Monday, May 7, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers

Lord, I hate the "Marvel's" in that title. It typifies much of what troubles me about Marvel's film output. The characters, rather than creative engines, are now commercial money-machines. A situation that I can only see continuing with the ownership by the Disney overlords....

That said, somehow, despite their tight-fisted ways, Marvel has managed to rope truly talented people into their motion picture factory. Artists who are able to work within the company's rather rigid commercial framework and generate truly entertaining material. Perhaps Kevin Feige and his team have learned from the Iron Man 2 stumble, wherein building the shared "Marvel Movie Universe," and laying the groundwork for Marvel's The Avengers, basically overwhelmed the movie.

That's a macro view of the situation, honestly, and sounds much harsher than I mean it. Ultimately, The Avengers is a film that shouldn't really exist, yet it does. Joss Whedon shouldn't be directing a HUGE tent-pole summer blockbuster, but he did. Truth to tell, the film shouldn't be any good. Robert Downey Jr's star power should've overwhelmed the rest of the cast. The Hulk hasn't REALLY worked twice before on film. Too many characters, etc.

But it does. Marvel's The Avengers does work. Like gangbusters.

The film has a spark and energy that is very hard to deny, the performances are all winners, except Samuel L. Jackson,. who, once again, just kind of puts on his "badass" face and wanders around. I was particularly worried that Downey would just bulldoze the rest of the cast, and Whedon's comments about downey's first words to him being "now you know Tony has to drive this thing, right?" didn't ally that fear.  While Stark does still end up pretty central to the proceedings, the rest of the cast wisely realizes that the best defense is to not even run with him. Chris Evans once again is letter-perfect as Steve "Captain America" Rogers, and Chris Hemsworth is possibly even more winning as Thor than he was in his own film. Scarlett Johanssen finally comes into her own as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner is fine as Clint "Hawkeye" Barton (although the man is a HORRIBLE bowman).

The real winner in this team, aside from Whedon, is Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, and, for the first time, The Hulk himself. It's no exaggeration to say that the Hulk steals the whole show. Ruffalo's low-key performance just brings the ball home. If there is truth to the rumors that the popularity of the Hulk (and his merchandise - More of that "Marvel's" attitude) may lead to another attempt at a film, you've finally got the star to make it work.

There are things that don't work. I don't think there's any spoiler in saying that an alien invasion occurs, arranged by Thor's adopted brother Loki (the marvelous Tom Hiddleston - a bravura turn). The Chitauri are faceless, bland, and ultimately not all that threatening. Oh, yeah, they cause lots of spectacular destruction and mess, but when you see them getting taken down left and right by a guy with a bow and arrow, and a gal with a couple of semi-auto kinda undercuts the threat. Plus, they have ZERO personality. No one seems in charge of what they're doing. Loki doesn't seem like he's commanding the attack. I'd have liked a 3rd act threat that didn't feel like a part of a mass. Perhaps a Chitauri general for Captain America to engage one-on-one?

It's a minor quibble. One that really only came to me after I saw the film a second time. Joss keeps the action fast a furious, and the one-liners flying. It's all so well executed and full of pep that you just have to let the few weak points slide. Marvel's The Avengers is a rousing start to the Summer movie season, and just a ton of fun.

Well worth your time and money, but I can safely say, having seen it both 3-D and 2-D, that 3-D adds nothing to the experience. Save the $5, and don't worry about it. It's no Avatar or Hugo, where the 3-D works wonderfully, and adds to the film.

1 comment:

  1. I liked it better with its original title, "The Avengers of Mars."