All contents ©2012 Mike Pascale. Visual content ©2012 their respective owner(s).
(note: This review is directly from Mike, Bru-Hed hadn’t gotten the movie reviewer gig quite yet.)
If you read last week’s blog (and I’m sure you did, right?), you know how much I was looking forward to the new AVENGERS flick, while simultaneously hoping it didn’t follow the plot of the original comic book intro in 1963–other than the Detroit connection, which would have been very cool for former Motor City me. (Considering how much of NYC gets trashed, though, I’m glad Motown was spared.)
Pleased to say it lived up to most of my expectations and did not follow the comic book at all, other than using Loki and his manipulation of the Hulk. Whew.
I’ll spare you the dull details and get right to the bullet points.
First, the Positives:
* Whedon is obviously a fan. A big fan. That comes through. There’s some fan inside gags and references for “us” that don’t interfere with non-fans’ enjoyment or understanding. And many setups/poses look just like classic comic panels from great artists.
* Whedon’s script (yes, ONE guy wrote it, though Zak Penn, who wrote the last HULK film, X-MEN: LAST STAND and ELECTRA, shared “story” credit) performed the task of juggling all the main character parts, personalities and screen-time almost perfectly. He had everyone down–Cap was pure honor and became the defacto leader, Iron Man was the self-absorbed smart ass in previous films who became heroic in the clutch, Thor was, well, Thor, Nick Fury was the gruff “My way regardless of orders” type, Loki was “pure evil”, Hulk smashed, and so on.
* Another thing he got right was making use of each characters powers/skills, which isn’t easy considering the WIDE gap in power-Hulk/Thor are to Iron Man what he is to Cap, what Cap is to Black Widow and Hawkeye. But they all did their things.
* The characters did the usual/expected “battle first, team up later” we’ve seen in the comics for 70 years, and bickered entertainingly as in the comics, but Whedon at least gave a good reason and set up so it didn’t seem as contrived as expected.
* This wasn’t my favorite Marvel film, but Top Half Dozen or less. The good thing is, there have been so many excellent Marvel films, it’s hard to rank them after my very favorites.
* As with every individual member’s films, WATCH ALL THE CREDITS. You will be rewarded, even at the very end. One major foreshadow, one “silent but hilarious” moment.
* There’s humor, and it was contributed by every major character (as well as Agent Coulsen, continuing from IRON MAN and THOR). The two funniest scenes involved The Hulk (one short and one “blink and you’ll miss it”, both near the end) and that’s all I’ll say.
* Tom Hiddleston as Loki really, really “got” the whole “super-villain” thing. Notice that the best comic-book/costumed hero films tend to have great villains (Spider-Man 1 and 2, Cap, Thor, X-Men, Dark Knight) and the average/lame ones don’t (Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Ghost Rider). Loki is up there with the best.
* This is my favorite of the CG Hulks. They did him right–keeping Mark Ruffalo’s basic features and expressions was ideal, and his proportions and anatomy looked excellent. He’s still often “rubbery” like most CG characters (including the few CG Captain Americas and others that had to be used in certain scenes), but at least he’s the most believable and true-to-form of the Hulks.
* The Black Widow was well used. Scarlett Johansen wasn’t just her usual callipygian self; her character was truly badass and a worthy teammate. Watch closely near the beginning when she’s tied to a chair! I never saw ANY male character move/escape that way. (Sure, if you did, you’d break your back, but it looked great. Did you see CASINO ROYALE? She makes Bond look like a wimp. Well choreographed too.)
* Her connection with Hawkeye was mysterious but followed the comics overall (at least the older ones I’ve read). Modesto native Jeremy Renner again shows he can do action and act at the same time (as he did in MI: GHOST PROTOCOL and will do in the next BOURNE film).
* I saw it in a packed IMAX theater and it was a blast. Everyone laughed at the right times and the giant screen really enveloped you into the film.
* Ruffalo’s Banner was well-played. Low key but not like Norton’s or Bixby’s tragic intensity (though they’re fantastic in their roles). This one fit the rest of the film better than they would have. He has his tortured soul moments but has some humor too.
* Tony Stark is a BLACK SABBATH fan! Thru most of the film, Robert Downey, Jr. wore a Sabbath T-shirt with the character from their last album/tour with Ozzy, which just so happened to be my first concert way back when. Too friggin’ cool.
* Surprise JACK KIRBY ARTWORK! Look at the trading card scene. And of course, Jack and Joe Simon are credited at the end, as they should.
Now the Negatives:
* Did it really need to say “Marvel’s THE AVENGERS” at the beginning? Looked like a legal department thing. Self-serving and unnecessary. (Show me any other superhero film of any other publisher that does it.)
* The Hulk only says two words (that I could recall). He really needs to do more than just roar and growl. He doesn’t show up till halfway through. But when he does, he makes it worth the wait.
* Didn’t care for the way Hawkeye was used for most of it. (And his outfit.) He deserved better. But his bow and arrows rocked.
* Not happy with the mandatory character death.
* The beginning exposition and outer space thing was hard to decipher and seemed contrived.
* I had no idea what the alien race was called until about two-thirds through; they’re the Chitauri, which I never heard of. Turns out they did appear in the comics in an alternate reality, but this version is its own alternate reality! (Background info here)
* The Cosmic Cube is called “The Tesseract”, another movie invention. Granted, “Cosmic Cube” is corny today, but “Tesseract” sounds more like something you’d have to write to obtain a Ph. D.
* Stan Lee’s cameo was later and smaller than I’d hoped.
* The 3D parts were converted later, and it showed. Several scenes were not 3D at all. If you don’t go IMAX, save your money.
* A couple missed opportunities, either for scenes or great lines. You’ll probably notice.
* The giant alien ship/machine (also seen in the previews) kept reminding me a of a metallic manatee. Weird and funny.
* If New York really suffered that much property damage, they and whatever insurance companies cover the city would go broke! It would take probably a couple years to rebuild everything. Of course it “looked cool”, which is all anyone cares about. [Mike must have forgotten about Damage Control! – Craig]
* Overall a bit on the long side. Could have used more editing.
As you see, the positives far outweighed the negatives. I’m going to see it again with a friend this week, so I’m curious to see what I notice the second time around and if it gets better, worse or stays the same. I’ll let you know. One thing I’ll be doing this time is bringing my small sketch pad (like I did with the second JOHN CARTER viewing) to do quick thumbnails of some of the setups. Whedon’s angles in several scenes are amazing.
As for the well-meaning-but-pointless-and-ineffective “boycott this movie for Kirby’s family’s fight with Disney” thing, I’ll go in depth on that next time. If you want to see the film but feel guilty, donate half your ticket price to the H.E.R.O. Initiative (or the Kirby family’s legal fund if they have one. Feel free to leave a URL in the “Comments” section below if you have it.) It’s much more than the family would have received if they’d won the lawsuit anyway. And you’ll be helping others while having a great two-plus hours of escapist entertainment that will thrill your inner child.
So what did YOU think of the film? Tell me below.
P.S.: If you’d like an original commission of the Avengers or any individual member, I’ll entertain you as well. I promise no smart-ass Tony Stark comments either. Just ask Craig here!