Sunday, April 29, 2012

You Should Go See "The Avengers"

I won't be running a full review of "The Avengers" until this Friday's "Escape to The Movies," but the review embargo seems to have dropped (it's already opened for half the planet) so I'm happy to drop a few thoughts on the matter (after the jump) and offer that the already-posted full reviews from Drew McWeeney, Devin Faraci and (he's back!) Neill Cumpston pretty-much sync up with my own. (note: some reviews and this post after the jump contain ellusions to events in the movie a MINOR spoiler of something that doesn't seem to have ever been meant as a secret, i.e. the name of the alien bad guys, but if you insist on waiting until literally the first minute of the movie to hear it you've been warned.)


Short version: I don't know that it's the best movie about superheroes ever made, as "Spider-Man 2" "Dark Knight" and the '78 "Superman" loom pretty large in that regard. But "The Avengers" it's easily the best "Comic-Book Superhero Movie" ever made in terms of bringing the genre itself to the screen - undilluted, uncompromised and, finally, unashamed of itself.


Some other observations:

  • This is The Marvel Universe, it's world(s), it's characters and it's rules translated into a live-action feature film as faithfully as possible; and by that virtue fairly or not it will immediately become the superhero movie by which all others will be judged and, in the immediate, probably found wanting. The subsequent Marvel movies are going to have to work a lot harder than they had been before (excluding "Captain America") to measure up to this, and I'd imagine that it will cause a lot hand-wringing for the producers of the too-far-along-to-rework "Man of Steel" and "Amazing Spider-Man;" and while the Nolan Batman movies are so much their own seperate thing form the rest of the genre (at this point it feels like even having the main character still BE Batman is a begrudging courtesy on the filmmaker's part) for a comparison it's hard to imagine "Dark Knight Rises" NOT being regarded as the runner-up in the innevitable punditry matchups.
  • Worries about Iron Man dominating the movie? Shelve them. There's a lot of Tony Stark in the movie (he is, after all, "the funny one" and good for exposition) but in terms of the action beats and screentime Iron Man is more of a combination comic-relief/deus-ex-machina figure: He's there to deliver a quick-fix and land a punchline for the most part; with Thor as the serious one who keeps things on track, Hulk as the wildcard and Cap as the overall MVP.
  • It's kind of genius that Samuel L. Jackson's role as Nick Fury mainly utilizes his gift for solemn, forboding delivery and straight-faced just-the-facts-isms, as opposed to the "angry, ever-shouting black police captain" cliche it could've easily been.
  • If there's one innevitable "down-side" to just how good "Avengers" is, it's that it can easily be seen as the ultimate vindication of a "The Fanboys Were Right" outlook on such things - pretty much every risky/offbeat thing that makes the film work as well as it does, from the inter-film continuity to the source-faithful aesthetics to the hiring of Joss Whedon amounts to what comic fans have been clamoring for for decades. It's going to be very hard for any adaptation of a "geek" property to jettison an awkward genre/continuity relic or rework a costume/design-element without getting a tidal-wave of "It worked fine for The Avengers!!!" in retort. In other words, we've probably heard the death-knell of "Nolanizing" genre-properties - for good or for ill.
  • Mark Ruffalo is the best Bruce Banner since Bill Bixby, and this Hulk is the best Hulk period. I like the Edward Norton one and I still think Ang Lee's oddball interpretation is criminally underrated; but this is the first time anyone has really pulled-off the idea that while being Bruce Banner is scary and sad... being The Hulk looks like fun. I do not envy the parents of small children the night after they see this movie.
  • Jeremy Renner is VERY good as Hawkeye, but I still say they should've given him something more interesting to wear. He looks underdressed whenever he's with the other Avengers, and frankly even his ridiculous "classic" purple gear is no sillier than some of the "why would he even HAVE THAT!?" trick-arrows he busts out. (Warner Bros. is either going to very happy or very sad about their in-production "Green Arrow" show after seeing this.)
  • Chris Evans was very, very good as a more deeply-characterized version of Golden Age Captain America; but he's phenomenal as a literal live-action translation of Silver Age "man out of time" Captain America. His one-line off-the-cuff appraisal of Thor and Loki is a perfect piece of writing from a character standpoint (though I think some folks will misinterpret it.)
