Sunday, May 13, 2012
Movie Review: THE AVENGERS (Marvel Studios/Paramount, 2012)
If you're expecting me to give out with lengthy a laundry list of the ways in which The Avengers is/is not faithful to the Marvel comics' version of the superhero team, then you're barking up the wrong blog. I am strictly a "guest" of Marveltown, as opposed to a "lifelong resident." I have enjoyed all of the modern Marvel movies that I've seen, though, and The Avengers is another winner, with more than enough action to satiate even the most blockbuster-jaded palate... plus a healthy helping of legitimately laugh-out-loud humorous bits.
Before Nicky and I went to see The Avengers, Nicky insisted that I see Thor first. Now I know why. Thor's half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is the main bad guy in this new flick, stealing a gizmo called The Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D. and using it to rip open a "dimensional vortex" and allow a race of aliens to pour through and invade the Earth. (Loki expects to be the Maximum Leader of the New Order, but it's fairly clear from the off that he is something of a means to an end. If the narrative itself doesn't convince you, then the post-movie, pre-credits teaser certainly will.)
Most of the humor in this movie, as you would imagine given that it was directed and co-written by Joss Whedon, is of the verbal variety, with a good portion of it emanating from the self-satisfied Tony "Iron Man" Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Though some of the jokes have stirred up unexpected controversy, they all work well in context. The gag that got the most laughter and applause, though, had nothing to do with verbal snarkiness. How else can I possibly describe it, but...
"IT'S EASY, HULK! JUST PRETEND MR. LOKI IS ON FIRE!!"
Ah, yes, The Hulk. I didn't see the earlier Hulk movie -- nor was I a watcher of the old TV series with Bill Bixby -- but, judging by all reports, The Avengers is the best media representation to date of the "Big Green Guy" and his alter ego, the twitchy Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). Ruffalo did a great job of presenting Banner as a man whose emotions are kept so tightly under control that they're likely to suffocate. And The Hulk himself... well, I'm not about to criticize his performance during the final streets-of-New-York battle sequence, are you?
Apart from Downey and Ruffalo, I especially liked the way in which the film handled Captain America (Chris Evans). Any time that this character is employed, a political interpretation of his portrayal, for good or ill, is never far from one's thoughts. Under the circs, the team of Whedon and Evans played Cap as straight as an old-fashioned hero still somewhat alienated from the times should have been played. Granted, in the scene at the gym where Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to recruit Cap for the Avengers' mission, a very broad hint is floated that the latter doesn't think much of America's recent military "adventures." But later, Cap is told by Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- and apparently agrees -- that a good, stiff dose of "old-fashioned (patriotism)" is just what may be needed in this new fight against a would-be tyrant. Cap also reacts to Loki's supposed "godhood" by saying that he recognizes only one God, and that Loki "doesn't dress like that." All of these lines, to one extent or another, ring true to this challenging character's... um, character.
One fairly significant character dies during the course of the film, but, given the frequent bickering and infighting between the members of The Avengers, the reminder of that individual's self-sacrifice turns out to be one of the major spurs that goad the band of heroes on to complete their mission and gain victory. As an accurate reflection of the classic Marvel sensibility, one could hardly do better than this. It will be very difficult for the sequel to The Avengers to top the original, but the recent Marvel Studios track record gives reasonable cause for optimism.