The Avengers

"We have a Hulk."

I'll get right to the point; I loved it. I absolutely freaking loved it. And that is me being restrained. And by restrained I mean with actual restraints. I am actually dictating this to a friend while I'm strapped down like Hannibal Lecter. It is too dangerous to let me anywhere near a keyboard right now. Everything I write will just be a mass of overly excited hyperbole gibberish.

A film like The Avengers just shouldn't work. As it was in the comics, this is a film that sees Earth's Mightiest Heroes coming together to stop Thor's mad brother Loki from taking over the world. With so many famous heroes battling it out for screentime, The Avengers should collapse under its own weight before the title has even popped up on screen. But, against all the odds, it works and works beautifully. And a lot of this can be attributed to the hard work of one man, Joss Whedon.

Oh, Joss Whedon. How do I describe Joss Whedon? Joss Whedon is flawless. I hear what's left of his hair's insured for $10,000. I hear he does car commercials... in Japan. His favourite movie is Night of the Comet. One time he met Steven Moffat on a plane...and he told him that he broke fans' hearts without mercy. One time he plunged his fist into my chest, ripped out my heart, stomped on it for a total of four series and one movie, then gave it back to me and charged me for the experience. It was awesome.

The Avengers is unquestionably the biggest endeavour Whedon has ever embarked upon. Can he handle it? Of course he can. He might not have an extensive background in summer blockbusters, but any Buffy fan can tell you that he's a skilled director and an even better writer with a great gift for character and dialogue. He might not have created them but Whedon clearly understands each and every one of these characters. Because of this, some of the film's best moments end up just being people in a room bonding and bickering with each other. Whedon also makes great use of his entire cast. He understand that this is an ensemble piece and takes care to ensure that no one hero is given precedence over everyone else. Everyone is given their moment to shine.

That said, Robert Downey Jr. still swaggers off with every scene he's in and nabs most (but not all) of the film's best lines. Luckily, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are both able to hold their own against the onslaught of Downey Jr. charisma. As Loki, Tom Hiddleston is clearly having a lot of fun without once resorting to hammy scenery chewing. He also gets bonus points for pulling off Loki's distinctive headgear. Mark Ruffalo does a fantastic job taking over from Edward Norton, giving us a terrific Bruce Banner. Better yet, the CGI department finally delivers when it comes to his big green alter-ego. Along with looking like Ruffalo, this Hulk manages to steal the whole film. I won't say how because that would spoil the surprise.

On the S.H.I.E.L.D. side of things, Samuel L. Jackson is Samuel L. Jackson. Nuff said. Clark Gregg continues to expertly steal scenes as the deadpan Agent Phil Coulson, revealed here to be a massive Captain America fanboy (nice one, Joss). Cobie Smulders impresses as Maria Hill, despite being given little to do. After being a little one note in Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow benefits the most from Whedon's involvement. There was no way he was going to have a kick-ass female character in his movie and not give her some personality and depth.

The Avengers succeeds where other superhero movies have failed by delivering one hell of a final act. Let's face it, as much fun as it is seeing these characters arguing and bonding with each other, what we really want to see is them kicking alien ass. We've never seen superhero action on this kind of epic scale before. All throughout the team's big battle with Loki's army in Manhattan I had a massive grin on my face and constantly had to resist urge to start jumping around the cinema cheering like a total loon.

Faults? Some of the CGI is a little iffy in places. Alan Silvestri's score is just as forgettable as every one he's done since Back to the Future. And Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye is seriously underused for first half of the film. But those are still minor quibbles. Bottom line, The Avengers is one of the most purely enjoyable experiences I have had at the cinema in a very long time.

Notes and Quotes

— While Iron Man, Cap, Thor and Hulk are close to how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby envisaged them, the rest of the film owes a massive debt to Mark Miller and Bryan Hitch's Ultimates series (still the best thing to come out of Marvel's Ultimate line).

— In The Ultimates, Miller and Hitch re-imagined Nick Fury and based him on Samuel L. Jackson.

— If you're willing, stick through the end credits to find out who the Avengers might be facing next. Many of you will be excited, even more of you will have no idea who those other people are talking about.

— The aliens in Loki's army are called the Chitauri, which is the name of the Skrulls in Marvel's Ultimate Universe. So they are basically Skrulls.

The Avengers is the culmination of five films worth of set up. So be warned, if you haven't seen any of the previous Marvel films, then chances are you'll be a little confused.

— Whedon vets Alexis Denisof, Ashley Johnson and Enver Gjokaj all put in appearances. Have fun spotting them. There are also cameos from the likes of Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, the great Harry Dean Stanton and, of course, Stan Lee.

Nick Fury: “There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could.”

