A Step Up For Comic Book Movies
Here we are! One of the most anticipated films of the summer. Marvel's The Avengers, one of the biggest cross-over films of all time. I know that I've been looking forward to this movie for a long time now, about around the time Iron Man came out back in 2008. Just the idea that we are now going to finally see all of these various superheroes come together and fight side by side. I remember first hearing about it, and picturing Iron Man fighting with Captain America and Spiderman and Hulk and the X-Men. It wasn't until later on that I figured out that Marvel didn't own X-Men or Spiderman, so I was kind of disappointed by that, but we still get Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury. So, from the get-go, we have an amazing ensemble of superheroes.
I had one major concern when going into this movie..... How are they going to pull this off. Before, we've only had movies like Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator, and Abbot and Costello meet Frankenstein. These movies usually play for more of a comedy rather than a legitimate movie. Also, you have to be concerned about giving equal screen time to each of your characters, and draw in the worlds that they come from and make it all fit together. With films like Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator, it was really easy. They only had to deal with two characters, and balance it two ways. For the Avengers, we have seven characters played by seven superstars; Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Samuel Jackson. Character-wise, this seems like a hard task to pull off, and you have to consider that these actor's egos may go head-to-head with each other for who gets more screen time. So, when thinking about it, this movie had the potential to flop and flop hard. So going in, I had high expectations (like I think everyone did) and I kept asking myself "Will this work? Will they be able to blend all these characters together and keep the story consistent?" So, that's what I'll discuss right now....... Did they pull it off?..........
In my opinion... Not only did they pull it off, but they exceeded what I thought they could do. I don't exactly know who the screenwriter for this movie, but they deserve some recognition for what they did here. Every character on screen has their moments to shine and show off the best of their abilities. And you heard me right.... MOMENTS! Not just one moment, but multiple moments to shine. It is just amazing. I am blown away.
I guess I should get into the movie now. The story begins with a shot in space with the leader of an alien race known as the Chitauri is making a deal with out-cast demigod Loki to conquer Earth. Back on Earth, Agent Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. learns that the Tesseract, a blue cube of energy that we last saw in Captain America, is going haywire. The Tesseract then opens up and allows Loki to return to Earth and start causing trouble and destruction. This sudden outburst of war convinces Nick Fury to reinitiate the scrapped Avengers Initiative project to stop Loki. Nick Fury sends out his members to group up the heroes, Iron Man, Captain America, and Bruce Banner (Hulk), and Thor (who returns from his home world to personally stop Loki), with the goal to save the word from Loki and the on-coming invasion.
I'm gonna start out this conversation by talking about Mark Ruffalo. Strange way to start, but for those of you who know me, I love 2008's Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton. I thought Edward Norton did a fantastic job as Bruce Banner, and I would have loved if he came back and played the role again (in fact, I think out of everyone in this cast, Edward Norton is the only one who didn't come back). But, with what usually happens in Hollywood, Edward Norton didn't want to come back (or the studio couldn't pay him enough), so they settled on Mark Ruffalo. When I first heard about that, I got real upset. Not because Norton wasn't coming back, but because Ruffalo doesn't look anything like Norton. Norton is skinny, small, sort of the weak type, which is a good play-off when you see him transform into the Hulk. I mean, just his big monster coming from such a small man. Looking at Ruffalo, he's a bit bigger, has a bit more muscle than Norton, so just by looks, I didn't like the recast. But, after watching the movie, I thought he did great. I thought he was able to capture what Norton did in The Incredible Hulk really well, keeping continuity in mind, and doing a bit more of his own thing with it. I wish it was all his own thing, though. I mean, if you're gonna recast the role, why not just re-invent the character? There were times during the movie that I imagined Norton on screen, because the line deliveries were so similar to what Norton did. But, for the fans of that version of Hulk (which I am), we're glad to see something familiar.
