that movie, he's matured and learned humility since his time on Earth, and he comes back in this movie as a king with a mission. Unfortunately though, he loses a bit of the fun from "Thor". I mean, he's still a good character and Hemsworth gives a fine performance here, going to a believable place with the character that makes sense, but he just wasn't nearly as devil may care as he was in "Thor" which I remember liking a lot. But all in all it's still another great performance from Hemsworth, with highlights once again being his scenes with Tom Hiddleston. The two actors have great charisma together, and you can really sympathize with Thor and how desperately he wants his brother back.
-Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow: I was pretty disappointed by Scarlett Johansson's bland, uninteresting performance as Black Widow in "Iron Man 2", but thankfully she is MUCH improved here. Another trademark of Whedon is to write strong, confident, snarky female characters, and Black Widow definitely has received the Whedon touch here. She has a very difficult job here, as Black Widow has superpowers that aren't very clearly defined, but she definitely stands among the other guys. We learn a little bit more about Black Widow's past here, but she still maintains a mysterious facade here. Johansson makes Black Widow, tough as nails, no-nonsense, and, quite frankly, badass! Some of her highlights are scenes where she's able to best Hiddleston's Loki in a game of wits, when she goes toe-to-toe with a possessed Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, and generally when she's just kicking alien ass in the final battle. Black Widow is so much more well defined here, a great revolutionization of the character introduced in "Iron Man 2", and an awesomely badass female protagonist that can stand tall with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence's equally awesome female protagonist Katniss Everdeen from "The Hunger Games" movie from earlier this year. Along with Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, she's one of the film's highlights. Bring on the "Black Widow" movie!
-Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye: I had feared from the beginning that Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye would be the weak link of this cast. And granted, Hawkeye is veritably a walking plot point, due to his possession and his connection with Black Widow. But damn, when he does get back to normal, he is PRETTY awesome. He gets a lot of great moments in the final battle, which really let the character prove himself. And he does have pretty good chemistry with Scarlett Johansson. All in all, Jeremy Renner's gonna get a "passible" in my book here. Hawkeye's one of my favorite Avengers and I do really like Jeremy Renner. The problem here is that we don't get to meet his character nearly enough or really see him in action. But I suppose, better him than one of the more main characters. Here's hoping to see Renner return as Hawkeye in future movies, but here he's a good presence and he kicks butt, so he's alright in my book. He's certainly a hell of a lot better than Ant-Man or Wasp would have been.
-Tom Hiddleston as Loki Laufeyson: I'm going to be frank: Tom Hiddleston's sympathetic, heart-wrenching performance as the malevolent God of Mischief Loki in "Thor" is almost definitely the greatest villain performance in any superhero movie ever, and is totally the best part of that movie. And Hiddleston is just as good here, leading me to believe that, like Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, he can do no wrong in this role.
But this is a very different Loki here. All sympathy for his character is supposed to be gone, as he is a brutal, sadistic, psychotic, manipulative murderer here. He is purely and simply evil, is not afraid to murder innocents, and is just a masterfully portrayed force of evil by Hiddleston. He toys with his foes and mocks them, and he is quite literally an animalistic monster. And yet...you just still can't help but feel sorry for him! He's clearly in over his head, and he's been driven to evil through anger and misunderstanding. There are even times where its possible that he doesn't even want all of the madness he's causing. He's just in too deep now, with very little chance of redemption, making him the ultimate tragic figure. In conclusion, Hiddleston is the ultimate bad guy here and is a perfect adversary. His brilliant acting will continue to keep him up on the pedestal he's on in my mind.
-Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson: I love Phil Coulson! The idea of having an ordinary guy among all of these gods and monsters is really a great idea, and Coulson is always a welcome presence in any Marvel movie. He gets a lot to do here and is integral to the plot, which is nice. Phil Coulson has quickly become a fan-favorite since his inception and his role in this movie is really a testament to that. A great heartfelt performance from Clark Gregg.
-Colbie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill: Now I love "How I Met Your Mother" as much as the next guy, but when she was cast as Maria Hill, who is a prominent character in the comics, I couldn't help but be a little skeptical. But she is a solid supporting actor in this movie, not given a whole lot to do, but it's no big deal really. She's authoritative, has a reason to be in the movie, not too bad on the eyes, putting it lightly, and I say her especially looks like the character leaped right off of the comic book page. I'm excited to see her in future movies where I'm sure her character will be further developed, just like Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye.
-Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury: You know that an actor is meant to play a character when they model the character's physical appearance and mannerisms after said actor! Samuel L. Jackson completely epitomizes Nick Fury. He's the guy in charge and he knows what's what. And if you disagree with him, he's not afraid to shoot you down with a bazooka!
But seriously, one of the things I especially liked about Jackson's performance as Fury is that he isn't always on the side of the angels, which is an important staple of the character. He will lie and manipulate those around him in order to accomplish what he believes is right, and that's openly acknowledged in this movie. Jackson is very authoritative and soldierly in this role, and it's really just a fanboy dream come true to see him finally in all of his glory!
