PLOT: When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) escapes exile and steals the phenomenally powerful Tesseract (AKA The Cosmic Cube) from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D, it's up to Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson), Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to get it back before he unleashes an alien invasion that will enslave mankind.
REVIEW: Joss Whedon’s THE AVENGERS is the most entertaining superhero movie of all-time.
That's not hyperbole, people. That's a motherf*cking fact. Accept it, live it, love it. You can slide THE DARK KNIGHT, X-MEN, SUPERMAN, UNBREAKABLE, BLADE, and even IRON MAN right down to a permanent spot at second place because I doubt highly there will ever be another superhero pic as entertaining as this one. Be sure to note I said "entertaining" and not "perfect" or "best". There are very key differences between the three words.
THE AVENGERS is not a perfect movie by any means. Perfectly entertaining? Yes. But perfect? Not quite. It's close but a couple of the scenes run a little too hot with exposition for my taste (Thor and Loki’s first scene together will make absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn’t seen THOR) and there a couple of glaring plot holes (I thought Loki had already possessed Erik Selvig). Those quibbles keep it from being perfect TECHNICALLY but don‘t prevent it from being perfect AESTHETICALLY.
And it certainly isn't the "best" superhero movie ever because the best would have to feature a complete origin followed by section where the hero learns how to be a hero followed by a big finale where he/she battles a supervillain who’s origin mirrored the hero’s and ...well, that kinda happens here and kinda doesn't. You get the origin of The Avengers but absolutely no background about the heroes themselves (save for a minor flashback to Captain America’s WWII days). You have to have already seen IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THOR, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER to fully appreciate what THE AVENGERS. So "best" is not the word I would use to describe this flick.
Entertaining, however, is a word I‘d definitely use. And frequently. THE AVENGERS is, without a doubt, the most entertaining superhero movie I've ever seen.
Let me count the ways:
- Joss Whedon. I knew going in fanboy favorite Whedon (creator of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, DOLLHOUSE, and FIREFLY) was going to make a very fanboy friendly movie but I had no idea he’d make one that was immediately accessible to all audiences. I know I mentioned earlier you HAVE to have seen all the previous Marvel-verse flicks to fully appreciate this one but you’ll still enjoy it if you HAVEN’T seen them. THE AVENGERS is a summer blockbuster of the highest order. You’ve got good good guys, bad bad guys, giant explosions, quips, heroics, plot twists, character development, alien invasions, clever dialogue, the end of the world …basically all the stuff you want out of a blockbuster and more.
- Despite the fact this isn’t an IRON MAN movie per se, this IS the purest IRON MAN movie yet. Robert Downey Jr is sooo good here. Splitting the focus between him and the other Avengers allows his performance to gel properly and not get bogged down by the issues that plagued the two standalone Iron Man pics. There‘s no battles with rival weapons manufacturers or half-assed “Demon In A Bottle“ storyline compression here. Just Stark being the genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist we want him to be. Love that Whedon also managed to squeeze in a Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) cameo without making it seem like gratuitous fanservice.
- Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is as good here as he was in THOR. His acting has actually leveled out a bit. Dude was good in THOR but couldn‘t have really brought that over-the-top Shakespearian bravado to this without derailing all the other cast members. This is Hemsworth refined. His scenes with Tom Hiddleston (Loki), despite being too exposition-y, are amongst the best, as far as acting goes, in the film. Yeah, I know. Makes no sense to complain about those scenes a few seconds ago and then say they are the best. Those who haven’t seen the previous Marvel-verse flicks might not get much out these moments but those who have will relish every time these two collide on-screen.
- Chris Evans (Captain America) is also operating on the same level as he was in CAPTAIN AMERICA. Suit is a little wonky (more on that in a bit) but his reactions to the strange new world he awoke to (this is one of the plot points that REALLY requires you to have seen Cap's standalone film) are priceless. His line “There's only one god, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that” when referencing to Loki is pure Cap through and through.
