Thursday, May 10, 2012

Avengers ASSEMBLE!! A Movie Review...

Years ago, when I heard Marvel's ultimate endgame for the Avengers movie, I thought it was a brilliant move. Give every member of the Avengers their own film to explore their character's own private story so the Avengers film won't be burdened with an overabundance of exposition to cover. It's absolutely brilliant from a movie making standpoint. They get to start over FOUR new film franchises with over FIFTY YEARS of written back story to use. And given Hollywood's new attitude towards comics films (put in quality cast & crew, get quality films), this is essentially a license to print money. I could just see it all.

But knowing the media machine, I also knew that for me to truly enjoy these films I would have to SEVERELY limit my access to all the "hype" behind ALL the films. And so, I stayed away. But, I watched Iron Man 1 & 2, both Hulk films (Norton was my favorite.), Captain America, and Thor. I watched and enjoyed, for the most part, all of them. And yet, with all the groundwork laid down, with all the evidence in front of me, I was still hesitant about The Avengers, and there was reason for it. But all my doubts were washed away within about a minute of the film starting. Within that minute, I knew that the movie was going to be nothing short of awesome. But you get all up in arms, my dear readers, I'm not going to spoil anything of the movie. I'm too much of a comic nerd to do that to you. However, that doesn't mean I can't discuss the film and I'm going to start with the director. 

Joss Whedon is one of my favorite directors. I've seen almost everything he's done. But he was one of my hesitations in this movie because he has a track record of being overridden by the studio execs above him. (Anyone remember Firefly?) Few directors have the clout to retain creative control of the properties they handle. While I had no doubt that he would produce quality work, I was worried that his gem would get carved into a bland mess of quips, one-liners, and cheesy action. And I'm happy to say, I was DEAD WRONG on that. Whedon cut his teeth in television, which from what I hear, is MUCH harder to do than movies. And in most of the shows he's dealt with (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) , he built a world class ensemble cast. And that's what Avengers is at its core: an ENSEMBLE.

Watching the Avengers, I was treated to seeing genuine moments between people who are used to being the only "larger than life" person coming into contact with others at the same level and having to accommodate them in their life. Each one of the Avengers had their moment to shine, dealt with personal issues and evolution, and grew into their place on the team. Think about how difficult that is. To have no less than SIX DIFFERENT MAJOR CHARACTER STORY LINES woven together in a fashion that showcases each and every single one of them without detracting from the others. There are exceedingly few directors I can think of that pull that off while also working moments of genuine humor, pain, romance, and of course, action. And that's just the directing (and the writing. Joss Whedon wrote the film, too!)

Now, about the casting. Given the layout of the Marvel strategy, Whedon was stuck with some no name actors for the Avengers. Especially that Robert Downey Jr., whose ever heard of THAT guy?? But, they managed to pull it together. :-)

Seriously, though, the new idea of having quality actors in comic based movies really paid off with the Avengers. This cast was seriously top notch! At this point, RDJ just needs to stop messing around and legally change his name to Tony Stark. Chris Evans more than made up for his participation in the Fantastic 4 films with Captain America, Chris Hemsworth was believably god-like as Thor. At long last, Jeremy Renner is being given roles that fit his talent, and he showed it off as Hawkeye. Scarlett Johansson was simply DELICIOUS as Black Widow; slick, sexy, calculating. Everything that a sexy soviet spy should be! But the two roles that truly stuck out for me were Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. Yeah that's right, I said it. I LOVED Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.  

Initially, I had my doubts about Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as Bruce Banner. It wasn't that I didn't think he was up to the task, but Norton was my favorite out of all the Bruce Banners in recent years, and I was looking forward to seeing him live it up with the Avengers. I did feel really bad about how Mark Ruffalo was treated by the fans at Comic Con, though, which is what started breaking my fever about Norton not being in the film. However, after watching the movie, I completely agree with Whedon's choice to have Ruffalo in the role. With so many larger than life personalities in one film, there had to be someone who could stand with everyone, and yet be the subtle, subdued one. Frankly, Norton's frantic, frustrated, find-a-cure-at-any-cost version of Banner would never have worked. But, in watching Ruffalo's performance, it felt like he built off of Norton's performance and tempered Banner with an abundance of experience. He came across as a more experienced and more accepting of his "curse". He was still wary of it, but he'd gotten used to it. And that style of calm, level headed (and under-played) experience served as a reprieve to all the intensity brought to the table by the other cast members (read Tony Stark).

