Sunday, April 15, 2012

'Marvel's The Avengers' Review - Marvel's Best Film is Epic, Exciting, Fun, and the Best Comic Movie to Date

"And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!" Those were the opening words of the first ever Avengers comic book that debuted in 1963. Then in 2008, Marvel placed the first building block of their Marvel cinematic universe in an after credits stinger in Iron Man. Featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, he confronts Tony Stark in his house to talk to him about The Avengers initiative. Marvel had set their goals high, and after five movies and four years of work later, we've finally arrived at the film that everything was building to: The Avengers. And let me say, the wait has been well worth it! Marvel Studios, with the help of Joss Whedon, has given us not only what could be the greatest comic book movie yet, but one of the best action/adventure movies in recent memory.



After being cast out of Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has become increasingly deranged, becoming obsessed with obtaining power and becoming King again. Feeling wronged for losing his throne, he comes up with a new plan, one that sees him becoming ruler of Earth. Enlisting the help of an alien army, Loki sets out to take his new kingdom. But Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has other plans. Scared that a day would come when only one hero wouldn't be enough to save the world, he has devised  a plan that would take a group of Earth's mightiest heroes and bring them together as one team. Against the orders of his superiors, he calls upon Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to aid him on his mission. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), learning of his brothers scheme, is quickly sent back to our world to stop him, coming in direct conflict with the team. Egos and belief collide between the team, but they must learn to work together as the world is on the brink of war, or let it fall into the hands of Loki.

That is a very basic synopsis of the movie, because for all intents and purposes, I'm going to try and discuss this movie while staying mostly spoiler free. This may not be an easy feat, but I can try. When Marvel first started working towards making an Avengers movie, I was hesitant to believe it would happen. I mean, this is a massive crossover movie, with so many characters and variables. How do you make that happen? This was one of my favorite comic book series growing up, and one I still regularly read, so of course my expectations were incredibly high. But Marvel quickly found a way to silence any doubt I had in the movie by hiring none other than Joss Whedon to write and direct the film. Whedon is best known for his television work on things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and my personal favorite, Firefly. These shows all had great ensemble casts, and Whedon always found a way to balance every character among the action, and every character got to shine. So hiring him to do The Avengers was one of the best things Marvel could have done. And let me just say, he delivered in spades.

There is not a moment in this movie where I felt that a character was ever under utilized or didn't get to stand out. Having all these characters in a movie like this is a tough balancing act, especially one with this much action, but it works. There is enough smaller character moments and scenes with the characters, it never seems to take a backseat to the action. The dialogue between the characters is really strong as well. Whedon has always been great at that, and it just soars here. He really understands the feelings that these characters have for each other, and he really delves into that. Especially between Stark and Rogers, where we see there is always going to be a rift on how they work and view each other. This is something that comic fans know all too well, and leads to the inevitable Civil War story line.

For those who were worried that this was just going to be Iron Man 3, don't be. This is far from being that way at all. This isn't the Tony Stark show featuring his amazing super friends. This also isn't Captain America 2 or Thor 2. This is really it's own beast. The movie plays strongly off the events of Thor, Captain America, and to a lesser extent Iron Man 2, but this never feels like it's a sequel that focuses only on that. We see Steve dealing with that fact that he is feeling alone in the world, and how hard it is for him to being here now, knowing all his friends are gone. He is a man out of time, trying to make sense of it all. It also deals with the Tesseract cube, as was hinted at in the after credits scene of Thor. We still have the sibling rivalry between Loki and Thor, and we have the budding romance of Pepper and Tony at the beginning of the movie. But then the movie moves away from that and really becomes it's own standalone movie.

Honestly, this movie wouldn't work nearly as well if it wasn't for the amazing cast that they've assembled. Downey, Jr., Evans, and Hemsworth have all proven how great they are as Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor already in their standalone movies, and they just mesh so well together here that you can tell that they loved working together. They're just so good together, and they really bring the dynamics of these characters to life. I really liked Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury this time around, because he's finally playing less of the caricature of himself and really become Nick Fury. He really shows he's the man with the power here, and one who holds the world's safety on his shoulders. It's weighing on him, but he knows it's his job and he'll see it through. And of course, Clark Gregg steals every scene he is in as Agent Phil Coulson, one of the best Marvel players in this whole cinematic universe. He shares some great scenes with Chris Evans, where Coulson's man crush on Steve Rogers begins to show. It's really funny, and sort of nice too. Because it shows, even on the brink of war, these characters are still human, and they have lives outside of this. It's a very humanizing moment for them, and we can relate to it. Cobie Smulders is also very good in her first Marvel film as Agent Maria Hill. She's very good at playing the by the books agent, who really doesn't agree with Fury's idea of this Avengers team. She goes along with it, but she doesn't like it, and questions him time and again. She really holds her own against Jackson in their scenes together, and I can absolutely see why she was chosen for the part.

