Avengers Assemble!

Spoiler Free Review (for the 3 people in the world who haven’t seen it yet)

Some might say this is the greatest comic book movie ever.  In reply, others will wonder how this movie stacks up against the Dark Knight (previous title holder of GCBME).  To compare the movies is like comparing the ripest, tastiest apple ever against the ripest, tastiest orange ever.  Both are great, just in their own ways.

I am a sucker for group comics.  JLA and Green Lantern Corp are two of my favorite series for this reason.  Although not a ready fan of the Avengers, the most important aspect of any group story is that of every member being useful/serving a purpose.  And on that level, this movie succeeds – immensely.

Do you need to see it in 3D?  I don’t think so.  There were a few scenes that might look great in the format, but not enough to warrant the extra $$$.

Do you need to see it at the theater?  Oh hell yes.  Unless you have a SPECTACULAR home theater set up (complete with surround sound), this is definitely a movie worth seeing in full glory – you get your money’s worth.

Background Knowledge?  The only two you really HAVE to see are Thor and Captain America (in that order) whose movies form a sort of mini-trilogy with this one.  If you know the basics of Hulk & Iron Man, you should be able to deal with the rest. (Though I recommend Iron Man 1 for awesomeness and 2 for… Scarlett Johansson in red hair.)

Cheesecake?  Nothing beyond the usual skintight leather outfits and uniforms, so men & women should both find something to enjoy.

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Begin Spoiler Discussion:

As I said before, this is the greatest comic book movie of all time.  The Dark Knight is also the greatest comic book movie of all time.  How does this scale work?  Think of one end (the DK end) as one of pure, storytelling quality. It not only perfectly captures to essence of Batman & the Joker but it tells a story that anyone can savor; a story that provokes thought and discussion and self-examination.  It was like the best ’90s comics, that proved comics are a medium that can be used to tell a great story like Shakespeare’s plays, or Dickens’ novels.  In the same way, tDK proved that it can stand tall with greats like Casablanca or Citizen Kane. (yeah I said it)

On the Avengers‘ side of the scale, we have the pure distillation of original, golden & silver age comics.  This isn’t a character study or thought & self-provoking examination.  This is pure adventure – pure fun.  Some days, all we seek are to watch the good guys be challenged, but overcome.  This movie reminds us of why comics took root and grew during the Great Depression.  Comics began as a medium used to spread home like the classics of Ulysses’ and Lord of the Rings.  In the same way, Avengers proved that it can stand tall with greats like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark. (yeah I said it)

The characters are just great.  Since the big three each had their own movies devoted to them, the makers wisely gave us more time with the other three characters as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. as an organization. (Yes, I know Hulk has had two movies already, but how much either of those apply here is… debatable if at all.)  The film makers were smart and took the best traits of both the main Marvel universe and its ultimate version and built the stars from this.  Example: Making Hawkeye a general sharp shooter but with a preference for the bow.  And kudos to them for NOT making Hawkeye useless.  Heck, he’s the only one that Loki forcefully converts to his side and he (the weakest member of the Avengers) proves to be quite the threat.

Though that’s not to say S.H.I.E.L.D. is incompetent.  The film makers also realize that making an organization useless does not enhance the threat of whoever defeats them.  S.H.I.E.L.D. proves to be filled with reasonable intelligent, highly skilled employees which makes Loki’s appearance and routing of them terrifying and excellent proof of just how dangerous he is.

Characters:

Nick Fury – Samuel L Jackson is so perfect I have nothing else to say.

Maria Hill – Lately (especially with the “Civil War” event) this woman has been Bitch #1 of the Marvel universe.  Cobie Smulders plays her… not that way, but of a person trying to do her job the best she can. (plus she looks damn good)  If anything, in this universe I actually wouldn’t mind seeing her and Captain America get together.

Phil Coulson – One of my favorite characters since I saw him in Iron Man 1.  He was competent and calm, with just a bit of a geeky or nerdy air about him, but he was an awesome geek/nerd.  His death damn near made me cry.

Captain America – The other two of the big three are more of the same from their movies, but I wanted to bring up Cap again just because of how good an actor Chris Evans can be.  Everybody hated him as Johnny Storm (or rather, the character was hated), but here he really conveys not only the man out of time, but the noble leader that pushes him into the leadership of the Avengers.  At times Cap seems almost uncomfortable in a setting or his uniform, but when the battle grows heated, his body language grows much more confident.

Black Widow – Scarlett Johansson has far more in this movie than just eye candy (like she had in Iron Man 2) and she may not have a great acting range, but she does the part as good as her looks.  Though of note: Those playing the Joss Whedon drinking game, the waif-fu girl (Black Widow) is chased around by a large, powerful man (Hulk).

Hulk – Steals the show, often.  Of course Mark Ruffalo does a pretty good job as Bruce Banner, but Dr Banner is a hard character to screw up.  No, the real challenge is doing the Hulk itself.  Sometimes, he’s almost the antagonist himself (with Bruce as the protagonist).  Other times, he’s the Id or body’s desires unrestrained.  Both of these interpretations can be… hard for the audience to connect to (though they can work well in other mediums like comics, novels, etc).  So here, they make the wise choice of making it clearer that Hulk is a separate personality: a fully realized personality.  And that personality is very much like a child’s (mind you: a child with near unlimited strength).  And like a kid, when the Avengers treat Hulk like a friend, he becomes their friend.  It’s a nice touch.

Loki – He’s going to be compared against all the great comic book movie villains – but he ends up doing a pretty good job of carving out his own niche, even if at times you want to start comparing him to the Joker or Lex Luthor.

Plot – Basic and straightforward enough for the general audience.  If there’s one thing DC and their big team (the Justice League) does best, is the large scale, comic threats (such as dragging the moon into Earth’s atmosphere to set it on fire to defeat a bunch of aliens – no I’m not making that up).  Marvel and the Avengers work a lot better on the street level, and this movie does a great job in showing us the devastation on New York’s streets; the people the Avengers are fighting for.  Marvel also is a bit infamous for having its heroes constantly fighting, and while the movie might be just a tiny bit forced on this in a few places, on the whole it’s well done and smoothly fits into the story structure.  Plus we know what happens when Thor’s hammer hits Captain America’s shield: Michael Bay is born.

Thank you to everyone involved in the making of this movie.  Thank you for giving us exactly what we wanted this summer: A chance to believe in heroes.

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3 thoughts on “Avengers Assemble!

  1. “dragging the moon into Earth’s atmosphere to set it on fire to defeat a bunch of aliens”

    I think I remember that issue. Was that in JLA?

    Anyway, I completely agree with you on this movie. It was fantastic, and absolutely perfect storytelling for the sheer fun of storytelling. When I talk about it, I keep wanting to go “And X had the best story, they were explored really well and in an interesting way”, except I’d have to say that about pretty well all of the Avengers! (maybe not Hawkeye and Black Widow so much, as they’re a whole lot more normal and well-adjusted, relatively speaking)

    I also agree Hulk stole the show completely. Especially in that last battle–everybody got their moments, but Hulk got the best ones. From “I’m always angry” to punching Thor for no reason to his method of waking up Iron Man… and then Hulk vs. Loki. Best. Fight. Ever.

    “Puny god.”

    “Euuuunnnnnngh…”

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