Tom Hiddleston is completely different story. While I didn't like Thor as much as the other Marvel films (it felt too emotionally hollow for me), one of the parts I did like was Hiddleston's portrayal of Loki. He didn't really get much screen time in Thor, but more than made up for it in Avengers. There are very few actors that can portray a character with the complexity of Loki and be able to hold their own against EVERY SINGLE OTHER CAST MEMBER IN THE FILM. He was nothing short of astounding. Watching him on film, especially in the one-on-one scenes between Loki & Tony Stark and Loki & Black Widow, you could really tell Hiddleston was relishing the role. And it was so much fun to watch. I am definitely looking forward to seeing him expand the character in Thor 2.

By the way, I do have to mention one other member of the cast, and that is the ever alluring, Scarlett Johansson. In her first appearance as the Black Widow (in Iron Man 2), her performance left a little to be desired. I can definitely see why she was cast in the part. She has the sex appeal, the stormy demeanor, and the cold calculating intelligence that Natasha Romanoff displays in the comics, but her performance was off. In part because she was just a side character in the film, but also because she just didn't have the ability to portray the action in which Ms. Romanoff engages in a believable way. That was completely fixed just in her first scene in The Avengers.Watching her action scenes in this movie, as opposed to Iron Man 2, was like night and day. It looks like Ms. Johansson really worked herself to the bone to be able to perform the action scenes and for me, it paid off beautifully! With all the authority I possess, I hereby give Scarlet Johansson leave to proudly take her place as one of the majorly bad ass women in Hollywood. 

Now, I'm not going to tell you that the Avengers is a complex, mindbending film, because it's not. That was never the point of the Avengers. What I can tell you is that the movie is a two and half hour thrill ride, full of humor, fighting, intensity, and emotion. If you're looking for a action-packed good time, then I wholeheartedly recommend The Avengers. This is a movie that I would actually PAY to see again. Have you seen the movie, my dear readers? If so, sound off in the comments below!

I added the above pic just because I'm in love with Scarlett Johansson and I wanted another pic of her in this post. If you don't like it, sue me! :-)


  1. I agree whole-heartedly with your assessment, Rodney! This movie was awesome, MR was perfect as Banner. I enjoyed this so much that I'm planning on watching it a second and third time this weekend. Damn!

    Oh, and very nicely written blog post. It's about time you learned to utilize pics within your writing. Makes it far more visually appealing instead of just one pic at the top and a wall of text on the bottom, eh? :)

    1. Thank you, David. It's not really a matter of learning to utilize the pics. It's the trouble of finding pics that work within the context of what I'm saying in the post. Avengers just made it easier.

      Wow, you're planning on watching it THREE TIMES in the theaters? That is truly high praise! If I could afford it, I would too. And I hope all those fans who booed MR at Comic-Con are feeling horrible for putting him through that!

    2. I loved the movie (obviously) and I loved reading your review. We definitely think alike! Nerd power! :)

    3. NERD POWER!!! Thanks for reading, Jessi!

  2. this i have read over 3 times in the past week.....i am sorely saddened though. while i saw this movie 3 times, there was one time where i swear to god, i couldnt actually bear to see it. it was when i saw the movie in 3D. not because i wanted to, but because the group i saw it with, the whole group wanted to see it in 3D. aside from one, maybe 2, parts, i didnt feel a need for the 3D specs. i swear, Rodney, this review makes me feel better about actually seeing the movie in such a sad, painful way. but, i still enjoyed it. this movie ROCKS!!!! do you know if its out on DVD yet????