- New Hulk Mark Ruffalo immediately wipes away any and all memories of Eric Bana and Edward Norton the second he appears on-screen. He may not go green till the end of the second act but it doesn’t matter. Ruffalo is channeling Bill Bixby (who will always be the perfect Bruce Banner to me) so hard that when the big green guy finally does appear it’s just icing on an already amazing cake. The moment where he reveals his big secret will definitely be appearing on my TOP TEN CINEMATIC MOMENTS OF 2012 list.
- Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) are solid here. Hawkeye spends most of the first two acts as a baddie but goes 100% awesomesauce for the finale. All the ladies around me at both screenings I’ve been to seem to really dig his Robin Hood schtick so I guess his whole bad/good character swap didn’t really matter much to them. I thought it was a little strange but whatever. Johansson managed to take her relatively one-note (badass) performance from IRON MAN 2 and give it a couple of layers I wasn’t really expecting. That’s the Whedon touch there. His version of Black Widow can proudly stand alongside Buffy Summers, Melaka Fray, Zoe Washburne, Echo, and the dozens of other multi-layered badass female heroes he’s written over the years.
- Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Holy f**king hell does this guy bring it. I knew his performance was going to be good based on the one he gave in THOR but dude really kicked it to the next level here. Most of his big moments are just little grins and reactions to things. We’re talking no lines. Hiddleston can sell it without even having to speak. Though him speaking is always good too because Whedon gives him all the best speeches. One could possibly argue that he does have a tendency to “monologue” but who cares? When the monologues are being delivered with the conviction and intensity Hiddleston brings then you’ll want a dozen and then a dozen more.
- It honestly astonishes me how much I f**king love this movie. I knew THE AVENGERS would be good but not this good. My argument about how this is the “most entertaining” and not “best” superhero movie is beginning to unravel in my mind as I write this review.
- Thought maybe the massive cast (all of whom are mid-to-top level stars) would try to one-up each other at every turn, battle for film dominance, make everything about them. But that didn’t happen. Each and every cast member allowed the other one to breathe and have their own individual moments. Color me impressed.
- Ever wondered who would win in a fight between Hulk and Thor? Your answer is here. Ever wanted to see the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier (epically epic) in action or Hulk take on an entire army of alien invaders (Cap‘s command of “Smash“ to Hulk damn near had me in tears)? This flick will give you that. And more. So much more. From the opening intro to the very last scene (which comes at the tail end of the credits after a scene that appears in the middle so don’t you dare leave unless you want to miss one of the biggest laughs of the year) THE AVENGERS is a virtual cornucopia of fanboy goodness.
- Alan Silvestri’s score. Amazingly amazing. Loved every note. The second you hear it outside of the movie (bought a copy immediately after seeing the movie) you’ll be able to mentally recall the exact moment and scene that music cue occurred in. That, my friends, is the sign of a great score. Maybe not one as iconic as John Williams’ SUPERMAN or even Danny Elfman’s BATMAN but, in my opinion, damn close. I know there are those who will argue this with me but I dare you not be swept up in Silvestri’s themes as you’re watching this flick. I dare you.
- “Puny God” is the best line of the movie that most audience members won’t even hear because they’ll still be laughing from what preceded it.
- The action. Oh goodness. Words cannot comprehend how breathtaking awesome the action sequences in this flick are. There’s not a single dud. Not one. Every fight, battle, and all-out war is straight-up Marvelous. See what I did there? MARVELous. Get it? Marvelous because it’s Marvel and …ah, screw it. Action fans will not be disappointed with the quality mayhem on display here. Let’s move along.
- I realize I’m missing about a hundred different things to include here in the THINGS I LOVED category but I can’t help it. Just listing THE ENTIRE F**KING MOVIE is not really an option. Especially since I did have a couple of minor issues (more on those in a sec) and, well, I …oh yeah! I remember now. Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. I thought Whedon giving him a more expanded role might take away from the fact he works best in small doses but I was wrong. Gregg’s Coulson is the beating heart of THE AVENGERS. Without him, I can’t imagine the finale would’ve worked as well as it did had he not been at the center of it.
- THANOS!!! Yeah, yeah, spoilers schmoilers. Motherf*cking Thanos is in THE AVENGERS! MARVELOUS!!!
