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Movie Review – The Avengers

Ron is Graphic Policy’s newest contributor…. WARNING SPOILERS!!!!

Hello all.   Brett has asked me to write up a review of The Avengers for you all, and I accepted the request with some cautious optimism.  As this is my first official review, I may ask you all to be kind in your criticism, as my writing can be confusing, and my opinions can sometimes be narrow (whether right or wrong).

As a quick background, Brett & I have been friends for the greater part of 14 years since college.   Our comic book geekdom knows no bounds when we get going, and I always graciously defer to his knowledge, as he (to me) is a far better authority when it comes to the subject matter.  But, without further adieu, on with the review.

To preface this, I made sure to see the movie twice to try and really hone what I am feeling about the movie.  My first experience was in IMAX 3D.  We sat about dead in the middle row, in the middle of that row.  The experience was overwhelming, as I’ve found in the past with some movie moments in IMAX (ask my wife about Quidditch matches during Harry Potter movies; hold onto your lunch!).  Initially I enjoyed the movie overall before really digesting it a second time.  There were highs & lows, but until I went a second time, I didn’t really gain true understanding of how I felt.

My second viewing was in Digital Real 3D, with the new D-Box experience.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to sit in these seats, allow me tell you what they are.

The corporate jargon:

Personal Opinion #1: D-Box are seats that move to the movements & actions of the movie you’re watching for a 4D experience.  The movie houses literally program the seats to move precisely by the frame, so it is virtually a way to feel part of the action as it happens.  The Pro: It is really neat at times.  You can feel helicopter blades pulsate, you can feel the banking of turns when Iron Man is flying, you can feel jarred when something spooks you, and you feel HULK SMASH.  It is definitely an experience.  The Con: It does take some getting used to.  It’s a bit jarring at first, as your body is not used to what is happening.  But by the end of this 2.5 hr epic, your body is one with the seat, and you enjoy it.  Oh, then there is the cost.  I shelled out $19+ for the seat.  Keep in mind this is Movie cost + Real 3D + D-Box experience.  I would only spend this on a movie you know will give you a rush.  Something with action, or a horror movie that you can feel nervous heartbeats & scary jolts.  For something with lots of dialogue, you’ll be sitting in a non-moving seat for a premium price, but I digress.

Personal Opinion #2:  After Real 3D and IMAX 3D experiences back-to-back, may I suggest you go to Real 3D 100% of the time vs the alternative.  I’m sure there will be backlash from this statement.  But let me tell you.  The glasses are better (you don’t get those crazy lines that distort the image if you turn your head that can get you all sorts of messed up).  The image is clearer (keep in mind movie houses film in HD formats that fit wide screens.  Now they have to digitally manipulate that image to a MUCH LARGER IMAGE… the result is more grainy due to the initial resolution getting stretched out) which makes the 3D more impactful.  And lastly, IMAX can be overwhelming if you don’t sit far enough away.  You make even miss subtle periphery things of note as your eyes can only absorb so much.  Trust me, you want Real 3D.

Haha, told you.  I rant.  I’m one page in, and NOW I’m getting to the movie.  WELL, I suck… and you’re along for the ride.  Just as The Avengers was 2.5 hrs, and you may have looked at your watch early, you’ll be here for the long haul and hopefully won’t look now until the end!

The movie is a sequel of sorts.  By that, I mean, the plot assumes the following:

  1. You’ve seen, at minimum, Captain America and Thor
  2. If you haven’t, these questions MAYplague you
    • Who are some of the pivotal characters?
    • Loki?
    • Dr. Selvig?
    • I’m assuming you can figure out the title characters from those movies
  • What is The Tesseract?

If you’ve done that homework, you can SORT OF get by.  Do yourself a favor and take in Iron Man 1 & 2, as well as The Incredible Hulk so that some of my rants make sense.

In any case, LONG story short: Loki shows up. He steals the Tesseract to bring an army from across the Universe to Earth to take over as its ruler.  The rest is putting the Avengers together, some minor battles, and the epic conclusion.  Seems pretty simple for such a long movie, right?  Well, before I get into the plot problems from a comic stance, how about from a directorial/producer stance.

