Sunday, April 29, 2012
A Blockbuster for the Ages
Written and directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard.
Running time: 142 min.
Where do you start on a film like The Avengers? I'm not sure. The film could either go two ways: be a desperate attempt at making money by throwing superheroes together, or it could be a movie with a whole lot of superheroes joining forces to create something extremely awesome. Thankfully, it was the latter that won the battle. The Avengers is pretty much as epic as blockbusters get. You can sit there with your nose in the air saying that the only things that understand the magic of movies are little arthouse films, but never underestimate how much blockbusters understand - sure, 75% of them are money grubbers, yet they all make use of everything available to them. The Avengers, however, takes that to the next level. I've always had a deep love for going to see blockbusters on the big screen (see my review of Thor which I saw this time last year), but The Avengers is by far and beyond one of the best experiences I've ever had in a dark cinema.
Joss Whedon was given the extraordinary task of bringing heroes Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) together and pitting them against Loki (Tom Hiddleston). With all that star power you'd probably be expecting a superhero version of Valentine's Day, but luckily, Whedon is much cooler than that. Admittedly, I'm not at all familiar with his work. Just with this movie and this movie alone, I am now. In the wrong hands, this film would have been the desperate attempt at making money by throwing superheroes together. He makes it a movie about lots of different characters, who happen to be exceptional human beings one way or another, being put together in order to save the Earth. Each character has an interesting arc to them, they're extremely well written. And that has very little to do with the movies before them.
Iron Man, Captain America and Thor have each had their own movies (as did Hulk, but those films were all over the map compared to the fairly recent made-specifically-for-The Avengers ones). They gave us a good idea who they were. Black Widow, Nick Fury and Hawkeye has scattered appearances throughout the predecessors. However, when they teamed up for The Avengers, all vying for screen time, they became different people. No, that's not because they were either poorly written in this one or the other ones. It was because we learnt what made them tick. We learnt about what they felt instead of having them just go out and shoot the shit out of people. Even though they all have extraordinary powers that I could never dream of, they all felt like humans, which is something most superhero movies choose to ignore. Apart from Thor, of course, since he doesn't come from Earth. I'm reserving judgement on Chris Hemsworth, too - you can't tell me that a human is capable of having arms like that.
To go with the excellently written characters were excellent actors. Downey Jr. uses his smarmy charm, stealing the best one liners (and hell, this movie is full of those), but he also develops a hell of a lot throughout the course of the movie. The appearance of Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts was pretty cool, too. One the opposite end of the scale was Captain America, who didn't gel well with Stark, which made for some very fun scenes. Evans played his modesty and true heroism to a tee, and you could also tell how angsty he was inside (if only he could have gone on that date with Peggy Carter). Someone who did play well with Stark, though, was Bruce Banner, who Ruffalo played extremely well. Hulk was perhaps the character that interested me the most - which was probably helped by the fact that I haven't seen any of the films based on him - because of his rather shy, controlled, meek demeanour which manifests itself into that big green thing. Ruffalo was brilliant at portraying that. Hemsworth gave quite the performance, too, even though I swear he was just a non-green version of the Hulk.
The lesser known characters like Black Widow, Hawkeye and Nick Fury were each given brilliant performances, too. I loved Scarlett Johansson: she was the epitome of sexy but that didn't control her character like it does with other woman in these sorts of movies. I didn't know a lot about Hawkeye and since he was out of play for most of the movie it was a little hard to connect with him, but Jeremy "I'm in every franchise" Renner was great as usual. And Samuel L. Jackson...what is there to say? If only he could stay the hell away from straight-to-DVD shlock. Special mention must also go out to the awesome Clark Gregg playing the equally awesome Agent Phil Coulson, Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill and Stellan Skarsgard's appearance as Eric Selvig (though there were a few times I wish he'd just go and listen to Enya). However, the stand out performance for me was Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Sure, Loki was no the Joker, but he was still a terrifying character looking for happiness in anarchy. Hiddleston was mad in the role, dripping with villainy and mischief, and a little bit of badassery.
From the very beginning The Avengers is an entertaining ride, and it never relents. Whedon throws in a lot of stuff, but all of it has good reasoning and there's a good story behind it to back it up. It manages to have a lot of meaning but still be extremely fun to watch - it never rejects one thing for the sake of another. It may appear to be a rote blockbuster to go with the legions of others, but what it really is is something that reminds us of the magic of cinema going. Also, it is one of those movies that my generation will tell the next generation about, looking back on when they first saw it with fondness. Well, that's what I'm going to do, anyway.
What I got:
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