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Friday, May 4, 2012

Movie Review: THE AVENGERS


"You think you're the only hero in the world?"
-- Nick Fury

The Avengers is a 2012 superhero action film directed by Joss Whedon that brings together the Marvel super-team for which the film is named. It serves as a type of sequel to a number of Marvel-centric films that have been released in the past four years. This film centers around an object known as the Tesseract, an energy source with an unknown amount of potential, which is stolen in the opening scenes by the banished Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Because he perceives this as a threat and an act of war, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) chooses to assemble the Avengers in the hopes of bringing them together to stop Loki's nefarious plot. After pulling some strings, he manages to bring together Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), but they initially have a bit of trouble getting along. Loki, with the help of Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), makes a successful attack against S.H.I.E.L.D., and the ensuing battle helps pull the Avengers into a more cohesive unit. Armed and ready, they prepare to square off against Loki and his army of Chitauri who aim to conquer the Earth.

I would like to start this review by saying that I am by no means a die-hard Marvel comics fan. In fact, I'm not quite sure whether I've actually read an Marvel superhero comic, let alone one that's Avengers-centric. Anything I know about the Avengers Initiative stems from the films that have been released over the past few years. Still, I found myself becoming increasingly excited about the potential for The Avengers despite my relatively positive review of Captain America: The First Avenger and my so-so review of Thor. However, when the film started to garner extremely positive reviews, I definitely started to pay a little more attention. At the writing of this review, The Avengers currently holds a ninety-two percent approval rating on, and it holds the following critical consensus:
With a script that never forgets its heroes' humanity and no shortage of superpowered set pieces, The Avengers lives up to its hype - and raises the bar for Marvel at the movies.
I'd have to say that I agree wholeheartedly.

Part of the reason the film works so well is the creative genius that is Joss Whedon. Those of you who read my review for The Cabin in the Woods will know that I think very highly of Whedon's talents as a screenwriter, and I personally think he's rather deft behind the camera as well. While this film doesn't necessarily feel like your typical Joss Whedon fare, it certainly has the pitch-perfect dialogue that fills his work. And what's truly great about the screenplay is that Whedon was able to flesh out the characters incredibly well despite the fact that there's so many different personalities dominating the screen. One of my biggest fears entering this film was whether the high number of A-list actors might overcrowd the film as they all jockey for position. With Whedon at the helm, however, each character is given exactly the right amount of screen-time, and just the right amount of touch is given to each of their personalities. While we may have been introduced to the characters in their own respective films, their relationships with one another in The Avengers are the facets that truly start to humanize each individual, making them more likable both individually and as a whole. This is where I thought the film succeeded most, by establishing each member of the Avengers as an individual with a specific set of emotions that ultimately makes them more easily relatable.

I also think that the dialogue and screenplay allowed for each of the actors to step up their game. Now, it was going to be tough for Downey Jr. to top his performances as Tony Stark/Iron Man from his two films, but I thought he did a fantastic job at least staying on par. I thought both Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth stepped it up a notch and brought more thoughtful and emotional characters to the screen this time around. It was also nice to get a little more of a back-story on Johansson and Renner's characters. The real surprise, however, was Tom Hiddleston as the devious Loki. As I previously mentioned, I was not a huge fan of the film Thor, and part of the reason it was so off-putting was that I didn't feel the need to root against Loki, who was also the villain in that film. This time around, there's something much more sinister about him, and I honestly thought Hiddleston brought his A-game. It's a truly fantastic performance, and I have to say that he should be applauded. Also be on the watch for some great smaller performances from the likes of Clark Gregg and Cobie Smulders, as well as vocal performances from Paul Bettany and Lou Ferrigno.

Oh, and some of the film's intangible qualities are top-notch as well. The special effects are utterly fantastic, and I was continually wowed by just how great the visual aspect of the film continued to be. On a personal note, I think they finally found a way to convey the Hulk properly, but that's just my own opinion. Some of the special effects are so beautifully intricate that you'll have a hard time believing that it's actually computer-generated. It's just that good. I'd also like to applaud Alan Silvestri for the score he composed for the film. It fit perfectly, and it might be one of the more memorable scores I've heard of late. Here's a snippet for your listening pleasure:

(Oh, and as with any Marvel film, make sure you stay all the way through the credits. There's a scene - or two - left there for your viewing pleasure.)

At the end of the day, The Avengers is one of the most honestly entertaining films I've seen in quite a while. I laughed and cheered along with the rest of the midnight audience, and it's easily one of the better movie-going experiences I've had in recent memory. I heard a few people already calling it the "best superhero movie" they'd ever seen, and although I can't quite place it on that high a pedestal just yet - The Dark Knight still holds that spot, and The Dark Knight Rises looms on the horizon - I'd say The Avengers definitely has to be in the conversation. It's just a fantastically-made film that's sure to keep a smile on your face.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: A
Should You See It? Yes

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