'The Avengers': Definite crowd-pleaser, but not game-changer
Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 4, 2012 17:05
Four year ago, Marvel Studios set out with an ambitious plan: link up a bunch of franchises into a super-franchise. Five films and a corporate buyout later, it's finally happening. The problem is, "The Avengers" has lot of little problems. Sometimes it's "Marvel's Avengers," and sometimes it's "Joss Whedon's Avengers."
The film revolves around the government organization SHIELD trying to find and defeat the Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has stolen a source of unlimited energy. To do so, SHIELD Director Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, puts together a crack team of superheroes: living weapons platform, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.); super-soldier Captain America (Chris Evans); Loki's brother, Thor (Chris Hemsworth); the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); and assassins Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). The formidable team has tussles with each other before uniting and throwing down with a trans-dimensional army.
First, the bad stuff: dialogue and fan-pleasing. The dialogue is where writer/director Joss Whedon pokes his head out the most - and, let's be honest, the media has been pushing Whedon as just as much of a star of the film as any of the actors. Whedon is well-known for his love-it-or-hate-it brand of quirky, witty, pop-culture-laced dialogue, which works to the detriment to the movie. While Captain America is the least effected by the dialogue (barring one moment where Cap is all too pleased to understand a "Wizard of Oz" joke), Tony Stark/Iron Man gets the brunt of it. While there's some of the character audiences grew to love in his solo films, Stark here is overly self-referential (wearing a "Black Sabbath" shirt and blaring a song from the "Iron Man 2" soundtrack in his first fight scene) and at some point decided to to call everyone by movie-based nicknames (mostly films from the 80s). Tony Stark is practically the avatar of Joss Whedon throughout the film.
The other problem is that the films often sticks too closely to the comics (this is coming from someone who read 27 issues of "The Immortal Iron Fist" last weekend). The costuming tries to stay close to the classic 60s/70s looks, but a lot of it just looks goofy, including one alien that looks like a Power Rangers villain. The movie plays it a little too safe, mostly being a standard auctioneer with a coat of superhero paint.
All that said, the last hour alone is worth the price of admission. Hawkeye and Hulk steal the show in the action scenes, utilizing polar opposite fighting styles such as machine-like precision and a whirling dervish of chaos, respectively. A lot of the wow-factor has been ruined by the 5,000 trailers, but there are a solid five surprises, two of which are jaw-droppers (Hulk facing down the giant mechanical dragon blew up the screening with cheers). The character interaction is also really strong, and with all the different personalities, you're likely to find someone with whom you identify.
When all is said and done, "The Avengers" is all spectacle, little substance. It's summer fluff at its finest, but doesn't redefine the genre, like "Iron Man" or "Spider-Man 2." See it in a packed house, but don't expect it to challenge your notions of what superheroes can be.