Best big-budget blockbuster by farBottom Highlights, Movie Review Thursday, May 10th, 2012
I just saw a headline online that asked, “Is The Avengers the greatest comic book movie ever?” I don’t know what the writer’s answer was, but I know what my response to the question would be: No, it’s not the greatest comic book movie ever. The Avengers is about as deep as its superfluous 3-D effects, but it is the most entertaining, and most expertly made, big-budget action movie of the year.
Marvel, the comic book brand that controls The Avengers, has been building up the movie for several years by foreshadowing it in the two Ironman movies and last summer’s Thor and Captain America. Samuel L. Jackson, playing Nick Fury, the director of the CIA-like S.H.I.E.L.D., pops up in all of these movies to hint at creating a group of superheroes to fight supervillains. In The Avengers, he finally succeeds, assembling Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (this time played by Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to fight the combined forces of Thor’s evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and an army of nasty aliens called the Chitauri.
They’re all fighting over a glowing mysterious cube of unlimited power called the Tesseract. But who cares? The Avengers was mostly constructed to get all of these iconic characters on screen together, participate in a great deal of witty repartee, and then get involved in massive, extremely destructive battles. However, because Marvel hired the fan boy god Joss Whedon what could have been a silly, muddled slog is instead a sharp, smart and expertly choreographed showcase for more than half a dozen beloved superheroes.
In two hours and twenty minutes, Whedon managed to develop the character of each of the heroes. Whedon has long been adept at directing complex comic ensembles, and he does those in The Avengers with great results. But he doesn’t have experience with long, CGI action sequences. Nevertheless, Whedon’s direction of the battle between the Avengers and Loki and his aliens is sparklingly clear. The destruction of New York during the battle reminded me of Michael Bay’s destruction of Chicago in last summer’s Transformers 3; the difference was that in The Avengers, I could follow all of the action, the impossible physics made sense, and it wasn’t cruelly violent. It was thrilling and fun, and it was even funny. In particular, Whedon has a lot of fun with the Hulk.
Not everything in The Avengers works. Hawkeye is barely a character, which is disappointing since Renner can be such a crackling screen presence. The aliens don’t have a point – they don’t seem to have a reason to want the Tesseract or destroy the world. And then there’s Samuel L. Jackson, who has never been worse. He seemed bored. This is especially weird since no one who is watching him in The Avengers could be bored. They’re too busy having fun.
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