  • Speaking of perfect writing, the long-in-coming payoff to the lingering question of Bruce Banner's "secret" to keeping The Hulk in check is one of the best pieces of Banner dialogue ever uttered in any version of The Hulk in any medium ever.
  • I know Marvel is back and forth about what to do with The Hulk after this (is that TV show still happening?) but someone needs to sign Ruffalo for at least more in-universe cameos yesterday. The instant chemistry and snappy rapport he has with Robert Downey Jr. as Stark is the best surprise of the whole production.
  • One of the great benefits to bringing the "rules" of comic book storytelling into the movies is that, as it turns out, the "shortcuts" carry over, too: The film's brisk pace is aided by an almost gleeful pulling of the "A Wizard Did It" trigger; with what might otherwise have required tedious exposition often being handled in short conversations that boil down to: "Wait, plot-hole?" "Oh, handwave/phlebetonium/magic/cosmic, of course."
  • Loki is a great choice for an innaugural bad guy, especially because he's still essentially the same "type" of bad guy from "Thor" - angry, crafty and more invested in manipulation and game-playing than big-scale supervillainy. This is necessary, since everybody knows that in superhero team-ups the good guys MUST be made to fight eachother in as many combinations as possible before they all fight the bad guys - otherwise how would we find out "who would win?"
  • It is soooooooooooooo fucking refreshing to see a superhero movie where the characters joke around and the movie is allowed to be funny without it feeling like self-parody (the Schumacher Batmans) or obnoxious (what we've seen of the new Spidey's cringeworthy comedy-routine.) For me, the first two Raimi "Spider-Man" movies were the gold-standard for "takes itself seriously but knows when to go for the laugh" superhero narrative, but this overall surpasses them in that department.
  • One thing that DOESN'T happen that I was kind-of hoping MIGHT happen: Captain America being able to lift Mjolnir. Probably for the best - might've taken a bit too long to explain to people who skipped "Thor" why that's a big deal, and as it is Cap already gets like four or five "Yeah, I'm the guy" moments.
  • More than one person at Warner Bros. is taking a second look at the Joss Whedon "Wonder Woman" script they passed on a few years back right now.
  • It'll be really interesting to find out, when the dust settles, just what DID happen in the conception of the alien army that shows up for the big finale. In the film they're called Chitauri (the "Ultimate" name for The Skrulls) but they don't have Chitauri/Skrull shape-shifter powers and they don't look like either creature or any other recognizable Marvel alien. Supposedly the shape-shifting was part of the leaked script that was around awhile back, and the Skrulls rumors were "fact" for awhile, so it almost feels like they went into shooting intending for these to be Skrulls  and then had to switch it around later on when the legal quagmire surrounding those characters proved untenable. Either way, all the "what are they?" silence has led a lot of people to assume their identity is some kid of important secret, when in reality we learn their names offhand within the first minutes of the film.
  • This is probably the closest to recognizably human (as opposed to unbelievably-sexy-alien-unfamiliar-with-emotion) a performance as has ever been coaxed from Scarlett Johanssen. That's not to say she's ever been "bad" (far from it) but she finally appears to be from this plane of existance.
  • "Iron Man 2" is probably still the least of the Marvel movies, but the payoffs in this film to some of the smaller character beats and worldbuilding it got into are good enough to make that film a whole "star" better.
  • Traditional Marvel mid-credits surprise? Yup, and it provides the most definitive answer possible to "how the HELL do they plan to top THAT?"

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

So, about the last part (I'll try to not spoil anything).

Bob, do you think that any of the upcoming Marvel movie sequels like Cap 2, Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 will be about you-know-what/who and have that tie in to Avengers 2? As in, "Oh, what's Thor doing while this is happening? Go watch Thor 2 to find out!" or do you think they'll be mostly stand-alone with cameos and nods like the other ones (although that got a bit harder after Avengers because... well, those who have seen the movie know what I'm talking about)

Hiding behind "Harmondale" said...

