AVENGERS WEEK: The Avengers (Ben’s movie review)

 

No movie lives up to the hype. But some come close. The Avengers comes very, very close.

It already has many difficulties to overcome: an ensemble cast; a couple years of build up and fan expectation; the enormous shadow of Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr. over the other characters and actors; a mix of genres (superhero monster, superhero god, wartime superhero, sci-fi superhero, and spy superheroes); and a story that can utilize everyone while still making sense and being satisfying.

Joss Whedon is the real hero here. He makes it all work. This isn’t a movie about five heroes doing their thing, and each of them getting a chance to shine. It’s a movie about five heroes learning to work together.

In my previous reviews this week, I had some hope for the characters as their stories moved forward in The Avengers, and I was surprised how much those character arcs actually were pushed forward, and considering the screen time that was shared, how well it worked.

This is not a perfect movie. The storyline, building on all those scenes from previous movies (like Loki’s lack of belonging in Thor, the tesseract in Captain America, and the “Avengers initiative” throughout the whole thing) works, mostly. There are some clunky places, that are either not explained well or contrived to move the story forward. Some of the questions of how something works, or why a character can do one thing to get out of one situation but can’t or won’t do the same thing to get out of a similar situation, go unanswered. But, again, considering how much story and how many characters are on screen here, plot holes and plot contrivances are to be expected; and given how much fun it is to see these actors become these character and do these things, the plot holes and plot contrivances are easy to forgive.

I was happy that The Avengers is not just Iron Man 3. I was pleasantly surprised that this is the best Hulk movie yet. I was glad to see that Captain America retained his sincere WWII era attitude and character. I was intrigued by Black Widow and Hawkeye’s backstory, and pleased that they did not expand on it too much. I was satisfied with Loki as a worthy adversary, especially when propped up by the macguffin.

I was confused by the Hulk at a couple plot points — he had a secret, and the reveal was pretty cool, but I have no idea what it means. The music felt pretty bland — not Star Trek The Next Generation bland, but it just felt like the same background music we’ve heard in every Marvel movie since Iron Man. And I do wish Captain America had been given more of a character arc — as in his movie, Captain America overcomes outside problems, not really any inside problems.

There are some interesting themes being batted around, but nothing really gets a real chance to breath. Loki’s rationalization for taking over the earth — that mankind’s desire for freedom is false and that man desires to be told what to do — has some interesting ramifications, but doesn’t go anywhere because there’s just no room. But it feeds into the movie’s strengths — letting the characters carry the two plus hours.

Overall, yes, it was very, very good. And I highly recommend it.

I did have one serious problem with it, which I will discuss below in a spoiler zone.

~ Ben

Links to the previous Avengers movie reviews:
IRON MAN and IRON MAN 2
THE INCREDIBLE HULK
CAPTAIN AMERICA
THOR

 

SPOILERS BELOW

(In the following paragraphs, I am going to vaguely discuss something spoiler-y. I do not reveal what it is, but do reveal that it exists, so ski it if you don’t want to know. And please, make sure if you mention it below in the comments, that you give warning.)

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

(That’s good enough warning, right?)

SPOILER BEGINS NOW . . .

I did not like that Whedon Washed a character. And then spent time having Nick Fury speak with Whedon’s voice, as if to say, “Well, this is why it had to be done.” Both felt untrue to the story, I think mainly because of the way it went down. I am all for letting a character go if the story and the character demand it. But to suggest that having that one character get Washed is the thing the other needed to motivate them rings false. No. New York is going to be leveled. That should be enough. This is Steve’s home. Tony’s new home. Thor’s home away from home. And an invasion force is descending on it. There’s your motivation, and if you need more, put people we, the audience, care about in their path.

I love you, Joss Whedon, not with the adoration of a Buffy or Angel fan, but with the admiration of a Firefly fan, and even moreso now, after you pulled off The Avengers. But this felt like storytelling by numbers, and is the weakest part of the movie.

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