- The Chitauri were cool and all but could‘ve been so much more. They served their purpose and not much else. Little disappointing considering the entire fanboy community (myself included) has been speculating as who the alien army in THE AVENGERS would be (Were they Kree? Were they Skrull?) for nearly two years now. Guess it was a little silly thinking Marvel was going to wedge the Kree/Skrull thing into an already stuffed team-up picture. Not as silly as thinking Maria Hill was a sleeper agent for the whatever alien race was in the flick. Remember that? I do. I remember buying into it too which was silly of me because…
- …Hill doesn’t really do much in the film except look smoking hot and serve as someone for Nick Fury to bounce his thoughts off of. Cobie Smulders does this well but let’s be honest she’s basically a stand-in for Johansson’s Widow who’s out in the real action. Here’s hoping THE AVENGERS 2 or the inevitable S.H.I.E.L.D spin-off pic gives this talented gal something to do (I did dig her opening shoot-out with Loki and Hawkeye). All that having been said, I totally understand why Whedon put her in the film. This was his payback to Smulders for Warner not letting her headline his aborted WONDER WOMAN movie.
- Guess I should mention Sam Jackson’s performance as Fury here, huh? What’s there to say? Dude was awesome as usual and made the most out of what he was given. The gripe I had with Fury was he kept pulling out the wrong gun for the situation (a pistol will not take down an aircraft nor will it be effective against an armored transport) and that he ended up on the sidelines for the majority of the finale (save for a nice moment involving a rocket launcher). You know the poster with him standing alongside the Avengers in the rubble of New York City? Not in the movie. He never makes it to the city. Just gets stuck back on the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier dealing with the bureaucrats (loved the Powers Boothe and Jenny Agutter cameos!) and some of Loki’s lackeys.
- Cap’s suit is not as good as the one he wore in CAPTAIN AMERICA. Not sure why they opted to change it but the changes they made are not good. Looks tiny bit silly now. Evans makes it work but I really wish they’d just stuck with what they already had. Did enough Coulson’s line though about how he had input into the new look.
- The shot of Black Widow standing unflinching in front of a bus explosion is not in the final film. Nor is Coulson’s remark about Thor, Iron Man, and Cap needing a “time out”.
- I hate knowing my bank account is going to be bone dry very shortly because AngieBee and me are going to see this in IMAX 3D over and over and over and over again. It’s that good. BTW, the IMAX up-conversion is pretty awesome. The 3D ain’t half-bad either. Definitely worth the extra couple of bucks.
- Not crazy that THE AVENGERS 2 won’t hit theaters until 2014 or possibly later. My hope is that Marvel pushes it up and sidelines Edgar Wright’s ANT-MAN (I’m sorry but Ant-Man is a second stringer not worthy of his own standalone adventure) and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (love the series but I doubt it’ll translate well to the big screen).
- I doubt it’s a good thing THE AVENGERS has set the bar so high for the Summer 2012 blockbuster season that pretty much every movie from this point forward is probably going to pale in comparison. I have high hopes PROMETHEUS will equally impress but I doubt MEN IN BLACK 3, DARK SHADOWS, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and even THE DARK KNIGHT RISES don’t stand a chance. Expect “It wasn’t as good as THE AVENGERS” to enter the moviegoer vernacular very shortly.
You know what, I’ve changed my mind. I realized as I was writing this review that I really don’t have any true gripes or complaint about THE AVENGERS. The ones listed are simply minor quibbles that didn’t really bother me but kinda needed to be pointed out because there are those who like to know anything and everything about a movie and I feel I have an obligation to them.
F**k it, THE AVENGERS is the BEST superhero movie of all-time. I still stand by my evaluation it is the “most entertaining” but it’s also the best. This flick kicks unholy amounts of ass. No other superhero pic has ever done what this one has (combining four franchises to form a fifth without losing major cast members should have been impossible and yet Whedon made it look easy) and I doubt highly anyone (save for possibly Marvel with THE AVENGERS 2) will be able to do it again. That’s impressive. This movie is impressive. See it immediately. Then see it again. And maybe a third or fourth time. It’s that good.