I could not believe that mid credit reveal.. just wow... I can't even imagine how its going to go in the future with that! I'm so happy Joss pulled it off!

MerelyAFan said...

Avengers definitely seems really solid and groundbreaking as far as what its doing with superheroes and continuity.

The fact that appears to be legit funny (and in an non-corny sense unlike the first two Spider-Man films) is even better.

hayesjam said...

I'm pumped for The Avengers. I'm even more pumped for TDKR though, and I'm not ashamed of that.

Arturo said...

I would've loved to see Cap lift the hammer as well. I would want the innevitable sequel to get made just to see that.

James Bormann said...

Surprised to hear your opinion on the Raimi films. I like the films, but if there was one thing I hated about the first two films (SP2 more so) it was the dialogue and McGuire's robotic delivery. Hell, I'd admit that I'd rather watch 3 than 2 any day.

I get I'm in the smallest minority with that opinion, but I will never understand why so many people view that as one of the best comic book films.

Matt Steiner said...

It will be very exciting to see how they tie in all the movies that have built up the big Avengers release this weekend (in the US)

Dominic said...

Hey, Bob: if you place the cursor directly after those floating, content-less bullet points and hit Backspace, they disappear.

*piano twinkle*

John.E said...

already seen it twice, will see it a third time at the end of the week. By far one of the best movies I have seen in a long time

Anonymous said...

Really glad you loved it! It makes me even more so eager to see it. I have to say my biggest worry all surrounded the Hulk,
(I never thought Ruffalo to be a good actor. He seems like a Keanu Reeves style actor, in that his characters don't seem drastically different from film to film.)

I'm hoping this keeps on for a while yet. There's still tons of characters with tons of potential to fit in, in this established universe!

Anonymous said...

Even with all of the positive buzz I just cant help but be skeptical. The trailers just look too damn mediocre for me to be excited until I see it all with my own eyes. I know so far it has almost universal acclaim, but then again so did X-men first class.

You loved it, as did most people. But when it comes down to it the movie was just so so so so painfully mediocre. I wanted to love it so much, and there were so many individual pieces that were genius. I find it admirable that it even tried the rare deep message comic book movie thing. But aside from the two main leads the acting was distractingly bad and it fell into so many movie tropes and corny annoyances that I was never able to really like it.

I fear the same for Avengers. If Robert Downey Jr. already makes me want to punch him in the face just for the trailers, that does not bode well for the movie, no matter how good everyone else is. I know people are saying the humor avoids being stupid and corny, but the trailers really do not leave me confident in that.

Again, Im sure everyone is right, but after first class I am weary of universally acclaimed summer blockbusters with terrible add campaigns.

nejiblue said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Blue Highwind said...

Blogger really needs to fix the coding for bullet points, I see Moviebob couldn't get those to work either. I almost never use that feature on my posts for that reason.

Also, I really did not have any worries about Iron Man dominating this movie. Honestly, they should have called this "Tony Stark & the Avengers" and I would have been happier.

I'll see it Friday.

Steve said...

It's an awesome film, an absolute blast, but I just can't agree with all the people describing it as an "unashamed" comic movie. Hawkeye's lack of costume just pulls the rug out from under that claim.

Yes, all of the other characters get fairly undiluted versions of their costumes, but most of those aren't really very outlandish. Hulk has no costume, Iron Man IS his costume, and Thor is from another world where what he's wearing is more or less the norm. The only one which really stands out is Captain America, and his costume is at least a little "Nolanised", so to speak.

All that said, I think it was the right decision not to have Hawkeye in costume. But it still undermines the "unashamed" claim.

MovieBob said...

Neijiblue and Anyonymous, your comments were deleted for spoiling. I've reposted them for you here, sans the spoilers. Let's not make a habit of this:

nejiblue said...
"Iron Man 2" is probably still the least of the Marvel movies, but the payoffs in this film to some of the smaller character beats and worldbuilding it got into are good enough to make that film a whole "star" better.

give me a fucking break. Did you even rewatch iron man 2 before saying "oh it ties into avengers so its great now!" What I expected, but whatever. Oh and of course now plotholes and dues ex machina's are great because...it's a comic book movie? And they have shitty writing too? Good to know. And sorry, I still can't stand black widow. THE most overrated female superhero ever conceived. Need to get back to the micheal bay movie she wandered off of.