Oh yeah, and Jackson isn't afraid to put a little of his own personality into Fury, as is evidenced in lines like this:
"I recognise the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid ass decision, I've elected to ignore it."
-Everyone Else: Now, it would've been very easy for Joss Whedon to just throw all of these heroes into one picture and leave it at that. But keep in mind, this is a universe that has been established in five movies! So why not use some of those characters as well?
So on that note, let's quickly talk about Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Stellan Skarsgard as Dr. Erik Selvig. Neither has very much screen time, first of all. I expected Paltrow to be useless here the moment I found out she was cameoing, and as such, she was only really good for one very humorous scene with Downey Jr.. And, as was set up in the post-credits scene in "Thor", we knew that Selvig would be important to the plot here, and he served that purpose as a plot element nicely, but did little else.
Other actors of note here were Paul Bettany returning as Tony Stark's computer interface JARVIS, who basically comes with the package if Iron Man is involved in a movie, and is always fun. Also, the mysterious alien known as the Other is played by Alex Denisof, who also played Wesley Wyndam-Pryce in "Angel"!
"The Avengers" was scored by Alan Silvestri, who has previously scored countless works such as the "Back to the Future" movies, "Forrest Gump", "Predator", and "Captain America: The First Avenger". Some people have accused the score of just being a knock-off of Silvestri's "Captain America" score, but I completely disagree. This score not only has a very old-school action movie feel to it, but it can also be loud, bombastic, and just completely epic like any Hans Zimmer score! It's got its quiet moments too, but by the end it's an all-out action bonanza, and it's great! The Avengers get a really awesome theme for themselves which is iconic and will have you humming it after multiple listenings, and even the Captain America theme can be heard here and there! In conclusion, the score for "The Avengers" is the second-best score for a Marvel Studios movie, only behind Patrick Doyle's spectacular score for "Thor". It's probably one of Alan Silvestri's best, definitely better than his "Captain America" score!
Set and Effects:
As with most summer blockbusters, this movie is filled with special-effects. But, as opposed to, say, a Michael Bay movie, these special effects are not above story, and are still very good. It's very rare that special effects will ever really impress me in a movie, but that first opening shot of the Helecarrier is truly breathtaking. And when the Tesseract destroys the SHIELD Dark Matter Facility? Brilliant! Iron Man looks as realistic and great as he did in the first "Iron Man" movie, and the mo-cap effects used on Mark Ruffalo for the Hulk are just so amazingly lifelike, it's incredible.
But by far the crowning achievement of this movie's effects is the whole climactic Battle of New York City. The explosions, the aliens, the Leviathans, the battles, the destruction...it's a symphony of mayhem, and it's just glorious. The whole thing is arguably one of the best pieces in any superhero movie, and the CGI effect people for this movie should be commended.
Mostly all of the characters in "The Avengers" have had their costumes or looks redesigned for this movie. So how do they hold up?
Nick Fury: Fury's costume looks great, straight out of the comics and looks battle-ready and commanding.
SHIELD Agents: Again, straight out of the comics, they look great!
Phil Coulson: Same as usual in terms of costume.
Maria Hill: I've already commented on her, but she especially looks just like her character, costume and all.
Hawkeye: A great throwback to his Ultimate Comics look, only wish he had worn his sunglasses like in all the promotional material!
Loki: Definitely the best costume change. Loki now looks grittier and more lived in. Definitely ready for battle, which help makes the character look a million times more awesome! And I'm especially liking the battle staff!
Black Widow: Natasha's costume isn't much changed since her appearance in "Iron Man 2", although I do like her new hairstyle better.
Captain America: Probably the worst costume change of the bunch, I definitely prefer his more realistic look in "Captain America: The First Avenger" to his look here. He looks alright here when he's not wearing the mask, but when he is, he just looks plain silly. Thankfully it doesn't take away from the movie though.
Iron Man: Iron Man wears two suits throughout the course of the movie, one of which we've seen before (the Mark VI). The Mark VII however, is new. It does look nice and pretty cool, although I do wish that they had just made the arc reactor chest piece triangular like the Mark VI, as it would probably not make general audience members who saw "Iron Man 2" as confused.
Thor: Thor has a variety of looks throughout the movie, but my two favorites are probably his sleeveless, cape-less, look, which resembles Thor's Ultimate Comics costume, and his sleeveless, caped look, with warmer colored armor to symbolize his authority as King of Asgard.
In summary, "The Avengers" is a flawless triumph, and, without a shadow of a doubt, the best superhero movie ever made. It's perfectly balanced with depth, heart, humor, action, performances, and - most importantly - payoff. This is truly a game changer for the superhero genre, with style to match its substance, which cannot be said for most summer blockbusters. This isn't a movie, it's an event. And, if you're even a slight fan of superhero movies in general, you owe it for yourself to see it for yourself. You're going to love it, I guarantee it.
This movie currently holds a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.com
My rating for "The Avengers": 5/5
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