Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson
Joss Whedon has been a darling in the geek world for a long time now due to his work on TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, however with this movie he is going to become a geek god. Having wrote and directed this film, there is a significant Whedon imprint on this film, with his priorly demonstrated fondness for strong female characters, evident through the film’s portrayal of Black Widow (Played by Scarlett Johansson) which is much less leering and crass than her appearance in Iron Man 2 (Even though the behind the scenes reasons for her presence in both films is likely the same) Many (Including myself) didn’t expect the character of Black Widow to provide much beyond eye candy for the already won over male audience, under the guise of attempting to draw in a female demographic, however through dialogue, Whedon hints at a depth and back-story behind the Black Widow character, as well as giving her moments in the third act action spotlight, which may potentially up demand and/or interest, for the character to receive her own spin-off film.
It is through the characters where this film could have been at its strongest and weakest. In reviews for films such as Thor and Captain America, I stated that the aspect of The Avengers I was most anticipating, was seeing these characters and performers interact with each other. Through selecting Joss Whedon, Marvel selected arguably the perfect writer to satisfy these expectations (Him and Tony Stark are a match made in geek heaven). The titular force are brought together perfectly and in a way which is so much more coherent, logical and satisfying than how it could have been under the hands of a less patient writer/director, without the same affinity for the source material that Whedon clearly does. Even though this film has technically had five films providing build-up and back-story to it, which could have easily given a lazy writer/director, the supposed permission to forego such elements to service an action fest, Joss Whedon takes his time setting up the characters and the situation they are facing.
In a film with such expectation and that is so crowded, Joss Whedon gives the film, story, characters and as a result audience, a breathing room that could have easily been missing. There are many lines of dialogue in this film which had my audience in fits of laughter and Whedon keeps the film tonally consistent, allowing a lot of his typical witty humour, yet never at the expense of the emotional stakes. While few knowledgeable of his work feared Whedon would be unable to balance the tone, many were concerned that the film would be in a sense, Iron Man 3 and have the most popular (If you judge by box office takings) superhero lead the show. However this is a team effort and no one character completely steals the spotlight. Whedon’s script gives each character their moment to shine and all the performers seem to be complimenting each other.
If there is a character that, “steals it” it is not the one you expect. Prior attempts to bring the Hulk to the big screen have been average at best, leading me to give up on seeing a satisfying, big-screen incarnation of the character. While I expected to praise the performance of Mark Ruffalo (One of my favourite actors who blends in effortlessly) I did not expect to find The Hulk itself, to have what were arguably the film’s finest comedic moments.
Whedon keeps the film simple, despite a storyline that could have potentially been so convoluted and cliché (Some cynics may argue that it still is) keeping the film moving along at a swift pace, despite its near two and a half hour running time. While two and a half hours is too long for your body to take, my brain never gave up. I can understand however a viewer without the same connection to the characters or the material that myself and many other Marvel enthusiasts have, to find themselves bored during certain movements of the film. What is in one way the film’s greatest flaw, its running time, also allows one of its great strengths, which is its delicate yet never ponderous pace, which allows the characters and story to advance at an organic level.
Where Whedon truly impresses with this film however, is through his direction of the action. We knew he was a fine writer but he has never really had experience on a blockbuster of this scale. The final act of The Avengers is not only the best action put to screen in a Marvel movie, not only some of the, if not the best action put to screen in a superhero movie but up there with some of the great action set-pieces put to screen in modern film. With so many different heroes operating on such a large scale, the action sequences could have easily been an horrendous mess, however Whedon keeps the action coherent yet never at the expense of spectacle. If you are a fan of action/adventure movies, yet have little care for the superhero genre, you will still love The Avengers. There are moments in the third act which literally made those I was sitting with make strange noises of awe and excitement, for the humour, the action and the nature of this film, seeing it with an audience augments the experience. There are a couple of tracking shots in the final third which are bound to put a smile on every audience member’s face and increase the heart rates of Marvel fans.
The visual effects in this film are of an expected high standard, with there being no goofy effect akin to the fire in The Hunger Game. The editing of the action, the sound, the cinematography, the score, the visuals, on the entire technical front, this film is a triumph. While it will not score any Oscar nominations in the larger, “more important” categories, even though Joss Whedon has achieved the impossible and as of now deserves writing and directing consideration, this film is bound to pick up nominations for visual effects, sound editing and sound mixing.
Moving away from behind the camera and to in front of it, if there is one performance I want to single out, it is that of Tom Hiddleston. He was terrific as Loki in last year’s Thor, however in The Avengers he, along with everything and everybody else, takes it up to another level entirely. He is given great dialogue to work with by Whedon, as is every character at some point, but he really excels as Loki, striking the perfect balance between all the different dimensions of the character. Many wondered whether Loki would be a sufficient villain for a film of this ilk however after seeing the film, there is no doubt over his villain credentials. The alien forces he makes an alliance with could be seen as weak however, in the sense that they are really anonymous aliens who provide nothing else other than something for The Avengers to fight. They are well realized visually and provide the cannon fodder for some great action, however they carry little in the way of substance.
Another criticism that could easily be thrown at the film is its lack of depth or darkness when it comes to its story. While I believe the film has some darker, deeper turns I did not expect (And which could have been exploited more) the film’s lightness was not an issue to me as contrary to the post-Nolan belief, films of this kind are allowed to be fun, that may mean scholars won’t consider placing it in the library of, “great cinema” but it doesn’t mean the film is not effective and does not succeed, in what it is aiming to do.
Marvel has achieved the impossible and what they have done with The Avengers should be a note to all studios. Hire a writer/director who understands the characters and loves the material, after seeing the film; I cannot imagine anyone but Joss Whedon making it. Get together a cast that is not merely a bunch of superstars thrown together (The Expendables...) but a group of actors who work well together and fit the parts. Finally, when making the film itself, work hard to achieve technical excellence and don’t feel the need to rush your story, embrace the talent you have that does not require explosions. In many ways The Avengers should be a blueprint for modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking.
This is the kind of grand scale, event movie that has made generations of people fall in love with cinema. Ever since walking out of the screening room, I have been replaying the film in my head, from the moments of incredible action, to the smaller, humorous and dramatic character moments. The pessimist inside of me tells me to enjoy this moment, as for Marvel films, this may be as good as it gets and all comic book/movie fans should enjoy and embrace in this moment, a rare one in modern film, a promise made by a movie studio...that was kept. I can admit that my enthusiasm is amplified by being a fan of the material it is based on (I went on opening day after school, being 16 years old may also be a factor, wearing an Avengers t-shirt) however I genuinely believe that there is enough humour, drama and spectacle, that a range of audiences can find something within this film, that will take them on a ride. While criticisms may surface on repeat viewings (There will be many) as of now the only complaints I have are incredibly minor. The Avengers is put simply, so much fun.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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