And yes, nolan's batman is batman. Period. Just another take on the character, like any other real adaptation of the character. Nice how you try to say "it automatically loses to avengers without seeing it" while still trying to sound objective.

The bottom line is this, I saw the trailer for this while watching john carter, and I just didn't care. Apathetic would be the word, didn't hate it or love it. Hope you all enjoy it or whatever, but I'll stick with dark knight rises and maybe amazing spiderman and just rent avengers.

PS-[REDACTED] is the name of the villian in the post credits sequence from what I've read. When I read about it before finding out the name, thought it would be someone note-worthy like galactus or doctor doom. But nope, another d-list nobody that I've never heard of before now. But I hate modern super-hero marvel/dc comics, so it's to be expected.


Anonymous said...
Black Widow is awesome period. If you want a good example of her written well, look no further than her role in the Winter Soldier cap america story arc and on until marvel decided to screw bucky just cuz. Aside from that being one of the best written periods of cap ever, it really made me like black widow as a character.

As for [REDACTED], firstly while I am sure everyone expected him as the big baddy to be revealed, thanks for the HUGE spoiler. Also [REDACTED] is a HUGE marvel baddy. Dont talk about things you know nothing about buddy. He may not have the name recognition as galactus or doctor doom with the general public, but in the Marvel Universe he is on their same level.

I am ashamed to share your position of apathy towards this movie. Everything you said was stated in the absolutely most antagonistic and dickish way, and yet... at its core, up until the thanos comment I agreed with most of it.

Anonymous said...

Moviebob, you forgot to edit a few more mentions of You-Know-Who.

Mister Linton said...

I KNEW Ruffalo was perfect for the part as soon as I heard he was the new Banner. Thanks for the thoughts Bob. Can't wait to see this next week.

Maximiliano Ruocco said...

But Bob in Batman Begins and TDK there is banter between Alfred and Bruce Wayne (Other characters also do it but they do it the most) and there are funny one liners (Not as much as the Avengers)

I Saw The Avengers and Its a great night at the movies

The 2 scenes that stood out for me where the reveal when Bruce and Captain America are told by Black Widow to step in 'cuz its going to get harder to breathe

And in the big action scene at the end where Captain America gives orders to everybody :)

InnerPartisan said...

Just came back from watching it. I'll try and keep it spoiler-free.

Boy oh boy, this was FUN! I still think The Dark Knight is a better movie, but... The Avengers is trully the best COMIC BOOK MOVIE by miles and miles, and unashamedly so. The movie is *incredibly* funny, there's not even a smudgeon of Grimdark - and yet it takes itself entirely serious throughout.. and it works.
Case in point: This is The Hulk's movie. Well, actually this is The Avengers' movie (seriously, this is a movie about teamwork if there ever was one), but The Hulk had all the funniest bits - especially his... moment with Loki. I don't want to spoil it, but you'll know what I mean. The entire cinema was ROARING with laughter. And yet, the entire time he was still a huge, scary green ragemonster.
That's what I mean. It just works.

The best thing, though? Well... you remember those dudebro douchenozzles who defended the Transformers movies with lines like "Dude, it's just a dumb action movie! What did you expect?"
Well, we can now beat their heads in with a reel of The Avengers, because... THIS is what I expect. THIS is how you do spectacle. THIS is how you make a rollercoaster of a movie. Because a rollercoaster only works if you actually care.

Anonymous said...

I gotta say Avengers was a blast. Saw it 3 days ago here in the UK. The above comments have praised all its good points, sans one, and in my oppinion what makes it legit to hold this above other action movies.

Good god, the camera work in the action scenes towards the end of the movie! Tasked with showing lots of separate fights with different characters in different locations, then bring the fight toghetter, while keeping flow AND showcasing the characters?

