I have a bold idea: have the U.S. government producing the next 10 Avengers features to get itself out of debt. With $700 million banked worldwide after a mere 13 days, Disney should net north of a billion before Blu-Ray sales.
So what transpired to make this Marvel film so successful? Was it the MARVEL fanboy nation, the hype machine, Joss Whedon’s deep Buffy fan base, what was it? Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that when the sun shone through the Staff of Whedon in the Disney map room, it revealed the location of the Ark of the Cash Covenant.
Writer/director Joss Whedon had a major challenge with The Avengers. Superhero movies have to follow a formula, and the formula isn’t guaranteed. In fact, with a movie like The Avengers, there was the very real possibility of failure. But it didn’t fail – to my mind, it succeeded beyond reasonable expectations. Let’s have a look at why.
I’m not reviewing the picture here, so most of this assumes you’ve already seen the film. And if you haven’t, seriously, get thee to the theater.
This movie was actually testing me, as I almost missed opening weekend. A sick teenager and spending too much dough on groceries (eating is way overrated anyway) nearly kept me home. It’s usually not hard to catch an opening day or weekend show without fear of sellout in my small town, and with The Avengers playing in two theaters on four screens, I had the numbers on my side. Or did I? I locked me in a guaranteed time for movie substance abuse courtesy of Fandango.
Arrive 30 minutes early – check.
Tickets – check.
Massive crowd – holy check.
I walk through the crowd as only a fanboy can on such occasions, like Billy Dee in a Colt .45 ad, except these weren’t Dobermans surrounding me, they were meaner. I hear some grumbling about not waiting my turn for tickets. This is a fanboy movie lady, I beamed my tickets to my hand via the wormhole that is my laptop. The IQ status in this room is Stark level. Have fun in line, or a Benjamin gets you three guaranteed. I actually thought she was going to bite, but common sense won out. Definitely not a fanboy.
In my sunny realm you can buy a gallon bucket-O-popcorn for $17.50 and refill it all year for $3.50; there is no better deal anywhere. I add a $50 Cherry Coke and the children of the corn and I settle in the back row (BONUS), ready to chill for 3 hours easy. Previews are good but I have been a proponent of less in trailers for some time now so I pay as little attention as possible. Moviegoers see films because they are art, and you certainly do not need a preview of Matisse to decide if you want to see his art in a show, you just go because you like art. They could have tested this theory by saying “Dark Knight summer,” “Spiderman summer,” no trailers necessary, I’m there opening night for both.
Opening night for The Avengers is electric. The film’s villain may not be overly fond of what follows a lightning strike, but when you get one like this picture, I beg to differ.. This time what follows is not campy comic movie but epic with a capital E. Joss Whedon has done just enough research to please the fanboy flotilla and create a general backstory for the average moviegoer as well.
When dealing with ensemble superhero movies, the traditional problem is you need to tell a coherent story in two hours, while ensuring that everyone gets enough screen time to be relevant. Plus you often have years of lore and backstory to fill in. More often than not you wind up with a narrative mess along the lines of The Fantastic Four. Technically The Avengers is actually the sixth movie in a series – Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk are all officially prequels to this picture. But since those were of varying quality and since you can’t assume everyone in the audience saw them, Whedon’s job with The Avengers wasn’t made any easier by this fact.
The first quarter of the movie sets up the effort to create the team and the issues of putting together such an eclectic group of individual superhero personalities. While some critics have complained about the amount of time devoted to setup, let’s try to remember that the Avengers spent an entire year resolving this in the first run of their comic book series. Only an inebriated lower companion monkey would think that 15 minutes was too much time spent resolving such an ongoing, complex issue.
I have been an Avengers fanboy from the comics of my 1970s childhood to my current mailed subscriptions. I could have spent five hours watching backstory, but a mainstream movie prevent such wet dreams from occurring. The amount of lore concerning the Avengers is black hole deep; for Whedon to cover what he did in less than 3 hours is an achievement unlocked. Naysayers will piss and moan about content, but take it from a knowledgeable historian: the alternative would have been a muddled mess to newcomers and a crime against the lore to long-time fans. Instead, Whedon gives us impressive equality of story and characters throughout the film.
