Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Avengers

As if the freakishly hot weather wasn't a big enough clue, I guess summer is officially here with the first of the big summer blockbusters -- The Avengers. The Avengers has been one of my most anticipated films of the year, especially since Thor and Captain America gave the film such  great set-up last year. Now it's no secret I ADORE superhero flicks -- I've loved both Iron Man films, Thor, and Captain America, but with the addition of Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the Hulk, I wasn't sure how that much awesomeness could fit into one film. Taken singularly, anyone of the aforementioned denizens of the Marvel universe is more than big enough to carry their own movie, and given the action-heavy trailers for this group outing I was a bit concerned that character was going to be lost in the sea of explosions. Placing Joss Whedon at the helm of this movie was a masterstroke of genius. Whedon knows how to bring ensembles together and make you care about each of the players, and happily The Avengers is no exception. This movie is freaking AMAZING. Plenty of spoilers to follow... :)

So remember the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube thing? The Tesseract has been on lockdown in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility under the supervision of Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), who reports to the always enigmatic Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) has been the lead scientist on the Cosmic Cube project, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attempt (allegedly) to harness the object's limitless energy. What apparently no one realized was what, exactly, a live wire the Tesseract could be, serving as an energy portal between worlds. This is something that, of course, the exiled and angsty Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes full advantage of, since he's the god of mischief and conniving and all.

Now I could sing Tom Hiddleston's praises from now until the end of time, I love him so much, I do  I do! :) He is such a delicious villain. I mean take his headgear -- it is ridiculous -- but Hiddleston owns it. Props to him for that. :) This time around, Loki is working on behalf of an alien race called t Chitauri. They (mustn't forget, they oddly reminded me of future predators from the TV show Primeval) want the Tesseract, and in exchange for the Cube they'll loan Loki an army so he can conquer Earth and show up his brother Thor. Yes, poor Loki really thinks that is going to work out. Bless his heart. :P Anyways, Loki is a lot of fun in this film -- all sturm and drang and stomping around (watch for the scene in Germany -- Hiddleston in a trenchcoat -- GAH I CAN'T TAKE IT). Loki destroys S.H.I.E.L.D.'s facility and in the process takes Selvig (WHY OH WHY COULDN'T HE KILL SELVIG?!) and Agent Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

Hawkeye was briefly introduced in Thor, and after seeing Renner at work in this film I have to say it is a crying shame that he and the Black Widow didn't get their own origin film (it's never too late for that, Marvel...just sayin'!). It's really quite wrenching seeing Hawkeye in thrall to Loki, however briefly...but that is more than made up for by Renner's intensity and charisma. He is absolutely delightful in this movie people, DELIGHTFUL. (What's not to like about a guy with a bow?) I love the act that the likes of Hawkeye help balance the superhero team with some sense of humanity, if you will. Hawkeye isn't a demigod, isn't a super soldier, isn't impervious to pain or harm -- he's just a badass with an extremely dangerous skill set.

Hawkeye's partner, for lack of a better term, is the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff, first introduced in Iron Man 2. I can really take or leave Johansson in most films, but I think she does an excellent job playing the icy assassin/spy. This film does a great job of adding some much-needed layers to the Black Widow's character by allowing us to see the cracks in her armor, like letting us see the impact of nearly losing Barton to Loki's machinations or almost getting squashed by the Hulk has on her psyche. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that Romanoff is an woman who looks on her work with S.H.I.E.L.D. as her best shot at redemption. I would love, love, LOVE a film dedicated to Hawkeye and Black Widow's pre-Avengers shenanigans. It's refreshing to see a strong female character in a film like this grappling with issues of identity and her past (as opposed to forcing a romantic hook-up, you know?).