Seriusly, by far the aspect of the movie that deserves the most praise, sitting down and doing the storyboard for that scene must have been a nightmare, but they pulled it off in a way that had me grinning like a fool for the last 30 mins. Way more ambitious than anything Nolan ever did (one hero to focus on, maybe some henchemen, and if things get tough, you have an exuse to just hide the guy in shadow, cos hes Batman...yeah not so impressive anymore).

Aiddon said...

I have better things to do than jerk off Whedon and Marvel. Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Oh STFU Aiddon. We get it, you don't like superheroes. Well guess what?

I don't like your jerk off name. I don't like your jerk off posts. I don't like your jerk off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk off.

Anonymous said...

"I don't like your jerk off name. I don't like your jerk off posts. I don't like your jerk off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk off."

The Dude abides

B.L.C. Agnew said...

Glad to hear more positive buzz about the movie, and glad to hear it stands up well next to other great efforts in the genre.

Though I gotta say, Donner's Superman has NOT aged well. At all. Movie takes waaaaay to long to get going for one - in fact, the pacing drags for nearly all the first act. Yeah, it's pretty much great nearly the entire time that Reeve is on-screen (especially in the suit), but unfortunately he really suffers when he's off-screen - which is for a surprising amount of the movie given he's the title character.

Also, the movie's Luthor is a joke of a villain. Not a credible threat to Superman at all (except in the most hackneyed and forced "because the script needs this to happen" way), and comes off as a petty asshole instead of the diabolical mastermind needed to challenge the last son of Krypton.

And don't even get me started on how stupid the "fly around the world real fast to go back in time" deus ex machina is.

I for one am VERY glad at how much the genre's film adaptations have improved since then. Hopefully both The Avengers AND The Dark Knight Rises will continue that trend.

Scott C. said...

Bob, you really need to stop going on and on about the Raimi Spider-Man movies. I know you don't like the new one (really, you have yet to give me any reason that actually makes any sense), but I really feel like you're only pretending to like them so you can continue to dislike the new one.
They were poorly written, casted, and the special effects were lackluster for an 80s film.
McQuire is not Spider-Man nor will he ever be. He wasn't funny, witty, or clever like Spider-Man is. He was a loser. He was more of a loser after he got the powers. Read Amazing Fantasy 15, and compare his personality while fighting Crusher Hogan to McQuire's and tell me with a straight face that Raimi got it "right."

Daniel R said...

(SPOILERS!!!! KIND OF! NOT REALLY ON THE FILM! RATHER THE FILM'S OVERALL STRUCTURE, CHARACTER AND PLOT-WISE!!!!)

Seen it twice already.

Loved it, just- just... Loved it!

It really is a perfect film. The humor, the action, the character work, the unabashed sense of grandiose wonder the film seemed to have with itself, its all there!

This proved to me that Whedon really is a bona fide genius. I mean, I really liked Serenity and Firefly, but I never particularly cared for Buffy or Angel or any of his other work. But this... Damn, the guy really pulled it off.

Pretty much every character has a role in the film:

Iron Man and Black Widow have the biggest character arcs.
Thor has arguably the most emotional investment in the story, this being his brother and all. Seriously, Hemsworth really brought his A game. His conversations with Loki were some of the very best parts of the movie.
Hulk IS the best part of the damn movie. Finally finding the balance between "Oh crap, he's angry" and "Oh hell yeah, he's angry" that was absent from the last two films.
Cap, as you said, is basically the glue of the team and all-around MVP.
Hawkeye is wholly necessary to Widow's arc and he gets to enjoy some very powerful moments with her.

But the action is undoubtedly the best action in a superhero film ever. There's a shot, near the end of the film, the one I think Anonymous 8:51 is referring to, that is simply amazing. That shot alone is worth the four year set up.

For me, this all started when I was twelve years old and my older cousin wanted, nay, insisted we wait till after the credits in Iron Man. I remember the lights turning on and the maintenance staff coming in while we were still watching, most of all I remember really wanting to go to the bathroom. I stood there jostling next to my seated cousin for what seemed like hours. Then suddenly the credits stopped and the screen came to life. I remember my cousin's face lighting up with joy at the words 'avengers initiative' and I remember not understanding exactly why. But, I was just happy he was happy so I smiled alongside him. We exited the theater, he drove me home, and now its four years later, and I understand now.

