Unreal Movie Review: The Avengers

5 out of 5 stars

They said it couldn’t be done. Combining four giant movie franchises into one palatable package for geek and general audiences alike would seem to be an almost insurmountable task. It would be the end result of an almost decade long build of up feature films, each featuring a unique superhero who was too ” larger than life” to ever possibly share the screen with others.

So who to trust with such a seemingly insurmountable task? Why, someone who’s directed exactly one feature film in his career, one that was a conclusion to one of his own failed TV shows. Here, Joss Whedon ,take our $250M and run wild.

What might seem like insanity from the outside was perhaps the biggest stroke of genius that ever occurred to Paramount and Marvel. Though Whedon would appear to lack experience with anything close to this scale, they saw in his earlier work an unmistakable intelligence and understanding of the two things superhero movies often lack, a smart script and well-rounded characters to deliver it.

This is Whedon’s triumph above all else.

The final product is a nearly perfect superhero blockbuster, one that’s far greater than its individual parts, and will go down as one of the best in the genre ever, if not the best. Comparing it to Nolan’s Batman is apples and oranges. While Bats has his brooding and “edginess,” Joss and his Avengers have nothing but pure, unadulterated fun for two and a half hours.

When menacing Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) returns to Earth to snatch a device that has the power to bring an extraterrestrial army  under his control, there becomes a need for not just one hero, but a team. By now we know the players, and each are summoned from all corners of the world (and the galaxy) to assemble into a dysfunctional fighting force meant to take on Loki and his looming threat of world domination.

But teamwork doesn’t always come easy. Immediately onboard is un-frozen supersoldier Captain America (Chris Evans), fresh out of the ice after 70 years dormant and still always willing to follow orders. While he is fine with following SHIELD leader Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) orders, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), owner of the Iron Man suit isn’t quite so wiling when agents come  knocking at his door. Neither is Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), gamma scientist and dangerous mutant, and he has to resist the urge to transform into the destructive behemoth that is the Hulk when SHIELD’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is sent to bring him in so he can help track down Loki’s device.

He’s like the Walter White of supeheroes. Unassuming, but highly unstable and dangerous.

The situation is further complicated when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Earth, and attempts to execute vigilante justice on his brother, thinking himself above the puny mortals that surround him. Soon, however, after much verbal, and physical, infighting, it becomes clear that the team will have to work together to properly deal with Loki’s threat.

The Avengers is a prime example of what a truly fantastic script can do for a film. Though Iron Man was a blast from start to finish, its sequel, Thor, Captain America and two Hulk movies were hardly exercises in master screenwriting. But here, using the same characters played by the same actors, Whedon’s script and dialogue allows each role to shine, and he accomplishes the almost impossible task of balancing the screen time of six or seven heroes who each have had or will have their own feature films entirely to themselves.

The dynamic Whedon creates with his heroes is the most believable interaction of superhuman beings you’ll ever see on film. The temptation might be to focus exclusively on the big three, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, but the new Dr. Banner is given his due (played to perfection by the constantly calm Ruffalo), and in only a handful of scenes he has more depth than he did across two previous movies. Even Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow, mere cameos in past films, and lacking actual superpowers, feel like an important part of the story, and each has their moment to shine.

“Can you believe we’re actually important?”

Above all else, the script is genuinely hilarious. It’s the same way the first Iron Man made us laugh, and though Cap and Thor’s features might have one-liners to make you crack a smile on occasion, here The Avengers elicits full-on belly laughs from the audience, more so than in any actual comedy that’s been in theaters as of late. Whedon knows just where every beat should land, and the only problem is that some lines are so funny, the next few bits of dialogue are completely inaudible due to the fact that the audience is still roaring with laughter.

Fans of Whedon will know he shines in quiet moments like these, and giving him free reign to write dialogue between some of the most iconic superheroes of our time is like releasing the Hulk in a China shop. He’s going to just destroy it. In a good way.