Fury sends Natasha to bring in Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), living in isolation, practicing medicine in India, trying to avoid turning into the Hulk at all costs. Now I've never really been all that into the Hulk, and given the fact that Hollywood has tried and tried to launch a film franchise with little success I wasn't initially very excited about the Hulk's inclusion in this film. I couldn't have been more wrong. Ruffalo is fantastic as the conflicted Banner/Hulk -- perhaps all the green guy needed was a group of other superhero types to play off of? Because the group dynamic between everyone else and the potentially loose cannon that is Banner is terrific and provides the film with some of its most entertaining, laugh-out-loud moments (of particular note is the beat-down he delivers to Loki). I do think there was a bit of a logic jump as far as the Hulk's powers go -- we go from blind rage Hulk to team player Hulk -- was that a result of Banner just applying himself during his transformations or what?

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a fascinating character to throw onto a team like this -- because historically I don't think anyone is less of a team player than Iron Man, you know? I can't really complain, though, because Stark's ego and quick-witted comments (when he tells Thor he thought the demigod was playing Shakespeare in the park I could've died laughing) make my heart sing, I MEAN IT. Sarcasm of that type delivered with verve by RDJ -- it really doesn't get better than that for my snarkiness-loving-heart. *wink* It was nice to see how Stark's relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) has mellowed him just a smidge (speaking of Potts, her cameo is just one example of what a fantastic job Marvel does ensuring continuity in their films -- I LOVE that). Also, I adored the way Stark befriends (if that's the right word) Banner -- their shared scientific background means they speak the same language -- and Stark, impossible though it may seem, actually has the insight to know how to push Banner to use his alter-ego. LOVE THAT.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is of course a major player seeing as it is his brother wreaking havoc on the planet where his lady love resides (sorry, I couldn't resist waxing poetic -- I love Thor's more formal, courtly manner of speaking -- it's a small thing perhaps but it helps set him apart from the rest of the Avengers). I'm so happy that this movie continued to explore the strained relationship between the Asgardian would be so easy to just have the two fill distinct hero/villain roles, but knowing their history, seeing how Thor impossibly still seems to care for Loki (while of course wanting to throttle him) adds fantastic layers to their respective characters. Is it perhaps the fact that Thor can't seem to quite write his brother off that lends Loki the hope of some sort of redemption? Food for thought. :) Stark and Thor are definitely alpha characters on the "team," so this movie explores the struggle to find shared purpose and balance. The Iron Man/Thor introductory fight was a highly entertaining way of working out those intitial personality clashes. :)

Obviously I loved everything about this movie, but I have a special soft spot for how this movie handled the Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) character. Seeing as how we last saw Steve waking up after a seventy year sleep to a very different world, he arguably had the biggest learning curve of the entire group. The thing that impressed me the most in his film last year was that Steve was very much an old-fashioned hero, just a nice guy with deeply held principles of honor and duty ingrained in his psyche. Whedon made the right call in choosing to tell most of the story from Rogers' perspective, as the outsider who has to come to terms with the 21st-century and his place within it. Rogers is very much a soldier's soldier, and his sacrifice at the end of last year's film cost him his brothers in arms, his family, so this film is in no small way about Rogers once again finding a sense of purpose and community. He is the very definition of selfless, so it's interesting to see how he clashes with the more self-absorbed Stark. But for all the angst the payoff during the climactic battle is a sweet one, when the rest of his Avengers cohorts cede to his battlefield expertise and look to him for command in the field.

Now, as much as it pains me I need to talk about Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). I ADORE COULSON. He's been a constant presence throughout the Marvel films, always bringing the everyman touch to the fantastic goings-on, with snarkiness, sarcasm, and class, completely unflappable. He apparently had a thing for Captain America, and his trading card collection and unabashed fandom was a stroke of comic genius (as well as the whole horribly awkward "I watched you sleep" speech). Coulson was the very definition of team player, how much so revealed by his death. HIS. DEATH. At the hands of Tom-freaking-Hiddleston no less. This is a filmic tragedy of epic proportions in my world, people! Now I realize killing off a well-liked co-worker, basically, someone everyone on the team liked, was needed, the impetus to make this motely crew of loners a team. But that doesn't mean I have to be happy about it. *SOBS* WAY TO RIP OUT MY HEART AND STOMP ALL OVER IT, WHEDON!!! (And brings me back to the whole question of WHY COULDN'T SELVIG GET KILLED OFF INSTEAD?!)

