Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard
Surely by now, most everyone and their mother has seen The Avengers. The mega-crossover event was released in theaters internationally a week before the U.S. release, and it seemed almost everyone on the comics internet was able to weasel their way into some sort of special advance screening before the official May 4th opening day. Reactions were so overwhelmingly positive for a movie with four years of hype already under its belt, I couldn’t help but take a moment of pause to worry that Avengers might not be all it was expected to be.
I’m partly responsible for the hype, as I did sign up for an all-day Ultimate Marvel Movie Marathon of the previous Marvel Studios films (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) leading into the midnight premiere of The Avengers. Spending 14-hours in a theater with like-minded individuals felt like our very own Avenger assemblage. The shared experience of watching the solo-films leading into a super-hero team-up of that unprecedented magnitude is something I don’t expect to ever duplicate (sorry, DC). The theater was electric as the clock struck midnight, and no combination of sore asses or concession-stand indigestion could dull the pure joy that would await us. Add to that anticipation the big screen debut of the newest Dark Knight Rises and Amazing Spider-Man trailers, and the theater was frothing more than Squirrel Girl with rabies.
I must admit: I was less than impressed with the film’s setup, and the voices in my head started to get louder. Could The Avengers possibly be…disappointing? The near-immediate turn of Jeremy Renner‘s Hawkeye into a tool of Loki‘s design was unsettling, and I couldn’t help but feel like a million Dan Mahoney’s screamed out and were suddenly silenced. Sure, the Tessaract had been introduced in Captain America, but I was uneasy with how swiftly it became the center of the plot. While Evil Hawkeye still bothered me, the film’s setup was fairly quick, set the plot and characters in motion, and featured an extraordinary action set piece which would likely be reserved for the final act of a lesser action film.
My concerns were quickly shuffled loose this mortal coil when Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury began the some assembly required to realize The Avengers team we’ve all been waiting for. Surely, a lot of the early squee moments in Avengers came from the various members of the team meeting-cute, something we’d been promised since Jackson cameoed in Iron Man in 2008. The Marvel comics the movies are based on have had these characters crossing over for decades, but there’s still something very special about seeing live action versions of these heroes share the big screen for the first time. And there were SO many of those moments, and they were all expertly crafted by the filmmakers.
The real test, however, not only for The Avengers in story, but for The Avengers to be validated as a filmmaking success, would be the final epic battle against the cannon-fodder Chitauri lead by Thor’s butt-hurt brother, Loki. Much was made about what inter-dimensional force the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would take on in their big-screen team-up, but in the end, they could’ve been Chitauri, they could’ve been Skrulls, they could’ve been Kree or they could’ve been an army of Russian-speaking ducks, the important thing was, they were a global threat, The Avengers needed to work together to defeat them, and they needed to provide a sufficient body count. At no point does The Avengers succeed more than when the team is being lead by Captain America, and each member is contributing with their own unique set of skills. The tracking shot following the action and skipping between heroes in the midst of battle is easily one of the greatest accomplishments in action filmmaking.
In a film that relies so heavily on the concept of team and family, it’s difficult to chose a star or an MVP. Surely, Joss Whedon acc0mplished what many thought he could not, and likely, what many others could have never attempted. Mark Ruffalo, the rookie of the cast, shined as both Banner and Hulk, stealing most (if not all) of the characters’ scenes. Edward Norton could not have pulled off the same tone of Banner, and the CGI and motion capture behind bring The Hulk to life is by far and away the most successful of previous live action Hulk-outings, and makes the CGI in Incredible Hulk look crude and cartoony by comparison. Scarlett Johansson even manages to pull off a great performance, head-and-shoulders above her abysmal outing in Iron Man 2. Can we attribute that to Whedon’s love of strong, female heroines?
For my money, The Avengers’ heart and soul thrives in Chris Evans portrayal of Captain America. Evans is easily the most unlikely of the ensemble to pull off such a storied and well-regarded character, especially considering his previous roles as the young smartass. Evans hits the notes of Steve Rogers perfectly, and is completely believable as the man that would lead a team of super-beings into battle against the forces of darkness. Undoubtedly adding to the gravitas of Evans’ Cap is the way series badass Agent Phil Coulson turns into a giddy fanboy around the First Avenger. Allegedly, there is over 30-minutes of deleted scenes that were to include more of Rogers integrating himself back into modern-say society, and a reunion with his one-time love Peggy Carter from Captain America: The First Avenger. I look forward to as much more Cap/Rogers/Evans as I can get.
This is what we’ve all been waiting for, and now that The Avengers has happened, we can die happy, can’t we? I doubt I’ll ever have as enjoyable a movie-going experience, with a crowd as primed and pumped and ready to cheer and laugh as those I shared this experience with. There’s more Marvel Studios films coming down the pike, with Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 to hit theaters next year, and Captain American 2 in 2014, with rumors of another Hulk solo film on the agenda, and assuredly a sequel to Avengers in the very near future, and if the mid-credits scene of Avengers is any indication, all bets are off as far as the Marvel movie universe goes. But will we ever be able to recapture the magic of The Avengers again? One things for sure: DC and Warner Bros. aren’t going to duplicate that magic any time s0on. So, in the meantime, all we can do is watch The Avengers on a constant loop.
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