But what wasn’t clear was how he would handle the large action sequences that were necessary for the movie’s success, as it’s what people come to see in a blockbuster. Incredibly, these scenes end up being some of the best the genre’s ever seen. There’s constant action happening for almost the entire duration of the film with only brief pockets of respite, and with each new encounter the stakes escalate. The audience gets to not only enjoy the heroes taking on bad guys, but also each other, which is often even more incredible. A bout between Thor and Hulk for example, is the geek equivalent of watching King Kong take on Godzilla, and is truly a sight to behold.

Though these two’s verbal jabs are almost even more fun to watch.

The final battle for Manhattan which has every hero onscreen fighting in synergy is one of the most beautiful things a superhero fan could ever see. The action is perfectly choreographed, and though it could have been a Michael Bay mess of CGI, it’s far from it, and the fights are easy to follow and almost balletic in how they unfold. The action flows in a way that showcases every hero, and makes use of every single dollar in the budget. Between how much insanity is onscreen at all times, and the fact that the cast is almost entirely made up of A-listers, I’m shocked the film didn’t cost damn near half a billion.

The Avengers is everything a superhero movie should be. It’s both introspective and funny during its quiet moments, but when things get loud, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot these days, but the sheer size and scope of this movie, and for what it was able to achieve by combining these franchises, it’s a film that truly deserves the title. Whedon should have a blank check after this film indefinitely, and it’s vindication for him and his fans that his long-suppressed genius is finally being showcased on the world stage.

Go see The Avengers (or if you’re me, go twice). Even if it’s the sixth sequel of an adapted property filled with explosions to the brim, seemingly everything wrong with Hollywood, it just goes to show you that with the right leadership, even tired concepts can end up being incredible cinematic experiences.

5 out of 5 stars

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  1. Hold on now Fox screwing up Firefly does not make it a failed show….the fact that it got made into a feature film is evidence enough to the contrary.

  2. This movie could have easily turned into two hours of Tony Stark and his buddies, but it didn’t. Every single character gets amazing moments to shine. “it appears to run on some form of electricity.”

  3. “…but the new Dr. Banner is given his due (played to perfection by the constantly calm Ruffalo), and in only a handful of scenes he more depth than he did across two previous movies.”

    What? Not only does that sentence not make sense, Mark Ruffalo hasn’t played the Hulk before. Eric Bana and Ed Norton played Bruce Banner in the last two films.

  4. I liked it. I would give it 8-8.5 on a scale of 10. It was really fun popcorn movie. There was just that one part in the middle that dragged a little. But yeah, overall it was great fun.

  5. Lubz, I think you missed Paul’s sarcasm in that paragraph. On paper Firefly looked like a failure, but you are right in that a short series does not necessarily make it a dud. Ask anyone who ever watched it. I don’t tend to follow directors much but Joss Whedon is one of the few I pay attention to when I hear about upcoming films. So excited, trying to get time to see it this weekend.

  6. @Koze I think he means the character of Bruce Banner himself not the actual actor.

    Saw the midnight release in a smalltown theater. Driving 6 hours next weekend to see it in IMax. So excited

  7. @Koze

    What? I’m saying Dr. Banner has more depth than he did in the other two movies, despite them solely focusing on him. I’m not saying Mark Ruffalo the actor has depth (though he does).

  8. And no, of course Firefly was not a failure from a quality perspective, but it was a “failed” show because it was killed after like eleven episodes. It’s not the show’s fault, obviously.

  9. @Koze
    I think what Paul means is that the character of Bruce Banner (not the actor) is given his due and has more depth that the Bruce Banner played by the other 2.
    And Ruffalo was definitely awesome in the movie.

  10. I love how Whedon maintained that Cap/Tony true the comic books nature. Cap being no non-sense guy, traditional and incorruptible. Not sure about Stark though after Downey played Ironman the rest of the IronMan incarnations in the comic book followed after his character in the movies. and finally the HULK done right. Hulk stole IronMan’s thunder on this one. All of my favorite moments are all HULK’s moments.