I really enjoyed finally seeing Nick Fury in an entire film (as opposed to a teaser scene or two). One gets the impression he is extremely dedicated to his work, but not above using less than aboveboard methods to achieve his purposes (re: the trading card incident). I really hope this announced Nick Fury origin film is given the green light soon, as I'd love to know this guy's backstory, the council he is supposed to answer to (but ignores for most of this film), where he first got the idea for the Avengers Initiative. So many questions, so little time. :)

So, basically, EVERY LITTLE FLIPPING THING about this movie is just made of awesome from start to finish. Whedon did an excellent job weaving together the storylines and strengths of so many disparate, wildly dysfunctional characters into a family of sorts (Firefly, anyone? *wink*), replete with lots of humor and heart. The Avengers worked better than I ever could've dreamed -- a little slice of superhero film paradise. :) Keeping an action film character-centered is no small feat, and Whedon does an excellent job balancing the players with the action sequences. The latter are spectacular (I particularly liked the Chitauris' fishlike ships). And Alan Silvestri, who scored Captain America, provides a rousing score that given his recent history with Marvel films, provides a nice sense of continuity score-wise. With Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 scheduled for release next year, and the Nick Fury film in the pipeline, I can only hope their certain success will lead to a second Avengers film in 2014 or 2015. This formula worked so well, with the same team -- well a sequel just desperately needs to happen. Pretty please? :)


Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

Great review! The Hulk thing bothered me too, but from what I've read online the general consensus is that instead of fighting the change he willingly changed into the Hulk, and that enabled him to have better control. Also, Loki's scepter and the argument with his teammates could have influenced the Hulk to see them as a threat.

Can't believe I didn't realize this before, but did you know Once Upon a Time's Josh Dallas was on Thor? He's one of the Warriors Three. Though his foppish 'do and facial hair make him look a lot different.

And I didn't know you were a fan of Joss Whedon! Have you seen any of his stuff beyond Firefly?

Rissi said...

Hello! Was waiting for this all day, Ruth. (Well... not literally, mind you. LOL!)

"Whedon knows how to bring ensembles together and make you care about each of the players, and happily The Avengers is no exception. This movie is freaking AMAZING."

This is totally all I need to know. ;D

I have hopes to get to this on the big-screen but I don't know... we shall see! There is also a 2nd CA in the works - so excited! =)

Glad you enjoyed this one.

Deborah said...

I think you can tell from my comments on facebook that I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I mean i saw the midnight showing and then less than 36 hours later I saw it again in 3D. I FREAKIN LOVE THIS MOVIE. and Hawkeye. And the Legalos quote. And Hulk? SMASH.

please tell me you saw the scene at the VERY VERY VERY END????? if you didn't there's ANOTHER extra scene at the VERY end of the credits. If you didn't GO SEE AGAIN!!

Charity said...

Glad you enjoyed it. =) Joss is very good at creating characters you love (and then ripping them away from you... but me, still bitter about Buffy/Angel? ... yes).

Once I overcome my sulking that they replaced Ed Norton as the Hulk, I may go see this.

Unknown said...

@Katie - Oh, thanks for that Hulk-related info, that actually makes a lot of sense. Also, I did know Josh Dallas was one of the "Warriors Three" on Thor -- he looks SO different in Once! I wonder if he'll appear in Thor 2?

Whedon -- I've seen Firefly, Serenity, some Dollhouse episodes, and Doctor Horrible.

@Rissi - LOL! Glad I could oblige. :) I hope you get to see this on the big screen -- the spectacle is worth it. Also, I was rather hoping there would be a 2nd CA...but I didn't see anything official on the IMDB yet. Must not be announced yet?