Bruce Banner: “Last time I was in New York I kind of broke... Harlem.”

Tony Stark: “There is no throne, there is no version of this where you come out on top! Maybe your army will come, maybe it's too much for us, but it's all on you! Because if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we'll avenge it!”

Steve Rogers: “Big man, in a suit of armour... take that away, what are you?”
Tony Stark: “Uh... genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.”

Steve Rogers: “Hulk? Smash!”

Thor: “Be careful how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he's of Asgard and he's my brother.”
Black Widow: “He killed 80 people in 2 days.”
Thor: “...He's adopted.”

Michael Bay, please take note, this is what you get when you don't sacrifice character and story for lots of stuff blowing up. Four out of four Hulks who smash and smash good!
---
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.

26 comments:

Tiffany said...

Sooooo glad to hear this! I want to see Chris Hemsworth as Thor in many, many more sequels. ;)

Miss Courtney said...

Squeak! I stopped reading at Joss Whedon, because that's all I need to know! My son is dying to see this, so I'll read the rest of your review after we see it.

CrazyCris said...

Great review! Worthy of the film itself! :o)

I'm trying to find the words to put together my own little post on my blog... but I think I'll just point everyone this way! You're much better at pointing out the good points and the flaws without spoiling anything than I am! That and I was wondering whether I should risk "translating" some of the phrases I liked (I had to see it in Spanish *sigh*)

You're totally right about Tony Stark walking away with the best lines, he's my favourite of the bunch and Downey Jr can definitely deliver! Was also really impressed with Scarlett Johansson! I usually don't really like her as an actress, but now and again she surprised me... case in point here! And yeah, we have the wonderful Joss to thank for that! This is Buffy in the Avengers! :D

I stayed 'till the very end of the credits hoping for another bonus scene (the one you mentioned is about halfway in), but nada. And nope, I had no idea who those guys talking were! Perhaps once enough time has gone by to not spoil readers, you could enlighten those of us unfamiliar with the comics? pretty please?

I don't see how they can top this in a sequel since -as you said- some of the best character moments come from squabbling and team building (and you can't repeat that). But if they do go the sequel route, please Hollywood gods entrust it to Joss Whedon again!!!

CrazyCris said...

Damn! The only cameo I spotted was Stan Lee! :s Where/Who were the others???

J.D. Balthazar said...

You non American folk might have gotten it early, but we get the extra scene after the credits :P

That btw was my totally non-jealous (snort) attempt at trying to find something cool about having to wait while it seems everyone else in the world gets to see this movie first :(

But thank you Mark for the great review, I had a feeling this was gonna be something special. It's nice to have that confirmed in the most unspoilery way manageable.

Do you want me to fill you guys in on that extra scene? I'm gonna see it tomorrow.

CrazyCris said...

Yes please! If there is in fact a second extra scene! ;o)

(plus... allow us a few seconds to gloat on getting it first, since most of the time we have to wait -sometimes months!- for movies to cross the Atlantic!) :p

Paul Kelly said...

Who's have ever thought we'd see an ensemble film where the Hulk steals the show? Awesome film! Awesome review of it too, Mark.

danielcw said...

I agree wholeheartly with everything said in the review, from love to Hulk Smash!

But Silvestri has done memorable scores after Back To The Future, like Forest Gump, Mummy Returns or Van Helsing

CrazyCris said...

Just wanted to link you up to my take on the film (in case anyone was interested in another positive opinion):
http://crazycrishereandthere.blogspot.com.es/2012/05/movie-madness-avengers-rule.html
;o)

Ladypeyton said...

I think you meant Skrulls, not Skulls, but otherwise very exciting review! I can't wait until this afternoon when we''re going to go see it!

Anonymous said...

Hi.
Great review. Can't wait to see this. It's going to do really well and get at least one sequel. Hopefully with Joss on board.
Anna

onanymous said...

Hulk? Smash!

Just came back from watching it, and I absolutely loved it!

Tony Stark is still my favourite - he does get most of the best lines and Robert Downey Jr just nails it.

That said, I was really surprised at how much I liked the Hulk. It really felt like Mark Ruffalo has been a part of this universe as long as any of the others and to finally get a Hulk that actually looks like Bruce Banner is just icing on the cake.

The "puny god" scene had me laughing out loud for at least 5 minutes afterwards.

We also stayed to see if there was another stinger right at the end of the credits, but no such luck.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Just got back from seeing it, and it was really fabulous. I loved the attention to detail, the great characterizations (even if it didn't have much by way of character growth), and the stunning third act. The Hulk was awesome, but I was surprised at how much of an ensemble this was. No one really shined so brightly that the rest were cast aside. I can't think of another movie with an ensemble and this level of action that has accomplished that.

