Film Review – The Avengers
It is one of the most anticipated films of the year. The build-up to it has been almost without precedent. But The Avengers finally opens today, and proves to be an excellent start to what looks to be one of the most prolific summer movie seasons in recent years.
I’m going to skip giving a backstory for all the previous Marvel films that introduce the characters here, because that alone would take up the entirety of this review. After Loki (Tom Hiddleston) breaks into a government facility and steals some important items, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D, decides to resume a previously discontinued program known as the Avengers Initiative, which brings together some of the world’s greatest heroes in hopes of combating Loki and saving the world.
Realistically, we all probably know that is what the movie is about, and if not, you probably want to go back and watch some of Marvel’s previous films before seeing The Avengers. The fear coming into this movie has been whether all of the stars were going to be able to work together and share the screentime. There are precedents that would make you think it should be fine, such as X-Men (though you could argue there was a lot less star power) or Ocean’s 11 (which probably had even more star power, but not much action). Thankfully, I never found the large cast to be a problem for The Avengers; in fact, as I think back on it, I’m pretty amazed at how balanced the film really is.
That isn’t to say there aren’t stars amongst the team. Personally, I think The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) are the standouts, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the solid supporting performances for the characters of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who were the two team members who hadn’t previously starred in an origin story and essentially do so in this movie. Everyone else is solid, but doesn’t really do much to stand out. Loki once again proves to be a fantastic villain and probably the best one they’ve had in all the Marvel films thus far (at least the ones related to The Avengers), often stealing the scenes he’s involved in.
As impressive and fun as the film is, it does feel a smidge longer than it needs to be. The film’s runtime ends up being about 20 minutes longer than any of the other films in the series. The bulk of that time is dedicated to action scenes. A massive amount of the film’s success has to be given to director Joss Whedon, who might finally break into the mainstream with this film. The scale of the film is a massive leap beyond anything he’s previously done. Overall, he maintains a solid balance between moving the story along and awesome battle scenes, and even when the battle scenes do run a little long, you can’t really blame him for wanting to indulge fans of the comics. More than with any of the previous Marvel films, you really feel like you’re getting your money’s worth here. The scale of the destruction and the length of the action scenes are like something out of a Transformers movie (though, thankfully, for the most part the action is much more comprehensible).
As much as anything, though, I walk away more optimistic about the future possibilities of a Justice League movie. After all, if they can do this, why can’t they do that? I guess I’m not a Marvel guy, because as entertaining as I found all of the characters in this film to be, the prospects for a new solo Batman movie still excite me more. On the flipside, though, perhaps that is why this movie would work better than a Justice League movie…to me, they all feel more like members of a team (Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow), whereas a lot of the Justice League members feel more geared towards being solo heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman).
The Avengers is a massively entertaining film, but it isn’t without its faults. While I have seen all of the previous films that have built up to it, I felt like this one had the highest learning curve thus far for non-comic fans. There are several moments where I wish they would’ve spent more time elaborating on what exactly was going on, and it made me wish I’d seen the film with my resident comics expert (thanks Kevin…you helped me enjoy Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America more with your insight). If you have such a person in your life, I’d recommend going with them. None of these moments ruin the film, but there are things that would help me better understand what is happening and what is going to happen next: Who is Loki’s army? How did Thor get back to Earth? That kind of detail-oriented stuff—little things that I felt probably would’ve made me like the film even more.
The Avengers is a solidly entertaining film that does a good job of bringing together an amazing cast. I went to a screening that had the film in 3D, and while I thought the film did a decent job with that, for the most part it faded into the background for me and I would only notice it from time to time. If you don’t see it in 3D, I don’t think you will be missing out. You’ll still get a great example of how a summer blockbuster can be both smart and fun.
Final Grade: A-