Movie Review: The Avengers

By Michael Vass | May 5, 2012

A few years of hype and build up, Marvel Comics has unleashed the film conversion of the ensemble comicbook The Avengers. The question that faces movie-goers, does it live up to the hype?

Yes and no.

The movie has a decent pacing, starting with a big intro action scene almost immediately. But relatively soon there after things slow down. Alot. Almost a 3rd of the film is plodding along, hinting at bigger moments to come in the film. Its during this time that the real weaknesses of the film are realized.

But before we get to that, what are the key points of the film?

The script is decent, if a bit light on dialogue. There are more than a few plot holes and almost nothing happens that is not telegraphed well in advance. Plus a few scenes are ruined by follow-up scenes that just hammer a point home, in case anyone lost their hearing for huge swaths of the film. Still, overall, this is more than just a film for those with a 6th grade comprehension.

The visuals are really the selling point of the film. Explosions are plentiful and bright. The detail of the bounty of CGI destruction is defined enough to make everyone forget about any of the Transformers films. The lighting and camera work fit well with the settings and the individual character stories.

The sound is crisp and clear. Immersive enough to keep you awake and tuned into the film.

The acting somewhat follows the script. For characters like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), a particularly useless and boring character the wooden acting was well suited. Thankfully we get to see little of Hawkeye through most of the film, and when we do he is generally in brief scenes. The real answer as to how useless this superhero is, comes when he runs out of arrows, in the middle of the critical fight scene.

This is contrasted by the easy and fluid acting for Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). The character feels real, and moves through his many scenes with a credibility that brings a breathe of fresh air. Downey justifies why so much of the film centers on him and his character.

To a lesser degree both Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) are equally reflective of a liveliness to their characters. They never go over-the-top, and bring grounding to the film – especially Captain America. Though both are underused in the film, each gets pivotal scenes that show off their character and why they can be regarded as heroes.

The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is perhaps the most difficult character to peg. She never seems quite at ease. There feels like there is always something more she could do, and yet doesn’t. That she is waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it won’t because she is holding it. Given she is the spy component of the film, and her distrust of everything makes sense, but her commitment to Hawkey just fizzles like a leftover half-thoughtout love interest that not even the writers cared about.

The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is the big winner of the film. This is not the Ang Lee version (thankfully), nor is it the compelling and complicated Ed Norton version. Instead we get a Banner/Hulk that are quite at home with what they are dealt. Banner is always just a hair away from losing it, and the Hulk relishes when he does. Truly most of the best scenes in the whole film are those that involve the Hulk, being mean and green and doing exactly what you expect the Hulk to do.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is similar to Hawkeye. Its a wooden performance for a character that could have been any supervillian in his place. He is a place holder and his scenes are tedious – with a critical exception that again is only gratifying because of the Hulk.

As stated earlier, there are weaknesses to this film. Hawkeye is a big part of that, with Loki being similarly disappointing but to a slightly lesser degree. Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury borders on over-the-top and hamfisted. Captain America never seems to really fulfill his leadership role, nor does he have really gratifying action scenes.

Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson defines commitment in the understated yet endearing manner that we have come to enjoy in all the other Marvel films. Still it was cruel what the writer’s did to the character.

Given these problems, plus the fact that the middle of the film is a massive telegraph so obvious only a person who has never seen a television show or movie would be surprised, the real shock is that the film is worth the price (as long as its not a ticket for a 3D showing). The real world audience that I saw the film with unanimously got the jokes, and cheered the screen. It’s been a long time since I was a film where the enjoyment was universal to such a degree.

The Avengers movie succeeds in making the audience want more. Perhaps there is no better way to quantify getting it right in a film. Especially an action film.

Lastly, do not leave theaters before the lights come on. There is a bonus scene, as you might expect, that foreshadows the next film. The supervillian of the next film may not be familiar to non-comic book fans, but for those that do know who the purple guy is the expectations on the next film have just racheted way up.

Oh, and by the way, there is a second post credit scene. Stark and the others finally get to find out what Shawarma is.


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