Oh, to answer the question about the extra scene after the credits, you didn't miss anything important but it was still a lot of fun.

Spoiler Space....

For those that have seen the film, remember when Tony mentioned going for food? Well that's the scene. The group sitting around a table in a bombed out restaurant eating together and looking rather shell-shocked.

Mark said...

Stark may have had the most best lines, but Thor had the best line (which you quoted). Having Joss write and direct insured that the timing of that line was pitch perfect.

Anonymous said...

Loved it. I wish there was something more that I could say but after spending the last three hours talking my wife's ears off about this movie (apparently she was sitting right next to me in the theater)I am not sure if anything I say can make sense anymore. I have read comics for the last 25 years of my life, seen all the movies leading up to this and also thought the Ultimates version of the Avengers to be the best. But strangely enough, and despite my fanboy drool making puddles on the floor, tonight I am happiest for Joss Whedon pulling off what no one (including myself) thought possible: a superhero movie with big actors,big action, bid effects, which was actually a good movie. A Great movie actually. Maybe now he'll get the recognition he has long deserved.

Nick said...

Super entertaining as it was, what I'm *really* looking forward to is Avengers 2 - now that they've got the initial get-together sequence and build-up out of the way, imagine how fast they could dive into the good stuff with a sequel!

This was a great movie with absolutely fantastic dialogue, interactions and characterisations. Oddly to me it's slightly underwhelming in the action department - it was epic but not in a very memorable way, so hopefully for the sequel they'll bring in Joss Whedon again along with someone to help in the action department.

Seriously, imagine...keep the great dialogue and characters, but cut out the lots of (necessary, admittedly) exposition at the start, and take out the fodder aliens in favour of a more original, epic plot - Avengers 2 could be even more awesome :)

Mark Greig said...

Thanks, Ladypeyton.

If you've seen the film and have no idea who was in the mid-credits scene but really want to know just click here.

migmit said...

In the beginning, when a huge crater appeared in place of the government facility, I was fighting the urge to stand up and shout "Sunnydale forever!"

Kathy said...

Seen it twice. I'm already counting the days to own it on DVD. Even my best friend, who doesn't collect movies like I do, said that this is a must have for her as well.

Kat

Josie Kafka said...

I loved it! I'd heard to so many good things that I was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype, but it absolutely did.

Thanks again, Joss!

Billie Doux said...

Finally saw it. This is so not my genre, but I think Joss Whedon made the absolute best possible movie with the ingredients he was given, and gave it the inimitable Whedon flair. Excellent characterization, wonderful dialogue, and the sort of action scenes that he probably always imagined but could never actually do before now.

Wonderful review, Mark. You really nailed it. The only thing I didn't like about this movie was the score.

Mark Greig said...

Happy to hear you enjoyed it, Billie. Whedon managed to pull of that rare trick of making a big budget franchise film that even non-comic fans could enjoy. I just hope for Avengers 2 he hires someone else to compose the score.

Josie Kafka said...

Just watched it again for Joss's commentary. It's not his best commentary (that award goes to the Firefly episode "Objects in Space"), but it's very interesting.

It's also odd. Joss usually sounds so confident--not arrogant, but sure of himself and what he's doing (even if he's self-deprecating). He alludes to critics, defends himself, and gives credit to everyone but himself. This may sound absurd, but I hope he realizes what a good job he has done.

Has anyone else watched the commentary and felt like Joss wasn't his usual Jossy self?

sunbunny said...

Josie - The main reason I watched this was for the commentary. Who doesn't love listening to Joss Whedon talk for two hours? No one. He's a genius. I think he was just overwhelmed with the scale and the success of the movie. Summer blockbusters aren't exactly his usual thing. Plus he must have known he was speaking to a wider audience than usual. I loved that he used the word flobatnum (sp?) but didn't explain what that meant. It was like a little reward for those of us who have listened to every single commentary he's ever done.

Katherine said...

I read this review while watching the DVD with my children. I love how the reviewer and the commenters were able to convey that there was such pleasure to be had from the Hulk without spoiling the scene of the Hulk and Gollum’s fish.

At that point we had to pause the movie because we were laughing so hard we could not take in any new information.

Also the suggestion to watch through the credits was rewarded when it was followed.

Thank you.

Katherine said...

Billie, Billie, Billie!! I got a visual reference without anyone holding my hand and now I wish a pat on my head!! ;-)

My family watched the Mission Marvel/Phineas and Ferb (Aunt May Phineas and Ferb are making a cross over!) and Hulk had an unexplained, uncommented on fish in his hand for a fight sequence.

Total visual validation.