Best superhero film ever. Just barely beats out Spider-man 2.
Then again, I saw the film at midnight while wearing a Kid Loki costume so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Aiddon said...

@Anon

If I don't like superheroes, then why did I like the Raimi Spider-man movies, Nolan's Batman series, X-Men 1 and 2, Iron Man 1, and also collect comic books occasionally? I LOVE superheroes, I just despise Marvel having SHOVED this pet project of theirs down my throat for the past five or so years. So YOU fuck off, ya soft-brained BERK.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ, there always has to be some blowhard who wants to be contrary for the sake of being contrary, and misses the entire point of something in the process.

So Marvel "SHOVED" this down your throat for 5 years? Here's the thing: That happened because it's taken five years to make all the movies for the characters leading up to this film. If they hadn't have done that, then a) this wouldn't be the experiment in seeing if translating comicbook-style continuity to film would work and b) we would have had to endure most of "The Avengers" being devoted to introducing each character and explaining their backstories and we would have had less time to see all the action and good stuff that so many people are watching this movie for, and it would probably be less enjoyable as a result.

So you don't want to see it...then fine. Don't see it. But don't go pissing in everyone else's cornflakes just because you have decided that since you don't like something then no one else can enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

@Aiddonny

Guess what? None of thats in your posts. Instead, you keep posting the same generic hater rhetoric. OVER. AND OVER. AND OVER AGAIN.

So stop shoving down YOUR pet project posts on us.

Or maybe you just hate that I came up with the perfect response to your posts. To continue the Big Lebowski beatdown, "Shut the fuck up Aiddonny!"

Aiddon said...

Your best retort is to go just go "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" and make me wanna plug my ears because you can't take criticism? Really? Oscar Wilde you are not.

Anonymous said...

There's criticism, and then there's you. I take away all reason and maturity from a poster, and I get you, the baby crying cause everyone likes something he doesn't, and won't shut up about it. So if there is anyone going "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!", it's you.

Now go get your shinebox.

Aiddon said...

Here's the thing, mook, not ONCE have I told you you can't enjoy the Avengers. EVER. I mean, sure, I believe it's going to a boring, tedious boomfest with Joss Whedon's poorly-aged dialogue, but I am not so ego-maniacal that I'd force you to dislike it or call you an idiot for liking it. What I WILL call you a moron for is acting like a bullying asshole who throws a hissy fit because you're obviously insecure over your goddamned choices. Grow. Up. Now if you'll excuse I'm going to talk to someone who doesn't have the mental maturity of a child.

Anonymous said...

Hope you don't talk to yourself then.

Unknown said...

Hey Bob, wanna read a review that'll piss you off? Look no further then Something Awful's resident CB film hating critic and how he makes a form-left-field connection to 9-11 http://www.somethingawful.com/d/current-movie-reviews/avengers-safe.php

When I hear from the distance you frothing at the mouth you'll know how I felt about your cynical John Carter (of Mars) review :-p

Anonymous said...

I just came out of the theatre, and I dont know why but somethings been bugging me. The film works, its just...I don't feel moved on any emotional level. Like the film has no core and consists entirely of sugary frosting. Maybe I should rewatch all the other films first, then see it again? It feels disjointed, unfocused, and it seemed to build to nothing. Still loved it, but I was hoping for more. I'll have to watch it again and try to figure out why i feel like this.

Anonymous said...

I saw it the second day it was out and I STILL haven't recovered from the epicness!
I heard they're making a Guardians of the Galaxy movie (the modern-day team with Drax and Star Lord, not the old future one), and it will be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Iron Man, Thor, Cap, Inc. Hulk & Avengers) continuity. While they are taking a pretty big risk making a film of such an obscure team, I'd say the MCU can afford a swing-and-a-miss after how successful the Avengers was. I'm not saying GotG will flop, just saying it's possible. Frankly I'm pretty pumped for it. Plus, how else are they going to get more Cosmic stuff into the MCU? The nine realms and Chitauri aren't quite enough in my opinion.