Review - The Avengers

The Avengers (2012), PG-13, 142 minutes - Wow.  I'm completely nerding out right now.  I've had high hopes for The Avengers for a while now.  Ever since the idea of cramming a bunch of super heroes into a single movie was teased with the post credits scene of Iron Man.  Hopes were raised even more when Marvel announced that Joss Whedon would direct.  That's right, Joss Whedon.  He who has an amazing resume when it comes to highly entertaining tv and film revolving around character driven stories with a large, diverse cast.  The Avengers really couldn't have been put in better hands.  But even though I had raised my hopes so high, the comic book nerd in me wondered if The Avengers would really work on the big screen.  Could you fit that many characters in a movie that wasn't five hours long?  And if you could get a script down that solved those potential problems, could you piece together a cast that could set aside egos and bring it all to life?   I never should have worried.  Joss Whedon was the man for the job.  And what came out in the end was even better than I could have hoped.

The Avengers is the story that bits and pieces of the previous five films produced by Marvel Studios teased. The story of how a team of the world's greatest super heroes come together to defeat a threat for greater than any one of them could handle alone (i.e an alien invasion unleashed on the world by a God from Norse mythology).  They all have different views not only of themselves, but of who they are working for and what is going on in the world.  Oftentimes it is tough for any story (let alone a film) to tell the story of a group without playing favorites and focusing on a couple of characters while almost forgetting about the others.  This is where the film best benefits from Joss Whedon's touch.  He is an excellent story teller and is able to give each of the seven superheroes their time in the sun on top of great character building moments throughout.

Of course it helps that The Avengers boasts an all-star cast.  Granted, all of these actors and actresses have signed multiple film deals with Marvel so there is continuity between these Marvel Universe movies and their sequels, but the fact that they all came together as well as they did after most of them have starred in their own films is amazing. Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) have been the focus of previous installments from Marvel Studios (see my Countdown to The Avengers posts from last week), while Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) had secondary roles in Iron Man 2 and Thor respectively.  The Avengers themselves aren't the only quality actors and actresses the film boasts either.  Samuel L. Jackson continues to bring Nick Fury to life, while Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Stellan Skarsgard (Erik Selvig), Gweneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) also reprise their roles from earlier Marvel entries.  The entire cast is great, but I thought that Downey, Jr, Ruffalo, and Hiddleston really stood out.  Ruffalo in particular as he is now the third actor to portray Bruce Banner/Hulk in the last nine years.

The Avengers is the first of this year's big time summer theatrical releases, and it has kicked off the 2012 season with a big bang.  It clocks in at almost two and a half hours, but feels quicker than that.  It is constantly movie forward and throws either witty dialog or great action at you at every turn.  It isn't necessary to have seen the earlier Marvel films to understand what is going on in The Avengers, but if you have, you'll pick up on little things here and there that you might not otherwise.  It has a little something for everyone.  From knock down, drag out, super-powered throw downs, to comedy, to drama, to a hint of romance.  The Avengers is accessible to all and a ton of fun.  This is a film that I don't have any hesitation in saying everyone should see.  After years of producing great character driven stories, Joss Whedon finally has the monster blockbuster that he so rightly deserves.

* There are two post credits scenes.  One part way through the credits that teases things to come in future films, and one at the very end of the credits which ties back to something Iron Man says towards the end of the movie.  So be sure to stick around through the credits if you want to see some fun stuff.


- I loved how we got both an Iron Man/Thor throw down AND a Thor/Hulk throw down before The Avengers came together to save the world.  Classic comic book-like disagreements before the inevitable team up!

- They finally got the Hulk right.  He looked like he belonged in the movie.  In the previous two Hulk movies,  the CG used looked a bit out of place.  I think it helped that they used motion capture of Mark Ruffalo for the Hulk so he actually looked like who was playing the character.  The look of fear on his face when he first turns into the Hulk is a really nice touch.

- There were a ton of great character moments. I really enjoyed when Ruffalo's Banner first turns into the Hulk and he shoots Black Widow a glance filled with fear.  The Stark/Banner discussion about their conditions keeping them alive is great too.

- Stan Lee has his typical Marvel movie cameo.  This time it is towards the end of the film as an old man playing chess in the park.  He says something along the lines of 'super heroes in New York? Ridiculous!'

- Agent Coulson completely nerding out over meeting Captain America, then later asking him to sign his Captain America trading card set was hilarious.

- Nick Fury's right hand woman Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) has a decent sized part.  She's been fairly prevalent in the comics over the last few years (courtesy of writer Brian Michael Bendis).

- Post credits - THANOS!!!!  Holy cow that was sweet!  I'm still geeking out over that.  Could we see The Infinity Guantlet?  How sweet would that be!?  For those who are not familiar with Thanos, you can get a basic idea of what he's all about here.

- I didn't put two and two together myself, because Loki was playing The Avengers like a fiddle for a while there, but my friend said he had read online that the stone in Loki's staff was the Mind Gem (one of the gems of the Infinity Guantlet).  This would make sense since Loki was messing with people's minds and he was in cahoots with the Chitauri, who were reporting back to Thanos in the post credits scene.

- The alien invaders were called the Chitauri.  This name was previously used in Marvels animated feature Ultimate Avengers 2.

- While the story was not exactly the same, it echoed parts of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's run on The Ultimates - from the infighting among the heroes to the alien invasion.

- Thor coming to Loki's defense then doing a complete 180 and saying that he was adopted had me rolling.

- I loved the two slightly altered Hulk catch phrases that they slipped in.  Captain America saying to the Hulk: 'Hulk...smash'.  And Hulk tossing Loki around like a rag doll then muttering 'puny God'.

- Being a fan of Thor, I really enjoyed how they included his swinging his hammer around and around before taking off to fly.  It was a nice nod back to the comics.  His using the empire state building as a conductor when he summoned lighting during the Chitauri invasion was cool too.


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