Z Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Frickn Loved Marvel’s The Avengers
The thing with Marvel’s The Avengers, directed by Joss Whedon, is that it has had one of the most genius and expensive marketing campaigns in the history of movie-marketing in the form of Iron Man I & II, Thor, First Avenger : Captain America and the Hulk movies that preceded it. Most of the modern world has heard of this film in one form or another resulting in an environment where some really want to see it and some really, really, really want to see it.
With such a long build-up, the inevitable first question that is on everyone’s lips – Does it deliver?
The answer is a resounding yes.
It would be a huge mistake to treat this as a stand-alone film. It has been crafted just like the comics it is based on was crafted. Each individual character lived in its own world and when it was time, they joined together to create a wild, weird and wonderful universe.
And that is why it works so well.
There are things you would never expect, things that you had always hoped for and things that are just so awesome that you have to quite literally see it to believe it. (A particular scene where Hulk and Loki meet for the first time comes to mind).
When dealing with the monumental task of bringing characters such as The Avengers to life, you have to serve many masters. It being a comic book, first and foremost you have to please the legions of comic-book nerds who grew up with heroes created by the legendary Stan Lee. They wield a ton of power these days as they have heavy presences in all the online spaces – social, blog, conversation – and can make or break a film with a simple tweet or a favourable review. The second group are made up of folks who don’t really know much about the backstory and are there to be entertained. They know that this is a good old fashion rock-em sock-em action film with 4 or 5 acts building up to an epic climax of mega-blockbuster proportions.
The third group of folks just can’t be pleased. They will pick apart the writing, worry about plot points, try to dissuade by focusing on some trivial reason why the movie wasn’t good (going to extremes) and quite frankly looking bad doing it. These are a very small group of folks – both literally and figuratively – and should be ignored as this movie is not made for them, it is made for the first two groups.
But that is ok, because there is plenty of us to go around. And with the box office numbers tracking the way they are coupled with the avalanche of positive reviews from some of the smartest folks in the game, I guess the proof is in the pudding.
Whedon has done a brilliant job of capturing those moments we have been waiting for, (the introduction of the SHIELD HQ comes to mind). What started out as a nearly impossible task of bringing together characters with such a storied past and the stars that portray them, has turned into a loving homage to a bygone era when we believed the impossible because every week the story continued.
The fact is that this is not just a great movie, it is a fantastic piece of storytelling that has perfectly done its job of carrying forth the experience one gets when reading a comic. It is a well-crafted film that does all of the heavy lifting one does in this type of action movie to bring us the boom we crave and that iconic films give us, while also providing a story that suspends just enough belief to craft a tale that leaves us wanting much, much more.
There a few reasons it works so well. Technically, the movie is made with such a precision that when you do notice the little things, you are in awe. Firstly, a huge chunk of it is filmed like a graphic novel is drawn. Shots were framed like they were drawn in a comic, dialogue was executed in this manner as well where words took a back seat at times to ensure that the visual was just right. And that is the main reason that the nerds will quite literally lose their minds about this film.
Just because I just finished congratulating the film on sticking to its comic roots, doesn’t mean that the filmmaking lets the action and the fighting sequences down. Not only does Joss Whedon do a masterful job of capturing a battle as epic as only The Avengers can fight, he does it with such grace and patience, letting the story and the action around it unfold without cutting away from a shot too soon. Building a connection with the characters in a way that is not seen since the 80’s over the top action films. Long leading shots of Iron Man that stay on him as he flys across a battle scene for what seem like minutes are anchored only by the best of the best sweeping shots – that one shot just before the final battle where the camera does a 360 around all the characters just before they go off to save the day – simply stunning.
All of this is anchored by some pretty great acting led by the always charismatic Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man kicks ass, takes names and then really steps up when needed. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth did great jobs as Captain America and Thor, respectively. Nothing really to focus on without spoiling the film so I will move on.
In what was a nice surprise, Scarlett Johansson breaths new life into her character The Black Widow. Not the strongest story arc in the comics, with Whedon crafting yet another strong female character, all of sudden you are left wanting a stand-alone film for her character, maybe an origin story. The same can be said of Jeremy Renner and his portrayal of Hawkeye. Not one of the strongest characters in the Marvel Universe, it is great to see him play a major role in the film and do such a great job with it.
And then there is the Hulk.
I wouldn’t be able to speak on the action of the film if I didn’t include this sleeper hero who has risen to the top of our collective minds and dug a special place in our hearts. It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to state that he pretty much stole the show. He wasn’t in it for much, but when he was, man did he bring it. His alter ego Bruce Banner was played by Mark Ruffalo and it was a revelation. I firmly believe that the reason that the Hulk is receiving so much love is because of Ruffalo’s portrayal of Banner.
The S.H.I.E.LD. side of things fit well into the film with Samuel L. Jackson being Nick Fury as only he can, (and truth be told, we love him in the role so keep them coming). Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson as always brings that level of gravitas needed when working with Fury. Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill gets a big boost of the Whedon magic. Her role, which by all intents and purposes, is to get things done for Fury however, instead of it being a throw away, it ends being one of the main anchors in the S.H.I.E.LD. universe.
I would remiss in my duties as a film reviewer if I didn’t speak on Tom Hiddleston’s delicious portrayal of the bad guy in the film Loki. He plays him with such relish that it is such a joy to watch. It was surprising when Loki was announced to be the bad guy in The Avengers. Any question as to would it work were quickly quieted in large part due to Hiddleston’s performance. Here’s hoping he will back.
When it comes down to it, the movie did exactly what was supposed to do. It met the lofty expectations that were set when it was announced. It proved that this many characters in a movie could work well. Disney is now a bonafide marketing machine (mind you I would imagine that most of the credit goes to Kevin Fiege, the head of Marvel).
Most importantly, it entertained in a good old-fashioned manner that has been missing in movies for a very long time.And like Agent Coulson says in the movie :
“Sometimes old-fashioned is what we need.”