By JAMES MELVILLE
Did you enjoy the intimate poignancy of last week’s review? No. It made me sad and uncomfortable. Well, you’re in luck. I’m just reviewing The Avengers this week. Also a little drunk. Woo bonus issue!
The Avengers (2012):
The Plot: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes—and for some reason Black Widow and Hawkeye—have to fight a Loki-commanded army of aliens! Will they save the Earth, or will they have to…AVENGE IT?!?
Before I go on, there’s something I want you kids to remember: a lot of money and talent went into making this product for your enjoyment, so be nice and make sure you say thank you. And maybe buy some action figures or something.
You don’t necessarily need to have seen any of the preceding films to enjoy watching The Avengers. It helps, though. Since (most) of the characters already have fully established back stories, there’s a richness to the film that would have been lost in exposition. The audience is probably familiar with everybody’s powers at this point, and everybody definitely knows that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is a super-charismatic, hyper-intelligent bag of dicks. Just look at that goatee and tell me I’m wrong. Hulk (computers) has anger issues, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) hammers things with Dutch angles, Captain America (Chris Evans) is old school and in really good shape, and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has boobs. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner!) uses a bow, I guess? Again, I’m not sure why the last two were there. The film never justifies them beyond “they were in the comics, you guys.” Well, that and eye candy. More so ScarJo in that respect, but Jeremy Renner makes up for his lack of leather-clad curves with some serious charisma. I was more disappointed by Black Widow. Joss Whedon is usually better at writing the ladies.
Dead weight aside, the film does a good job of giving a group of strong personalities equal screen time. Thor, Cap., and the Iron Liver—because Tony Stark is an alcoholic—are all characterized with equal depth and attention. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), too, gets some great moments. Actually, out of all of the heroes, he might develop the most over the course of the movie. Or at the very least, he develops the most between his last cinematic outing and The Avengers. Everyone else is basically static. Thor is still a head-strong Norse God who wants to give his crazy adopted brother a second chance. Iron Man is still incredibly smug most of the time, and smugly heroic when the plot needs him to be. Captain America is still adorable. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is still Sam Jackson in an eye patch. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is still greasy and inept, yet somehow lovably so. Aaaand you just used the word “still” five times in five sentences. I’m thinking of going into bootlegging, okay? Get me a hat and cut me in, man. Let’s make some moonshine.
The characterization in the film is less about development than about giving the audience something human to connect with in superhuman characters. For all my sarcasm in the last few paragraphs, that’s a good goal to have, especially in a superhero movies. It’s impressive, actually. A fun blockbuster with likeable characters and witty dialogue. That’s, like, Die Hard level right there. Not quite that good, but similar in what it gets right. A crazy villain, a crazier plan. The team drama of Die Hard 3. And one of the stars of Die Hard 3. Huh. It’s the circle of life. You know, I never really liked that movie. What, Hamlet? You’ve never read Hamlet, have you? No, but the internet will back me up on this. Yeah, the internet is good for shallow readings of classic literature. Zing!
Overall, The Avengers is a well-balanced film. Action scenes are interspersed with dialogue, and vice versa. It’s two and a half hours long, but doesn’t feel self-indulgent. Joss Whedon has a story to tell, and he tells it in a refreshingly inventive way. That having been said, there’s a moment of unforgivable Deus ex Machina towards the end of the film. You could say that it’s… a nuclear missile fired at Manhattan by a shadowy bureaucracy, just so there’s an easy to way to kill the aliens and allow Iron Man to do something uncharacteristically self-sacrificing. Spoiler.
While I found many a fault with Marvel’s latest brand name, I did enjoy watching it. The Avengers is a near-perfect summer movie. Explosions and characters? My goodness, it’s a miracle. Honestly, if this became the template for blockbusters, we’d be in pretty good shape. Not marathon shape or anything, but definitely in better shape than I’ve been in since high school. There’s that word repetition again. That shit’ll kill you someday.