Marvel Movie Review: THE AVENGERS
When I started to write this review, I thought it’s not going to be much of a review. Comic nerds are already saying and writing repeatedly that THE AVENGERS is the best comic movie of all time, and even the harshest critics seem to be pleased with the mix of action sequences and character development (fuck you, Roger Ebert). But I don’t really think this is going to be a somewhat “normal” movie review. Because I only need to say two words to describe my feelings for THE AVENGERS: fucking AWESOME!
I was waiting for THE AVENGERS for five years. When IRON MAN came out, I wasn’t really interested in the world of comics, but I knew THE AVENGERS would eventually come out, and that I was interested in the superhero mash-up, since Warner Bros. and DC were never able to bring the Justice League onto the big screen. I wasn’t even into comics back then (interesting how I found them in my early-to-mid-20s, when – especially in times like today – they should be considered nerd material from an early age), but I was waiting for the big-screen adaptation of a comic series I have never read. It’s interesting how Marvel Studios managed to build a universe for both movies and comics, and deliver material fans want to see (something WB can’t seem to manage at this point). Marvel’s business plan, eventually beginning with the foundation of Marvel Studios, and producing movies, direct-to-DVD-movies, and television shows, is just an excellent way of creating an existent universe anew, giving newer audience a chance to get into something created by the 20th Century. Like me. I mean, the MCU was one of the reasons I started to read comics.
Now to THE AVENGERS. I didn’t have much knowledge about the franchise, but thanks to the origins movies (which I actually wanted to review one by one before THE AVENGERS would be released, instead I just live-tweeted them last week) and me picking up some of the comics, I knew what I was getting into at premiere day. I expected some awesome action sequences, all mixed with incredible character moments. The first reviews were glowing, and I instantly knew that Joss Whedon was the perfect guy to helm THE AVENGERS, hoping for a contract to be born between Whedon and Marvel Studios, giving him the option to direct all future Avenger movies, until Whedon dies of age in 250 years. THE AVENGERS showed you definitely need a person with a voice and passion in the craft to make a franchise. Whedon is a comic geek, he knows how to capture the audience, he knows how to develop a story throughout the movie (or TV show), he knows what the audience wants. It couldn’t have been a more perfect choice to give the job to Whedon. This was applauded, when he was revealed as director and writer, and it is applauded now.
THE AVENGERS was just perfect. It had everything a superhero movie needed, and some more. It gave time and space to all the characters involved, and it gave the actors something to work with. It was not just a simple action blockbuster with superheroes, it was an ensemble piece with superheroes, who had something on their mind. It was an end-of-the-world scenario, where even the supervillain had strong character movies. Not like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL, where the villain only had like five minutes of screentime, and in four of them he was running from Tom Cruise. Not like DIE HARD, where Gruber had to be presented by an exceptional actor to be awesome. Loki was simply a character divided by his past, by his dreams, and by his recent fate. From a would-be king of Asgard, whose dreams were destroyed because of his past, followed by his “death” in THOR, which made him the ultimate villain for THE AVENGERS: Just look at Loki’s development over the course of two movies: That’s how you build a character. And the fact that Tom Hiddleston rocked the role makes it easier to accept Loki’s plans to destroy Earth, even though some missing logic pops up every now and then. Tom already rocked his character during his scene with Anthony Hopkins in THOR, and he didn’t stop to define the character on his own.
The same can be said by the superheroes. I missed a few more “good” things for Bruce Banner though. THE AVENGERS was mostly focusing on his Hulk character anyway (which is why Hulk got the best scenes in general), but forgot to develop Banner as a character. The only scene being able to develop Banner as a character was the conflict between the Avengers members on the helicarrier, right before Banner was holding Loki’s staff – mostly because the scene was actually mentioning the team member’s worries about Hulk not being the superhero, who’s ready to save life, but always causing trouble and destruction. And Banner was involved in that conflict, which makes it basically the only conflict-laden scene with Banner, involving him and not his alter ego. Also, the Jekyll-and-Hyde theme didn’t come over as much as I wanted to. It’s not enough, when Banner mentions “the other guy” every time, when there are two characters in the same body. Banner treated Hulk as “the other guy” all the time, when there was the opportunity to craft Hulk as the “evil monster side” of Banner himself. But I believe that’s a difficulty every writer and director has to face when dealing with Hulk on a movie basis. Banner/Hulk should be developed for a character-strong TV series, so that the Jekyll/Hyde theme can be played.