@Deborah - Ha, yes I did see your Facebook comments and I completely agree. The Hawkeye/Legolas quote -- HILARIOUS! And the Hulk was so much fun. And YES, I did see the scene at the very very end of the had me laughing so hard! :)

@Charity - Oh yes...he had a great foundation to work with already as regards Coulson. GRRR. At least Coulson might appear in the Nick Fury prequel. That would mke me ver happy. :)

I think -- hope -- you'll like Ruffalo as Banner. He's very self-depracating. Loved it. :)

Karrie said...

I loved this film! I haven't really been a fan of comic book movies until recently, but the last few I've seen have been so great. Bat Man, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man (1). And now this! I want more!

Heidenkind said...

I heard there's already a sequel in the works, but RDJ won't play Iron Man anymore. ):

Unknown said...

@Karrie - Oh gosh I adore comic book/superhero movies. Definitely watch Iron Man 2 when you get the chance -- it introduces Black Widow and set up the Thor film. Can't wait for the 3rd Batman movie later this summer!

@Tasha - Whaaa---??? Does. Not. Compute. That's terrible. At least we'll get him in Iron Man 3?? Some (small) consolation I suppose...

Rissi said...

Actually it has been announced, Ruth, there just isn't much info. yet. =)

Unknown said...

@Rissi - Thank you SO MUCH for the link! When I wrote this post over the weekend I just looked up Chris Evans' name to see if he was officially attached to a CA2 film, which apparently isn't in advanced enough of an ennounced stage to warrant the linkage yet. ;) Again, thanks! So happy to know that a CA2 is happening as well. :)

Lori Benton said...

Yes! Just got back from seeing this film. I'm not a Marvel/superhero fan, but this film so well done. What you said, Ruth! ;)

I've seen Thor and Captain America, and saw this film for those characters. Looking forward to Thor 2.

Unknown said...

@Lori - Oh yay! So happy you liked this one too! :) I can't wait for Thor 2...should be excellent. This was a great "bridge" chapter for all characters involved.

Lori Benton said...

Chris Hemsworth as Thor is so close to the baddie in my debut novel. Is it wrong to find him so fetching? ;)

Unknown said...

@Lori - Ooohhh, color me intrigued! In answer to your question, I would say "um, NO..." :)

Rissi said...

I know, right, Ruth!? That sequel is, I think the one I am most looking forward too!

If memory serves me correctly, I believe Chris is set to star. IMDB may not have updated yet - they are notorious for being behind on such things. =D One of my followers mentioned liking CA but were crushed that he didn't get that dance. Although it seems improbable, he may in the sequel. Us romantics can hope, right!? LOL! ;D

Susannah said...


I've been on vacation and internetless for the past week, otherwise I would have been over here spastically commenting far sooner. ;) I kept checking for your review... and thinking "I bet Ruth liked this movie!"

Your review is epic and absolutely spot-on, as always. I got to see it a second time, and was able to process the utter amazingness better this time. And analyze plot points, etc, better.

HAWKEYE. Ever since that brief glimpse of him in Thor (I'd never even seen/heard of Jeremy Renner before) I'd been wanting to know more about him and see him again. :) So when I saw in the Avengers trailer that the BOW AND ARROW GUY FROM THOR was in it, I was even MORE excited (if that is possible). Also, I appreciate and commend your use of the word "badass" for him... I literally wrote that into my review and then when I went through to tame it down a bit for younger readers, etc... I figured I should get rid of it (grudgingly). BUT IT'S TRUE. Hawkeye = badass <3

Anyways. Yes. This movie. Gah.

Unknown said...

@Rissi - It'll be such fun! Surely they will be able to arrange filming around Chris E.'s schedule. I hope so. And I hope he gets that dance with someone worthy of him in his sequel! :)

@Polka Dot - LOL! Glad you agree. :) And you know me so well thanks to blogging, ha!

I'm looking forward to seeing this one again, not sure if it will happen in theaters -- but definitely the day it releases on DVD.

SO glad you liked Hawkeye too -- he desperately, desperately needs his own film. And I'm glad my descriptor met with your approval (I couldn't help it, really!). :)