The interaction of the characters was well played and while I was concerned with Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark overpowering everyone, it didn’t matter; line after line of flawless jabs and insults left my spleen potentially lacerated post-movie. Quality references to Point Break, Lord of the Rings and sexual performance were quick and tightly woven as not to dwell on a potentially cheesy line. Instead they came across as normal sarcastic banter from the historically jaded, womanizing, career alcoholic Tony Stark.
Speaking of Stark and womanizing, I was pleased to see Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) included in this film and hope that such a known character in the Marvel universe will get the supporting role in more features. Fanboys are aware that Stark is famous for sleeping with Pepper Potts and Maria Hill in the Stark Disassembled comic run (mad props Stark, mad props).
I was not surprised to see that the majority of character interactions involved Stark, as his arrogant personality matches the Ironman suit’s attributes of 100 ton strength and multiple VI targeting solutions during a battle. Stark believes he is the best, and rough housing with Thor is how he tests and analyzes for future encounters. Captain America, awesome as he is, can’t compete with either of the two and in the comic universe would be in a full body cast recovering from the force of Thor dropping Mjolnir on his shield. The shield would be fine but they would have had to get a backhoe to pull him out of the well he made on the way down. So characters were established well power-wise but a little too indulgent with Cap for my taste (and yes I stopped my Captain America comic subscription when they killed him for a crappy story line). I also keep waiting to hear “flame on” so it’s hard to purge that out of my head and it didn’t help that Thanos was sneak peeked after the credits rolled.
It’s ironic that potentially the next big villain comes from the Fantastic Four universe because it’s going to be a bugger getting Johnny Storm and Captain America in the same film, given Chris Evans plays both. I suppose if they use the version of the Vision with Johnny Storm inside they could pull it off, but then the Vision would need to be an Avenger, and well crap… I’d just use the Johnny Storm is dead comic series version and then Kazaam, problem solved.
So we are rolling along halfway and the continuity is good, dialogue is great, and I am super happy with the new Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo. I was sold after he tested Black Widow in India, that was gold. I was actually looking for more Banner dialogue, as he grew on me every time he was on screen, until he turned into smells like big green teen spirit. Then it was over, I am not sure why; this CGI was better than the last version’s, but it was. Perhaps it was lighting, or angles, maybe even choreography. I say it was Ruffalo’s killer hair and CGI face on the Hulk itself. You just don’t want to piss the big guy off and this was deftly played out when Widow runs away like a free hooker in the secret service’s Columbian hotel. The look on her face, showing the pain of fresh S.H.I.E.L. D. commissary fixings in her Hawkeye BVD’s, said it all for me.
Speaking of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), people just don’t get it with him. He was an original Avenger and has no powers other than shooting 20 arrows in your sphincter in a minute’s time all with different cool side effects. He kicks ass in his own way and I have followed his comics, which include some of the most compelling storylines written, for three decades. Who wants ten of the same guy on the team, that’s just boring and stagnant. I think Renner killed it as Hawkeye and hope he reprises the role. But not before Black Widow gets her own full length film, it’s due and Scarlett Johansson is perfect in her portrayal. The scenes between her, the Russians and Loki showed she has the mannerisms to pull off the Widow’s expertise in interrogation and killing.
The movie is really packing it in with minimal fighting until the three-quarter mark, and then all hell breaks loose. This is when things went from the check list of what to do to ok, everybody wants to see them whup ass so let’s get to it. The film hits its stride here and never looks back. Lots of high power characters and a lot to coordinate in a group fight sequence, yet it was well balanced and expertly edited as each had their moment of glory during the battle, other than the Hulk that is. He owned fools like a fat chick at an all you can eat Shoney’s buffet. No one, and I mean no one, will forget the total annihilation of Loki. Ever. Period.
My last Wonka golden ticket goes to Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who absolutely commandeers the movie when he is on screen. No one could possibly have created a more perfect version of Loki for our viewing pleasure. I implore everyone to stay seated as the credits roll – many goodies are to be had for the patient film goer. The last, after all the credits roll, is worth the wait and is so simple and eloquent you will smile and applaud. This film made money because it was good and if others follow along, I for one am excited to see childhood heroes come to life. Deadpool anyone?
avengers movie review
Everybody please welcome John “elbuchosan” Drow aboard – this man’s brain is more full of comic book lore than any brain has a right to be. He’ll be sharing his wisdom on comics, movies, games, and all the usual stuff we talk about around here. Make yourself at home, elbuchosan!