And all the other actors here are great. Chris Evans (Captain America) actually does better here than he did in Captain America. I've only seen Chris Evans in two other movies; Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Fantastic Four, one of them he did great in, and the other..... well, he was the best thing about that movie, to say the least. He's top notch here. Joss Whedon was able to get a better performance out of him here than Joe Johnston did in Captain America. I actually think that Whedon was able to get good performances out of everyone. Sam Jackson is actually doing some acting, rather than cashing in like he did on the Star Wars films. Scarlett Johansson is doing really well, and looking fantastic. Mark Ruffalo, like I said, is great here. Jeremy Renner.... I've only seen him so far in M:I4, but he's doing just as great here as he was in that movie. I liked that the screenwriters were able to give a pretty well developed friendship between Scarlett Johansson's character and Jeremy Renner's character. Chris Hemsworth is a lot better here than he was in Thor, and much more interesting, now that he's not walking around a small desert town and playing fish out of water. And Robert Downey Jr. has not changed at all. That's not a bad thing. It's actually a great thing. To be able to maintain that feel for a character for three movies now is incredible. I also love that Iron Man isn't the main focus here. Some of you have heard me joke that The Avengers is basically gonna be Iron Man 3 with cameos by the other heroes, but that's not the case here. He's part of the group. I also love than Iron Man gets a great character arch in this movie. Early on when Captain America and Tony Stark are arguing with each other, Captain America drops a line about Tony not knowing what it's like to sacrifice yourself for the good of everyone, and that he's only concerned about saving himself. Well, near the end of the movie, when S.H.I.E.L.D. is about to nuke New York to stop the alien invasion, Iron Man takes the missile and rides it into space, blowing up the mothership and saving the city by attempting to sacrifice himself. Of course, he survives, but it's amazing how the writers put that in, especially in a summer superhero action flick like this. And Tom Hiddleston as Loki is surprisingly menacing. Not scary, like I think the screenplay wants me to think, but I am intimidated by him. You can really see the evil in his facial expressions. He really sold me on the character this time around. And I'm surprised that Gwyneth Paltrow decided to come back. She's not in the movie that much, and she doesn't do a whole lot but be Tony's love interest, but it was great seeing her back. It was great seeing all of them here.
And I want to talk about Agent Coulson. Here's a very small character who doesn't really leave an impression on us, but as the movie progresses, I've grown to actually love this character. He has a nice presence that, whenever you see him, you can't help but be happy that he's there. Now, warning guys, here comes a major spoiler. If you have been reading so far, and haven't seen the movie, please stop reading. During one scene, after Loki manages to escape his prison and capture Thor in the process, Agent Coulson confronts Loki with a giant gun, threatening to blow him away, when Loki manages to sneak up behind him and stab him through the heart. Before he dies, Coulson does shoot Loki out of the ship they're in...... Man...... This scene really shocked and touched me. I compare it to Rachel Dawes' death in The Dark Knight; something I didn't see coming at all, and something that really go to me. Yeah, this character doesn't do much in any of these Marvel movies but gathering up the heroes, but the performance and the good vibes I got from him made this character's passing so emotional. Truly, a memorable and touching scene in a movie that has so much action and it doesn't feel forced on or cheesy. Agent Coulson, we will miss you.
The only real problem I had with the characters is that War Machine isn't here. Not that I miss him that much, but he has been established in Iron Man 2, and I would have liked to see him kick major ass in this film. Maybe Don Cheadle, who played Rhode/War Machine in Iron Man 2, didn't want to do this movie (which is a mistake, in my opinion. This movie is too huge to not want to be a part of it), and maybe because we're already dealing with so many characters. I guess the screenwriters thought it would have been too much to take in all at once, but I do hope we see him in a sequel.
I'm glad the screenwriters found a reason to bring these characters together. We needed a danger so big that it would require all of these characters to get together. I mean, it would have been pretty lame to have all of them team up just to stop a bank robber or just one single villain, like Iron Monger or Red Skull. Yeah, an alien invasion is the right way to go. Now, I don't know a whole lot about the comics, but I remember people being hyped about the aliens being the Skrulls, which is a pretty big deal to comic fans. Apparently, these aren't the Skrulls, but a new variation on the Skrulls, that also are redesigned. The reason for this is because Marvel doesn't own the rights to use the Skrulls, in name or appearance, which makes me wonder how Marvel was able to lose so many of its properties. Marvel doesn't own Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider... it's insane. And none of the companies that currently hold the rights will give these characters up while they're still making them money. So, it may be a while before we can see Spiderman swinging his web along with these heroes.