  1. Explaining Loki, the Tesseract, & how Thor arrived are just some examples how the script and Joss Whedon (the director who has done such “fine” work as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV), Angel (TV), Firefly (TV), etc – lots of TELEVISION work, but minimal big-screen experience on his resume) tried to throw a bone to the unknowing portion of the audience, and explain away some things that were otherwise ignored.  Part of me thinks Jon Favreau (director on the Iron Man movies; executive producer for The Avengers) may have spoke up & said, “You may want to explain that a bit more,” and this is what we got.
  2. More holes from previous movies:
    • The Bifröst bridge was destroyed in Thor
      • Explain away his returning by a one liner: Loki – “Your father must have used a lot of dark energy to send you here to stop me”; it’s a plot-line cop-out
    • Um, Loki was tossed into the Abyss… how did he return?  How did he get out?  Is the abyss just another dimension where the Chitauri live and they helped him out so that is why they are doing this together?  That’s a pretty long assumption.
  3. Common frustrating action movie stereotypes:
    • The Loki chase seen in the beginning: REALLY?  I mean, could it be any more stereotypical?  A truck seen in a tunnel as the antagonist taunts from the back of his ride.
    • When Hawkeye is asked by Loki about what the Tesseract told him – the dramatic opening of his bow for no good reason… really?!
    • The team bursting at the seams with rivalries, only to come together when they’re needed most… really didn’t seem like they were apart that long… oh wait, it really was a few hours
    • Did you really need Agent Coulson to spell out his death as a rallying point?  We get it, they’re upset.  You could’ve spelled out some of the other plot portions than that one Joss
  4. Black Widow just did not feel right from the first scene on… not BAD, but not on.  I felt her character with Favreau at the helm in Iron Man 2 was far better, and suited as a secondary role.  As her role progressed in this movie, it never really grabbed me.  I mean, she’s scared after the Hulk confrontation… but shouldn’t she be a tough-as-nails spy who has experience everything?  Subtle detail, but really emphasizes a character flaw.
  5. Dr. Banner felt like he was directed to be overly UN-emotional, almost shy to a fault in his interactions, so as to not “unleash the fury”.  I really felt someone told Mark Ruffalo (the actor portraying Dr. Banner/The Hulk) to be different than Ed Norton’s version, who was more stressed about his condition and controlling it.  Mr. Ruffalo’s/Mr Whedon’s interpretation was so unemotional, it felt detached & uninterested.  There were some dialogue moments that were very good: in the lab with Tony Stark & then with everyone; oh wait, they wanted to show growing emotion (or did they want to show Loki having God-like influence on the situation?).  But that didn’t make up for the numerous interactions he had from about a ½ hour into the movie.
  6. Who the heck are the Chitauri and why do they want anything to do with Humanity? And how do they know Loki?  What is this all about???  Seriously, what is their motivation for helping him and coming here?!  More-so, why are the so hyper-focused on The Avengers and not the planet?  I mean, they weren’t even a team until recently, and Loki’s quarrel is with Thor and the planet he loves so much.  I digress, who are the Chitauri?!
  7. Oh, the Chitauri are a race of aliens who are helping Loki for complete Universe domination, so he can rule humanity… I guess.  They also have laser-shooting speedsters that fly, and their biggest part of their invasion is a large flying snake/eel that carriers regiments of ground troops on its side.  Otherwise it flies aimlessly destroying things and chomping on stuff.
    • This is where I need more Michael Bay and less small-screen Whedon thinking.  (Ok everyone groaning, I get that Bay really mucked up the Transformers battle scenes to the point of confusion, but you have to admit they are epic and world-destroying scenes).  We have THE AVENGERS fighting an alien race set to take over the world with lazer bikes and snakes…
    • Oh, when one snake dies, the idea of bigger is 3 snakes… Joss, you couldn’t come up with something bigger and more insurmountable by our heroes?
  8. Lastly, did anyone else figure out the Chitauri were nothing more than a race of Borg-like individuals electrically tied to a mother ship?  Borg meets Independence Day.  So the Chitauri can’t live without whatever energy is powering them… huh… weird way to stop the battle, but it makes Tony finally… OH (my ADD is kicking in!)
    • ANOTHER STEREOTYPE: Tony Stark (the character with the narcissus complex) actually (almost) lays his life on the line, flying the nuke through the portal to save the world.  Oh, sorry Pepper didn’t  take your call either. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this scene, just a pretty easy plotline to write
    • And another assumption moment for this point: The Chitauri used to have possession of the Tesseract, which has powered their Borg-like race, as well as the staff they give Loki, which allows him to find it as well as why the gamma signatures are the same… huh, another long stretch Mr. Whedon.