I really liked Renner as Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow as well. They don't seem nearly as out of place as many may fear, and they're given some great material to work with. And the relationship between the two is very poignant, and really makes them relatable. They're both partners who would always do whatever it took to help the other. But the biggest two standouts for me in this were, once again, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. Hiddleston once again just tears up the screen as Loki, and this time he's more unhinged than he was before. He really plays the broken man who has nothing left to lose very well, and he takes it to a whole new level this time. He is crazed for power, and he'll stop and nothing to become King, no matter what the cost. He is also shares scenes with every character in the movie at one point or another, really trying to play the mischievous and psychological side of Loki that isn't played on much. It's great. But Ruffalo is quite the standout as Bruce Banner, the third actor to get a shot of it on the big screen. Fans who worried that he wouldn't pull it off and that he couldn't replace Norton, cast all those fears aside. Ruffalo IS Bruce Banner. He owns the character in a way that no one has before since Bill Bixby. He was absolutely the right guy for the job, and he brings a very new take on the character to the big screen. Living with this side of himself that he just wants to hide, he has locked himself away from the world, going to the farthest reaches hoping he can run away from it. He's very damaged, but he just wants to help people, and so he does. I hope and pray that Marvel and Feige decide to do a new Hulk film with Ruffalo in the lead, because this is the best version of not only Bruce on screen, but of Hulk as well. This is the Hulk we've been waiting to see. One that just oozes the incredible strength and power, and that could level entire buildings with one leap or punch. He's also much smarter this time around, meaning Hulk is becoming more aware, which is a great angle to play. This is, in my opinion, the best Hulk so far, and they've really done him justice this time around.

Speaking of the action side of the movie, it's completely chock full of it, and it's great! Some were worried that not being shot in scope would hurt it, but it doesn't at all. There is a reason for this. The action is plentiful, and there is a lot of vertical action and big set pieces that actually look better shot this way than they would have in scope. This has the best comic book action of any film I've ever seen. Seriously, Whedon and company went all out, especially over the last half hour of the movie. I know that some feel that the Marvel action movies don't usually have great third act battles, this is the movie you've been waiting for. It's just so massive, and you're going to be blown away by the sheer scale of it. Seeing these characters fighting together was so cool, and my inner geek was freaking out over it. But the last half hour aren't the only action scenes. There is so much action throughout, you'll be on the edge of your seat for a lot of it. This is the best action movie I've seen in years.

One thing I really loved was that Whedon didn't skip on his sense of humor. The movie is genuinely funny in all the right places without feeling out of place or bogged down by it. Whedon has always had a great sense of humor, and his shows and comics were always full of it. It really worked well in this movies favor. I don't want to say too much, because I feel like the best comical moments will work better not knowing about them ahead of time. I'm surprised how none of it has really made itself into the trailer, but that may be because they want to make sure a lot of the stuff stays a surprise. And that's not just the humor. There is so much in the movie that you would have no idea was in the movie because it isn't in the trailer. That's huge for a film of this size, and I'm glad to report that there are plenty of fun and surprises in the movie that you haven't seen, or that have even been hinted at by the trailers. That's very important to me, and it was great to go in and see so much was hidden from us.

The nice thing for fans of the movies up until this point, Whedon has made sure that any loose ends you might have been worried about are covered here. Why doesn't Thor see Jane in the movie? It's dealt with. How does Thor come back to earth? Answered. Where did Loki go after he fell into the nothingness in Thor? Yep, they deal with that as well. There are no loose ends here, which was nice. My only minor nitpick involved Thor coming back to Earth. We're told that Odin used dark power to send him back since the Rainbow Bridge still hasn't been rebuilt and there is no way between the different dimensions now. But the problem is, we're only told about it. I was really hoping the scene would be featured where we see Odin and Thor learn of Loki's evil and see them work together to send Thor back. I can't help but wonder if this was ever filmed or not, because it really seems like something that we should see. Honestly, it's a minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things, because I felt like that was the only part of the movie that really should have been explained.

I liked Alan Silvestri's score in the movie, but it's not his best work. It really does work for the movie though, and I especially enjoyed the music during the final battle. He really did it well. The cinematography is really, really well done though, and it's plenty cinematic and doesn't look like a TV show as many had feared. It really looks great, and the scope and action really feels huge. They did a great job making sure it felt like the other movies, while making it seem bigger and it's own thing at the same time. But it definitely falls into line with how the other movies look and feel. That's one of the best things about these movies, is how consistent they've been across the board and how they really all look and feel similar. As for the 3D, it really didn't add much to the movie for me, but the IMAX did. This is the way to see the movie. Sadly, the only way to see it in IMAX is 3D, so it's a catch 22 of sorts. I really feel that the IMAX made the film more epic than it already was, and it's definitely the way to see the movie.

The Avengers hits all the right notes, and then some, for the fans of the comics, while still being hugely fun and entertaining for movie fans who may not know the comics as well. With an incredible cast that meshes very well across the board, intense action, and very funny as well, while also hitting all the right emotional notes to play on the audiences feelings, the movie just delivers. This is not only what I consider the greatest comic book movie to date, but the most fun as well. After this, it'll be interesting to see how comic book movies will follow. Do they try and top the action and excitement of The Avengers? Time will tell. The Avengers is the absolutely best way for us to start this summer movie season, and I can't wait to see it again. This is an early contender for my favorite movie of the year, and it's safe to say that it really is my favorite comic book film. Whedon and his cast have absolutely knocked it out of the park, and it's going to be huge. Fans and audiences alike are going to love it.

10/10

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