There was also a plot about Loki wanting to control the Hulk for his own agenda for this alien invasion, but I didn't fully understand it. They kept saying it, and Loki seemed to be happy when Bruce Banner first Hulks out, but with how the events fold out, I don't get that Loki really wants anything to do with Hulk. I guess he was just messing with S.H.I.E.L.D. so that all these heroes will fight with each other and making Loki's invasion that much easier. I wish they had made that more clear for me. It's not that they didn't say that's what he's doing, but they didn't make it clear to me that that's what's going on. And I guess they needed some sort of reason for Banner to be there rather than just sitting in a lab all day, which is pretty much all he was doing up until this point.
I also enjoyed that the characters fought with each other. I would have been disappointed or annoyed if these super heroes didn't let their egos get to them. It started off when Thor shows up after Loki is captured by Iron Man and Captain America. Thor breaks Loki out to try to take him back to Asgard, but Iron Man and Captain America won't let that happen, so they have a short-lived fight off which ends with them realizing one can't defeat the other. Then it continues a bit later on when they figure out Loki wants Banner, they start going at each other's throats, not physically, but psychologically. Tony is saying that Captain America would be nothing without his father's super soldier serum, and Captain America is saying that Tony is self obsessed and cares little about anything that's happening around him, and Thor is just laughing them off. I'm just glad we got these scenes, and I wish there were more of them. Besides these scenes, most of the time, they're getting along pretty well, especially Bruce and Tony. I liked their little friendship during certain scenes. It was fun to watch.
The visual effects are stunning in this movie. They look pretty real. Sure, I can tell what is CGI and what is practical, but it's impressive. Visual effects have gone a far way in these Marvel movies. Especially Hulk. In the last two movies that we've seen Hulk in (Ang Lee's Hulk and The Incredible Hulk) there was something that wasn't right with how the skin looks or how the character moves around. In here, it looks great. The detail that went into the design of the Hulk this time around is impressive. I'm glad Marvel spent the money to make it look good.
The comedy!!! The humor of this movie is better than anything we have seen in any superhero movie, and better than most action movies, and I want to focus on one specific moment that had me, and the entire audience, bursting out loudly. During the ending battle, Loki is on top of Tony Stark's new building, and Hulk jumps up and pushes him inside. Hulk is about to work his fists, when Loki shouts to him, "Enough!! I am a God, you dumb creature, and I will not be bullied by you..." but before Loki can finish his thoughts, Hulk grabs him by the leg, and starts throwing him against the ground like a toddler with a stuffed animal. And when it's done, we linger on Loki's face, and the look on the face sells the entire 30 second scene. It is absolutely priceless, and arguably the best scene in the entire movie. The audience was laughing so hard, that we didn't hear Hulk say afterwards, "Puny God!" (which is a callback to 2003's Hulk line, "Puny human!"). I mean, it's slapstick of course, but that alone was worth watching. If none of you plan on seeing the movie in theaters, I suggest looking the scene up on YouTube, called Hulk vs. Loki. See it before it's taken down.
Now, up to this point, I've basically been praising the hell out of this movie. So, now I have to talk about some problems I have with the movie. The first would be Thor's return to Earth. In 2011's Thor, at the end of the movie, Thor breaks the bridge to Earth to prevent Loki from invading the first time around. Apparently, according to that movie, that is the only way to and from Earth, and without it, there is no returning. Well, apparently they were lying, because while Captain America and Iron Man are shipping Loki back to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new headquarters, Thor just shows up out of the lightening. I wish the filmmakers spent some time, like a dropped line or something like it, to explain how this is possible. I understand how Loki was able to come back. He wasn't on Asgard and he used the Tesseract to return to Earth, but there is no reason why Thor should be back. I guess the filmmakers didn't think the audience would really care, but it bothers me. Hopefully, when Thor 2 comes out, this will be explained, but for now, I'm left with scratching my head.