And while my rants are on the movie specifically right now, I’d like to bring up some geeky questions that seem odd.  I will not elaborate for those of you who aren’t familiar with the lore that has built up this franchise since the Silver Age of comics; I don’t have the time.  Feel free to do the comic industry a favor, and read up on this.  Your curiosity will be rewarded.

  1. Why is the Tesseract not “The Cosmic Cube”, which it looks like, and is minorly being used as
    • Loki really could’ve taken over the entire planet without an army with it; just saying
  2. The Chitauri:  Are they supposed to be the Skrulls?  Even comic book aficionados are perplexed by this… they look like them, act like them, but they are called something else and we weren’t really given much to work with

My other plotline inconsistencies would fit here too  (Bifröst Bridge, Abyss, Loki’s seemingly underutilized powers).

You may think I hated this movie with all these criticisms.  You would be wrong.  I think this was a “GOOD” movie.  It’s written as the first summer blockbuster.  It’s for enjoyment and less thinking.  Watch and enjoy.  To be honest, there were other moments that were cheesy, but added to the lightness of the movie:

  1. Hulk punching Thor in the last battle
  2. Black Widow stating that “That, in no way, resembles a party”
  3. Hawkeye stating to Black Widow “You and I remember Budapest very differently”
  4. Loki still listening to Thor after Iron Man knocks him off the hilltop
    • This was a little too cheesy, but it was made up for with the action that commenced, and Tony’ s  Shakespeare reference

On a quick aside, and take it for what it’s worth, but Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury as one would suspect. His quick one-liners are humerous.  You will either laugh or be upset because it’s not original for him, other than the eye patch.

Speaking of character interpretation, I cannot imagine Tony’s smugness being portrayed any better than Robert Downey Jr.;  excellent character portrayal.  Also, Chris Hemsworth as Thor simply shines.  Another fine interpretation.   Chris Evans’ also does a fantastic job as Captain America.  These heroes make for the lion’s share of dialogue thankfully, with the exception of Scarlett Johansson’s lackluster performance in this rendition of Black Widow.   Lest I forget Tom Hiddleston as the archnemesis Loki.  He continues his dominating performance from Thor into this movie.  A jealous, conniving God of mischief who’s sadistic qualities knows no bounds; just an excellent job.

From a technical standpoint, the CGI used in creating The Hulk in his scenes was extraordinary.  The D-Box addition made for some amazing moments of smashing and destruction.  Probably the best use of the monster in film thus far.  I say that, in no way, to state that The Incredible Hulk was lesser.  I just state it because it is a highlight of the movie, and really they are engaging moments.  Whedon, to his credit, sets us up with so much non-emotion from Banner, that when he becomes “The Other Guy” it is impactful and you get a sense of how important his sheer strength is to the team.  That is something to be commended.

In conclusion, it is well worth seeing.  If you can handle some slow dialogue in the beginning as the team forms, as well as the gaping holes that, to the common viewer who is less critical, will not take away from the movie’s meaning, you are in for a treat.  I  encourage you to see the digital Real 3D, and if you can, try to experience the D-Box seating.  For the traditionalist, they’re just more gimmicks that allow a studio to be liberal when it comes to good plots & writing.  But for something more experiential, these add layers that enhance the movie just enough to get through the movie remembering more than a bad line here & there, but the fact you jumped from shock as Hulk jarred the seat as he threw something straight at you.   I encourage you enjoy this one, and I hope it’s soon. By the time The Dark Knight Rises arrives, this will feel less than what it could’ve been, but thoroughly enjoyable at the time.

Overall rating: 7.5