Also, Steve Rogers came a bit short for me. Few of his first scenes were nice (him going through 70 years of lost time in one or two scenes, and the $10 bet), but I was expecting far more in that direction. That will maybe be a story element in the sequel of CAPTAIN AMERICA, but it wouldn’t have been wrong to keep some of his deleted scenes (adjusting into the 21st Century) in the movie, to make his character development more “gettable”. But I liked the later development of Steve Rogers. He wasn’t much of a Captain in his origin movies, instead just a superhero created for the military’s image. Steve always accepted his role as the poster boy in his movie, not breaking any rule, instead just fighting the evil Nazis and rescuing innocent people and soldiers. In THE AVENGERS, he breaks rules. He becomes the Captain he should have been in his movie. He doesn’t fight just for a good image and saving people, he fights because he has to. That makes Steve Rogers more of a conflicted character than Banner, and I liked that.
Those last two paragraphs were the only slight problems I had with the movie. The rest was pure awesomeness. Beginning with the river of one-liners coming out of Tony Stark’s mouth, going over to how dark Thor was drawn here (and the fact that his return to Earth after the destruction of the Bifrost was quickly explained), the relationship between Clint and Natasha (I want that Black Widow origins movie!), Hulk’s comedic moments near the end, and the audience reaction in the movie theater. I was believing to sit besides comic geeks, who were waiting for the movie as I did. I mean, they were cheering almost every five minutes – one iconic character came on screen, and there was rave applause. One iconic scene was done, and there was rave applause and people screaming. It was like a concert. And it was definitely the best movie theater experience in my life. Even the intertitle (after Loki’s “steal the Tesseract” intro) got a mad audience reaction – it’s like the movie started, despite it running for like five minutes already. Some more strong audience reaction? The Marvel logo at the beginning, signaling the start of the movie. The first appearance of Natasha (it could probably be one of the best character introductions in recent movie history). Cap, Black Widow and Hawkeye entering the jet, just before they fly to New York with Iron Man (after Colton’s death). All team members side by side on the street, the camera panning to every one of them, preparing for the action climax. “Hulk, smash!”. And finally Hulk saving Iron Man. I don’t even know if a similar movie experience will be possible after this one. I don’t know if a theater, filled with round 400 people, can be so much fun ever again. Everybody was having fun – it was like a convention.
And I believe the theater experience makes the movie even more fun than watching it alone on a small laptop screen. THE AVENGERS is a movie you HAVE to watch with friends and fans of the franchise, just to appreciate the whole “ensemble feeling” of the movie. It’s an ensemble movie, and you have to watch it with an ensemble. Movies are supposed to be fun every now and then (so, fuck you, Roger Ebert), and THE AVENGERS perfectly captured that fun element, which made it not only the best superhero movie of all time (and raised the bar for Marvel movies pretty high), but also one of the best movies in general. And it does not only succeed because of the “fun factor”, but also because of the X factor: Besides all the action and awesomeness going on, Whedon also spent enough time to show the characters behind the action, to give them their moments. THE AVENGERS is an action movie with characters, and I know how difficult it is to write and produce a full-blown, big-budgeted action movie with an ensemble cast, without forgetting the ensemble in the team. At the end, the small faults didn’t really matter any more, because Whedon knew what the audience wanted, and he gave them something to cheer for. And if you are a real Marvel fan, you even cheer the slight comic moments, which might tease upcoming events in the movie franchise, or just pay homage to the comics. Whedon knew all the way what he was doing, and it might help him to rise to director stardom. And maybe even give him the job for the next Avengers movie. Otherwise there will be confused chaos in the world wide web, when Marvel and Whedon can’t agree to a contract.
I don’t even need to say more about THE AVENGERS. It was a somewhat different experience for me (thanks to the audience left, right, behind, and in front of me), and an experience, which will get me even more into the world of comics. I might not have talked about the origins movies here, but you can be sure I will talk about the other Marvel movies. Or continue to watch the TV shows based on the characters. Or finally go into scripting my version of Jessica Jones (Melissa Rosenberg takes her sweet time to develop the show, but I don’t want to wait). Or counterwriting Marvel’s Avengers with my version of the Justice League. Because the audience will definitely be hungry for a continuation of the comic awesomeness in the movies. Even when it’s not going to be a Marvel movie, or a TV series based on Image comics. After all, superheroes are still in the “It zone”. 10/10