Another problem I have is with Hulk. Not Mark Ruffalo or Bruce Banner; I've already said that I thought they were great. I mean the big, green guy himself. The detail work put into him is impressive, but I liked the look of Hulk in The Incredible Hulk. There, he was thinner, more dark green, and looked quite a bit like he did in the comics (from the images I've seen). Here, I kept thinking of Ang Lee's Hulk, which is NOT A GOOD THING!!! This Hulk seemed too bulky for my taste. And the skin color was too bright for me. And Mark Ruffalo's face does not look good expanded on Hulk's body. I don't know. I guess it's not a huge deal with many, but for me, I don't like it. I wish that they tried to make Hulk look something like he did in 2008. Also, one thing I loved about The Incredible Hulk and the T.V. show The Incredible Hulk, was that when Bruce Banner starts to Hulk out, his eyes turn green. It doesn't happen in here, and I missed it. It's an iconic image of seeing Hulks eyes turn green, but here, they just remain the same color as Bruce Banner's eyes.
And then there's Bruce Banner's transformation into the Hulk. He transforms about two times in the entire movie, which is expected, but it's the second and last transformation that I have a problem with. Apparently, they decided to go with what they set up at the end of The Incredible Hulk, and have Bruce Banner be able to control his anger and transform whenever he wants. But this particular transformation is upsetting to me. I like it when it's a werewolf situation; Bruce Banner slowly transforms while screaming in agony. But here, it was too fast. He just turns around and BOOM!! He's Hulk. No slow transformation or pain at all, just Hulk! I may be the only one who has this problem, but it was a problem for me.
The last problem I have with this movie is the length of the movie itself and the ending battle. This is a problem I've been having with many big budget action movies lately. This movie is roughly 2 and a half hours long, and it has various action scenes that happen in between character moments. So, when we get to the ending fight, I'm starting to get a little tired of seeing action happening. Not that I am against it or didn't like it in anyway. I loved this ending fight, but I just felt it was a little too much. Maybe if they trimmed it down by a few minutes or so, I wouldn't have so much of a problem with it.
Overall, with a script worthy enough to have the Earth's mightiest heroes team up, and great performances across the board and a director that can film great action and keep the drama and humor consistent through, I give The Avengers a high, high recommend. I am so pleased with this movie. I think back in February, I saw Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and I called it "Marvel's version of Batman and Robin." Well, if I thought Ghost Rider II was Marvel's Batman and Robin, then I equate The Avengers as Marvel's The Dark Knight. Now, I AM NOT SAYING THE AVENGERS IS BETTER OR AS GOOD AS THE DARK KNIGHT!! I want to make that clear. I'm just saying that The Avengers is the best movie Marvel has ever put out (in my opinion), while The Dark Knight is the best movie that D.C. put out (in my opinion). It's a must see movie for those who love superhero movies. Is it the best superhero movie out there? No. I still think that The Dark Knight holds that position. But it certainly is a step forward in the genre.
Now, we look to the future. I have so many questions as to what will happen with these characters. What will there solo movies be like now? Will these actors come back and play these roles? What is gonna happen in The Avengers 2? Are there gonna be more heroes joining the group? Can they be able to pull this off a second time? I can't wait to hear what's gonna happen in the future, but for now, we can marvel in the success of this movie.
Oh, and on an ending note, make sure you stay after the credits. There are two scenes, but only one of them I saw. There's one after the initial credits (the credits that list the director, producers, and actors). In this scene, we get a glimpse of the next potential villain for our heroes: Thanos. I don't know anything about this character (I don't read comics), but all I know is that he's been a long-time villain of The Avengers. Then there's a second scene after all the credits are done of the heroes sitting at a diner and eating (at least, that's what I heard the scene was). So, make sure you stay for those.
Thank you for reading.