Saturday, June 9, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers - Movie Review

Although the official start of Summer isn't for another couple of weeks, the Summer movie season is well underway with some major blockbuster releases and some major duds, too! I'll admit I don't frequent the cineplex as often as I used to, for the past several years I could count the number of films I watched in theaters on one hand. However, if there is a time of year that is sure to get me into the movie theater, it's Summer and I think that's true for many filmgoers.

I won't bother with a full review of the movies, but just share my thoughts and my overall opinion of a flick. I hate it when someone ruins a film by giving away plotpoints or specific reveals, so I'll avoid doing that as best I can. So let's kick things off with the Summer's biggest movie so far, The Avengers!

A quick side note- I'm not a fan of 3D films, so I avoid them as much as possible. There have been a couple of films I've watched during the 3D craze of the past few years that I've enjoyed (Avatar and Thor), but I prefer to sit in a theater and watch a movie without having to wear bulky glasses for two and a half hours. The other issues I have with most 3D movies are the reduced clarity and the cheesy effect of throwing objects at the viewers face. That's best reserved for theme park rides, in my honest opinion.

I wasn't there on opening night (May 4th, here in the US), but I caught The Avengers the following Wednesday. Okay, at this point is it even possible to spoil this film for anyone? If you haven't seen it by now, odds are you're not interested in ever seeing it, so I will speak freely and openly about anything that happened in the movie. I really liked the film. It was very enjoyable. It hit pretty much every beat it needed to without dumbing itself down, or genericizing itself too much for the non-geek fans. Hell, Samuel L. Jackson managed to not "Pulp Fiction" his role as Nick Fury (which was also true of his appearance in Iron Man 2).

Let me share what I didn't like about the film first. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye was a massive letdown for me. I understand his character was brainwashed by Loki for most of the film and that kind of counted against him, but it seems he wasn't too sure on how to approach the character and make it his own. What we ended up with was a generic, "cocky bastard"-type that I feel would have made for a better death than Agent Coulson, who was really great in this one. However, I think Renner can redeem himself in a future role, be it "Avengers 2" or a standalone "S.H.I.E.L.D." movie.

Another character I disliked was Maria Hill. Similar to Jeremy Renner's interpretation of Hawkeye, Cobie Smulders played her too serious and one-dimensional. Also, the fact that she questioned Nick Fury at the beginning of the film contradicted her character! She could have easily been shot by Loki/Hawkeye/alien invader and/or smashed by the Hulk and the movie would have kept on going just fine. I won't miss her if she doesn't appear in the sequel.

My biggest issue with the film, however, was Captain America's redesigned helmet. It was truly distracting for me. The revised costume didn't look bad and actually seemed like a nice "modernization" of the uniform he wore in his solo film last year. But that helmet looked horrible! When he wore it, it actually made the rest of the uniform suufer because it gave me the impression of low-budget superhero costuming, the type usually associated with TV movies and straight to DVD releases. I preferred the scenes were he lost the helmet.

There was a lot to like about the film, so I'll go over what I LOVED about it. Hulk was awesome. I think that surprised most fans. His solo film (yes, "film". I don't count that horrid Ang Lee movie) was mediocre at best and many fans didn't know what to expect from Mark Ruffalo, but he turned out to be a highlight for many including myself. Iron Man was great, a bit of a spotlight hog, but Robert Downey Jr. seems to have a great time in this role and seemed really comfortable for his third outing as Tony Stark/Iron Man.

I truly enjoyed the dynamic between Cap, Iron Man & Thor. Chris Hemsworth is just great as the "God of Thunder" and the mini-battle between he and IM was lots of fun to watch on the big screen. In all, I think that's the best word
to describe Avengers: fun. I actually didn't have high expectations for the movie and to be honest I don't think it's the best comic book movie of all-time, but it worked within the confines of what it was. I was most surprised by Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He was really excellent and surpassed his role in Thor which I felt was overly-dramatic at times.

I liked the movie enough to finally give Hasbro some money for 3 3/4" action figures (that and the great "Avengers" reviews Ewan's written over the past couple of months). I managed to assemble the whole team (minus Hulk, that figure is just too terrible for me to pay full price for!) in the past two weeks with minimal fuss. Although, I only found Thor with the purple energy hammer and Iron Man in his Mk VII armor at my local Walmart, everywhere else had very little Avengers stuff still in-stock. I also picked up the "Ultimates" Cap because he looks like a G.I. Joe figure (oh, yeah, I also picked up a bunch of G.I. Joe: Retaliation toys, too!) and was too awesome to pass up. He's not as articulated as the non-vest-wearing version from CA:TFA, but I really like that figure.

As far as the sequel goes, I think the lead-in with Thanos would be cool, although I think it will be tough to make work. In this film the alien invaders were kind of the background antagonists. I mean, sure, they were the main threat in the last act of the film, but we didn't get much story on them. If Marvel (and hopefully director Joss Whedon) plan to make Thanos the main baddie in the sequel, they'll have to have him at the forefront of the story. Although the Chitauri invaded New York and causing all sorts of destruction, I never had the feeling of, "How will the Avengers stop them?!". I pretty much felt Cap & the team would just kick lots of ass the whole time they faced off against the aliens.

Seeing Marvel pull off not just a great ensemble film, but one that's been built up to by FIVE very entertainining and mostly successful films can be very frustrating for DC Comics fans. I'm glad Marvel's making the cinematic universe work and can only hope that The Avengers ignites a fire under DC's ass to get serious about the characters and crank out some quality movies.
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