Review: “Avengers” is a superhero smash!

May 4th, 2012 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment

If you know who Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Incredible Hulk are… then you’re already watching “The Avengers” at a midnight showing or have tickets for opening weekend… and you WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED because this movie is everything you’d expect and hope for… and more!

For those of you who aren’t the diehard comic book/superhero fans… there’s a lot to enjoy, even if you haven’t been waiting decades to finally see The Avengers together on the big screen.

A small warning to parents: the movie is rated PG-13, so be careful bringing kids under 10… there is a lot of action, fighting, and some scary images.  But if you’re young at heart and have loved these characters since you were a kid… get ready for an awesome adventure.

"Avengers" poster courtesy Marvel Studios and Disney Studios

(My spoiler-free review)

I always put the “spoiler-free” disclaimer in my reviews, but here’s why its more important this week: everyone who wants to see the movie wants to know as much as possible… without learning too much.  And I get it…. its how I felt with the Star Wars prequels… I watched and analyzed every trailer… read all the “scoops” online.  But  when I saw the movie… I was a let down, partly because I knew too much.. its wasn’t as exciting as seeing it for the first time.

So here it goes, my thoughts for those of you who have been waiting for this moment since “Iron Man” hit theaters in May 2008 or since September 1963 when the Avengers first appeared together in comic books…. and even for those who want to know what everyone will be talking about on Monday….

What a team this is… not just the characters and the cast, but the writer/director Joss Whedon and the huge crew he’s assembled from writers to cinematographers to editors to the gigantic group of people working special effects (*see credits later*).

Whedon has handled this highly anticipated fanboy film with care and with all the love of someone who is a fan, both of the characters and the Marvel “Avengers” movies leading up to this point: “Iron Man” (2008), “The Incredible Hulk” (2008), “Iron Man 2″ (2010), “Thor” (2011), and “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011).

Sure there is a ton of action, just what you’d expect and hope from this franchise, including more of the characters in action than we’ve seen in most of the movies… but we also get character development.  Character development is something that I complain about all the time, especially in the big budget blockbusters, so much screen time and money (possibly because of budget demands) is often focused on the special effects.  Not here, in “The Avengers”, the special effects and the 3D enhance the movie, they don’t make it.  Remember the loud clanging and explosions of “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” ?  “The Avengers” is NOT that movie… this movie gets it right.  Whedon takes the Star Wars model of having big action sequences but constantly cutting back to different characters within the action scenes to keep us connected… it humanizes and puts a “face” on the action… it reminds us of who is doing what in the scenes… unlike the aforementioned Transformers 3 when we could barely tell the robots apart in the big action sequences.

The writing is sharp all the way through from the dialogue to the humor that everyone can enjoy and the in-jokes that comic book/superhero fans will love.  Keeping with the humor of the other Marvel movies, Whedon’s script keeps the world-on-the-brink going but adds the jokes to keep it light and not so ominous for the kids in the audience.

“The Avengers” villain – Loki (Thor’s brother) – is scary, not quite Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight” (2008) or Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull in “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)… but Tom Hiddleston is imposing and evil… and a clear threat to Earth’s safety.

Johnasson, Hemsworth, Evans, Renner, Downey, Jr, and Ruffalo in "Avengers" photo courtesy Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios

And that’s why Tony Stark (Iron Man) is back, played brilliantly again by Robert Downey, Jr. with all his snark and charm that we loved in the first film.  He’s joined, not so easily with Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who excels despite previously playing Johnny Storm in Marvel’s not-overly-popular 2005 movie “Fantastic Four”.  Evans embraces and portrays everything that ol’ Cap is about: bravery, leadership, wholesomeness, patriotism and brings it to the screen as a tough guy with heart.  Chris Hemsworth is also back again as Thor, the old English speaking demi-god from another universe… Hemsworth is Thor… both in look and speech, but also in his mannerisms and spirit… he also has more depth and flaws this time, make him more accessible to the average moviegoer.  The new actor to this previously established team of well known superheroes is Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, the mild mannered scientist, who because of a lab accident, will turn into the big green monster known as the Hulk when he gets angry.  For decades, I’ve seen actors try to pull off the Banner/Hulk thing: I watched Bill Bixby in the 1980s, Eric Bana in 2003, and Edward Norton in 2008… Norton may have got the closest, but it wasn’t a homerun.  Ruffalo’s turn as Banner and the motion-capture technology used for him to become a CGI Hulk is a grandslam – the best we’ve seen.  Surely enough on its own merits to warrant seeing Ruffalo again as Hulk/Dr. Banner in his own movie and future Marvel sequels (such as Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, Avengers 2, and possibly Thor 2).

So how can you get all four of these characters on the screen with character development and not let anyone down, or takeaway screen time?

Robert Downey, Jr and Chris Evans in "Avengers" photo courtesy Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios

Do exactly what Whedon did.  Each of our main characters gets their own introduction in different and clever ways: first we meet the marksman “Hawkeye” (cameo in “Thor”) played by gifted actor Jeremy Renner, then its the assassin “Black Widow” (supporting role in “Iron Man 2″) played by Scarlett Johansson – who kicks butt with the rest of the guys, then its Dr. Banner, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor.  While this might be a very minor spoiler, the point is – everyone gets their own entrance… and throughout the movie they share the screen and the dialogue, although the Hulk gets three of the best moments in the movie – the best one had me laughing so hard, tears came to my eyes!!!!

Unlike the other movies that featured sidebar stories or extra scenes (*again see note about credits below*) with S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) or Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), the worldwide security organization is front and center this time.  All along the way the heroes of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. like Hawkeye and Black Widow are celebrated but then personalized – given depth and strength of character – its through this great character development that we get the real people underneath the superhero exterior.

*Many of us have gotten used to extra scenes at the end of the credits* of these Marvel movies, and “The Avengers” is no different… but this time you get the extra scene DURING the credits, not all the way at the end (unless our screening was different).  So while I always encourage waiting until the credits are finished, if you drank 32oz of liquid during the 2 hour and 22 minute movie, you would be safe to leave AFTER the extra scene that’s a couple minutes into the end credits.

I will have to discuss that extra scene and other potential spoiler items on my Laff at the Movies Facebook page/ or via Twitter  because I don’t want to spoil it here for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

In the careful hands of Joss Whedon, this $220 million budget succeeds because of his understanding of the history behind this franchise and the entire project not taking itself too seriously – it was clear from beginning to end that the actors had fun making the movie… because we sure had fun watching it.

“The Avengers” is the best comic book/superhero movie yet, it is a fanboys dream come true…. the can’t miss action movie of summer!  I give it 9.5 out of 10… its the movie that best resembles a comic book or cartoon.  Whether its 2D, 3D or IMAX, if you’re a fan, immerse yourself in it… for all the times I’ve said save your money and see it in 2D, this is the time to shell out a few more bucks.  The quality and the length of the movie alone make it the best value for your movie dollars.

Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson in "Avengers" photo courtesy Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios

“The Avengers”

(2012) (rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference)
(2 hrs, 22 min)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Dr.   Bruce Banner/The Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Powers Boothe

Director: Joss Whedon

Writers: Joss Whedon/ Zak Penn

Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi

The Plot: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

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“The Avengers” poster and photos courtesy Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Laff at the Movies

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One Response to “Review: “Avengers” is a superhero smash!”

  1. Dan says:

    Took my son and his friends to see this Movie! I was quite impressed! Excellent story line and great acting, too. Many times, for movies like this, they’ll spend all the money on the special effects and the characters will be not very well thought. Excellent characters and acting in this Avengers movie!

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