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Sunday, 28 December 2014

REVIEW - THE AVENGERS (2012)

Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Release date: May 4, 2012


I was twelve years old when, to my absolute disbelief, I saw Robert Downey Jr. pop up out of nowhere in the post-credits scene of The Incredible Hulk, and pretty much confirm an Avengers movie. Back then, I didn't know Marvel were attempting to make a shared universe, and I didn't particularly care about most of the characters in the Avengers roster. I still don't, but the sheer idea of a live-action movie featuring a team of superheroes coming together was, at the time, one of those things that many people wanted to happen, but was just too good to be true. It probably doesn't even need to be said that this movie brutally murdered its competiton at the box office, breaking all records and then some, and settling comfortably into its current place as the third highest-grossing movie of all time. After half a decade of filmmaking and five partial set-up movies, in the year of 2012 the Avengers transformed from Marvel's answer to the Justice League into something much bigger. Two years later, and this movie's influence can not only be felt in Marvel's Cinematic Universe, but across the entire medium of cinema. It's simply monumental.

The plot of The Avengers can be summed up in just a few words: superheroes unite, and they kick ass. But for analysis' sake I'll tell you that after Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) inexplicably rises from the dead and steals the plot device Tesseract, an artifact of unimaginable power, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the rest of S.H.I.EL.D. move forward with the Avengers Initiative: a plan to bring together a band of titans - in this case, Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans' Steve Rogers/Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Jeremy Renner's Cliff Burton/Hawkeye, and Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow - to fight a battle that cannot be fought by ordinary men, and make nerds cry.


The Avengers is the definition of a popcorn flick, and in the good way. The action scenes are beautifully done: they're colourful, huge in scale, perfectly shot and sprinkled with small crowd-pleasing moments for the audience to lap up. The fact that the Hulk is a frequent scene-stealer should also provide some decent means of catharsis for those disappointed by Marvel's current unwillingness to give the not-so-jolly green giant anymore solo adventures. The Avengers' biggest strength is its sheer fun factor. This movie is accessible, colourful and, surprisingly, even with the perfect fit of Buffy creator/uber-nerd Joss Whedon at the helm, often downright hilarious. This is essentially an action-comedy, and there's crackling dialogue and effervescent witticisms as far as the eye can see. There's one scene in particular that is just gut-bustingly funny, I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it (assuming there's anyone out there who still hasn't seen this movie), but for those of you who have, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The comedy may come off as slightly excessive for some, but it fits. This movie's existence is a fanboy dream come true. There should be cause for celebration.

In this regard, while The Avengers has a greater sense of awe, it's quite similar to Marvel's most recent flick, Guardians of the Galaxy. Or rather, Guardians is similar to The Avengers, as while the former is probably just a tad more endearing as opposed to flat-out funny and it's still a great movie in its own right, it is more-or-less The Avengers in space. This is also probably the definitive Marvel movie, as in addition to being a huge milestone it was the first to make the studio's vibrant and quick-witted approach to comicbook movies abundantly clear.


Between all the Norse Gods and super soldiers it's fairly easy to forget that The Avengers actually has a villain. Yes, the fact that hardly anyone knew who the character was before he appeared in a movie is probably part of it, but Tom Hiddleston owns the role of the devious demigod Loki. He's one of the best things about Thor's solo outings, and as far as Marvel's movie villains go, he's undoubtedly head-and-shoulders above the rest. While that may not be particularly hard as pretty much every other one has been fairly forgettable, Hiddleston clearly relishes the role and, staying true to his title as the God of Mischief, is the cause of some of the conflict between the good guys. He does get whipped pretty bad in the end, though. But this isn't about the villains. It's about the heroes. 

While it's doubtful you're going to be watching The Avengers for the riveting plot and character development, it isn't a completely brainless endeavour. It has an air of self-awareness about it, and while the superhero smackdowns are probably going to be what's on your mind the most by the time the credits roll, this isn't a two-hour-long action scene disguised as a movie (looking at you, Battle of the Five Armies). It's almost relentlessly entertaining, and when the heroes aren't punching things, there are some great character moments and real human interaction between the team members, even if some are more interesting than others. It also succeeds in tying up some loose ends from previous solo outings and making a (somewhat) coherent connected arc between the characters.

Now I'm going to have to break the hearts of fanboys everywhere and say this: The Avengers is not perfect. Sure, it delivers in spades, but the story is very flimsy and predictable, Loki's methods of mind-controlling certain team members are a bit uninspired (Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye really gets the short end of the stick), and the Chitauri - an army of aliens under Loki's command that look like they've come straight out of a modern first-person shooter - are generic, only pose a threat due to their sheer numbers, and conveniently drop dead at the end of the climax. There's also never really a credible reason for the Avengers to come together despite the movie's attempts, and the pace tends to sag at times. But while it's easy to nitpick The Avengers, at the end of the day its shortcomings are overshadowed by the wonder and spectacle of it all.


Ten-plus years ago the best Marvel could come up with was Daredevil. They've certainly come a long way. Forced to make do with their B-listers after selling the movie rights to some of their biggest franchises including Spider-Man and the X-Men, this is their redemption story. The Avengers is a cinematic achievement in the form of nerdvana. Fans will preach on forever about how this is the be-all and end-all of comicbook movies, and while that's debatable, it's certainly an extraordinary accomplishment and captures the true essence of the genre like no other movie has so far. There isn't really much to it when you think about it, but does that really matter? This is one for the fans, but thanks to its sharp wit and pure entertainment factor, those who are a bit more unfamiliar with Marvel's world won't have to sit through any simply adequate timekillers culminating to this movie's release. Anyone can jump in and enjoy it, and if you haven't already, you really should.