I finally got around to seeing The Avengers this weekend, and a good time was had by all. At least half of the audience clapped at the end, which doesn’t usually happen in a movie theater, but it was that kind of flick – people wanted to stand up and cheer. After living with these characters for five movies, maybe this is what the audience always wanted; but if you didn’t see Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America, I don’t blame you if you were thoroughly confused.
I’m surprised how generous the critics have been – all of the reviews have been tabulated and The Avengers is sitting at 93%, which is better than the 85% I gave it. Perhaps there is a Green Lantern effect; now that we know how horrible a comic book movie can be, there’s a curve for these films. Think about it – a movie about a bunch of super heroes banding together could easily be a train wreck, and this movie is anything but. Alonso Duralde said that “you can walk into this [movie] cold” (without having seen the previous five films) and enjoy it, and you can – but don’t expect to understand every little detail. Sure, on the surface, it’s not complicated – good guys, bad guys, they fight, good guys win, done deal. However, if you don’t know who these characters are, this movie isn’t going to tell you where they came from and what their history is, but instead, you’ll get a vague idea of who they are as character archetypes.
The Movie has a lot of strengths
Don’t let my complaining fool you – The Avengers is a quality action movie. ( I did give it an 85%.) Besides great effects and the best digital Hulk we’ve seen so far (although he moves… kinda like a monkey – his knuckles are scraping the ground a lot), the dialogue is not the usual cornball action shlock, and the comedy is well timed. Robert Downey Jr. tears it up, referring to Thor as ‘Point Break’ and Hawkeye as ‘Legolas’ and dispensing other zingers, but everyone else gets in on the act, too. Thor gets to quip “He’s adopted” in reference to Loki, Cap mentions, “I actually get that reference” when someone refers to Loki’s powers to turn people into his personal “flying monkeys,” and many other finely executed jokes amongst people smashing each other’s heads in. The Avengers also doesn’t fall into the damsels in distress trap, either – Maria Hill and The Black Widow are both strong, capable women who have no problem beating ass or giving orders. In fact, Thor aside, all of the Marvel movies have done a good job of not having women around to be scenery or plot devices only. More than that, the movie is well paced, tells an interesting story and zooms by much faster than its 2 hours and 22 minute running time. For some reason, it seemed that the Hulk was the most fleshed out character of the movie and the fact that he can now (for the most part) change from Bruce to the Hulk at will was up front and center in this flick.
Now, on to subjects that the movie, as a stand alone story, leaves you in the dark about:
Loki shows up at the onset of the film and quickly establishes himself as the bad guy along with the other bad guys. Over the course of the film, you do learn that he is the adopted brother of Thor and he’s evil, but if you didn’t see Thor, I would think it’d be hard to understand what his motivation is – besides the fact that he’s the bad guy. But I guess that’s all the matters.
The Tesseract (aka The Cube, aka The Cosmic Cube)
I’ve been reading comics for most of my life, and I still don’t have a great handle on what the Tesseract is or where it came from. In the Captain America movie, it is implied that the Tesseract is from Thor’s world, which is an explanation I’d never heard before – I thought it was created by scientists in the comics, but I looked at The Cosmic Cube’s wikipedia page, and it only confused me more than I already was, so I gave up on that. Anyway, I was never really sure that was what we were seeing in Captain America as the Tesseract didn’t behave the way I remembered it behaving in the comics (it granted the holder their desires, including reshaping reality – and what happened to the Red Skull at the end of Captain America?), but then it showed up in this movie after a quick tease at the end of Thor and of course a prominent showing in Captain America and if you didn’t make the connection, I don’t blame you. I spent a long time piecing it together after Captain America, but if you went into this movie cold and kept thinking, “What’s with the glowing Rubix Cube thingy?” I hear ya.
Nick Fury, Agent Coulson and Maria Hill
I guess you don’t need to know who these people are – none of the previous movies ever really tell us anyway – just that Nick Fury is in charge of SHIELD, a super spy organization, and Coulson if fairly high up. Hill shows up for the first time in this flick, so all we know about her is shown in this movie, which is just that she’s high up in the command chain and tough, and that’s it. Well, that’s about all we know about any of the three of them, so I guess I can’t blame The Avengers for coming up short on defining Maria Hill, because it’s something of a tradition when it comes to shield agents.
Hawkeye was in Thor for about 5 minutes, and that’s it. Other than the fact that he works for shield and has good aim, we don’t learn much about him in The Avengers either.
Black Widow/Natasha Romanov
We’ve met Natasha before (Iron Man 2), but if you missed that flick, all you’ll really learn about her is that she’s bad ass and doesn’t seem to have any super powers. She alludes to her past, which doesn’t sound pleasant, but we’ve never really heard about it and The Avengers doesn’t change that.
Captain America/Steve Rogers
If you’ve only seen The Avengers, you might hazard the guess, “What’s his super power? Being a good jumper?” because he does jump around a lot in this movie, but they do spend time explaining that he’s out of his element in the present day and that there is a connection between his (jumping?) power and the accident that made Bruce Banner the Hulk, but you don’t get much more than that. Still, the basic elements of the character are conveyed – Dr. Girlfriend even mentioned to me afterwards, “He’s sort of boy scout-y” which is dead-on Cap.
The Significance of Agent Coulson’s Death
As a stand alone character in this movie, Agent Coulson’s death was supposed to unite the team together after a common tragedy (kudos to Chris Hemsworth for the best “Noooo!” in a movie since Mark Hamill in Empire Strikes Back), but in the Marvel Movieverse, it’s more significant than that – aside from Captain America, Agent Coulson was in all of the Marvel movies, a unifying voice in a storm of bad guys getting punched in the face. He’ll be missed… because he was in almost all of the movies. He never really did much of anything. And it seems kinda unlikely that if he didn’t die, the team would have stayed divided.
Trailer 2 – Why’d They Include Hulk Catching Iron Man?
When you feature something like this in the trailer, it’s the sort of thing the audience is waiting for the entire movie (Remember the trailer for Avatar and then actually sitting through that steaming pile? You knew it couldn’t end until they got to the battle you saw in the trailer, and you’d already been sitting there for nearly two painful hours… This movie was better than Avatar… a lot better, so not as hard to sit through…), and I know this for sure because there was a little boy sitting right behind me repeating lines from the trailer whenever they came up during the movie. (Someone needs to take away his YouTube access.)
Just a quick note:
There were a lot of people at my showing wearing vintage (or fake vintage) Avengers t-shirts, and the movie had already been out for a week. That is hardcore. It didn’t occur to me to dig out one of my Cap t-shirts, but I tend to not be the guy who wears the concert tee of the band he’s going to see… Huh, missed opportunity there – movie theaters should sell movie themed merchandise. I wonder why they don’t do that…
Anyway, great flick – just not as great as I heard. Still, I’ll probably go see it in 3D in a few weeks and get my IMAX on.