  11. Hey Koze,

    Read the sentence again, it’s saying that the new Dr. Banner is given his due with more depth in only a handful of scenes than he did across two previous movies…

    He meant the character, not the actor…

    I took my son on Friday and we both loved it. I was very worried when I saw the first trailer, and I thought it might be a disaster, but I should have known never to doubt Whedon (big Firefly fan here).

    $10 says DC now tries the same thing with Justice League, only to watch it fail as they haven’t set it up the way Marvel did with the lead-up films.

  12. # Lubz. Firefly is a failed SHOW because it couldn’t even get past it’s first season. Cancellation does not equal success. Also the fact that it got made into a movie does not mean that it was a success either. Serenity did not even manage to earn back it’s budget until the DVD release.

  13. It’s like i am a parent, and my baby(whedon), whom i have cared for and nurtured all these years has finally grown up and become successful after a long LOONG time after struggling for SO MANY YEARS despite being talented (sniff) . Here’s a drink in your honor Joss 😀

  14. Absolutely loved this film…sat there with a big dopey grin on my face from the opening moments to the hilarious denoument at the very end of the credits.

    Been a loooong time since I’ve had this much genuine fun at a summer popcorn flick, and haven’t felt guilty afterwards.

    Some of the best action I’ve ever seen…perfectly choreographed and truly epic in scale. That scene during the big battle where the camera flowed from hero to hero showing each of them in battle was truly breathtaking. I loved that there were lots of innovative touches like this.

    Best of all, it was a TRUE ensemble piece.

    Gawd, could you imagine what a disaster this could have been with a paycheck hack like Ratner running the show?

    Can’t wait for the DVD with the rumoured 30 mins added back in…

  15. The way I summed it up was that The Dark Knight is the best movie to be brought about because of a super hero…but The Avengers was the best actual super hero movie imo.

    The Dark Knight feels more like an action/crime-thriller to me, having transcended the genre. The Avengers is the absoulte pinnacle of the genre, evolved and I assume unreachable by other future super hero films until proven otherwise.

  16. awesome article of a great movie on an awesome site, with cool comments…gotta love unreality, whedon, and my mind being blown after every minute of this film

  17. without a doubt the best movie I have seen in years. It had everything necessary to make for a movie that is for all audiences. I have seen it 6 times so far and i’m someone who watches a movie once and can’t do it again cause I get bored. But this was such a masterpiece.

  18. Tho for the most part the review is spot on, I don’t agree with his opinion on the Hulk film franchise. Tho the first one sucked shit, Ed norton was an amazing hulk. Also, it doesnt make much since to mew how they can have the same actor act out 2 different eroes (completely different heroes in fact. It just insures that there will be continuity issues in future project (ie. possible Avengers and Fantastic 4 combo). But the movie was fucking awesome none the less. Oh yea, and the Iron-Man movies werent that great. you liked them because Robert Downey Jr. is one of the funniest assholes to grace the screen, but Iron – Man himself is done little justice.

  19. Finally a review I can agree with you on. Every character had ample amount of time on screen and it’s amazing that it never felt bogged down by any one of them. The one thing you left out of your review was how good Tom Hiddleston was a Loki. I felt he was the best part of Thor, and I liked Thor. Loki stole the show in a movie where you could have had nine other character steal it.

    If anyone gave Hiddleston a run for his money it was Ruffalo. I love Ed Norton but I think Ruffalo played a better Banner. The way he was physically smaller than the others and how he played Banner as meek did the character loads of justice.

  20. The only problem with Firefly was that it got cancelled, and that was entirely Fox’s fault. And one look at their “news” broadcasts should tell you that their decision wasn’t motivated by any form of intelligence either.

    Now, having seen this, is DC going to try and copy them with a Justice League movie? It’s not likely that they’ll succeed, but will they even try? LOL

  21. it was the best time i had in the cinema ever. i left the theater with a huge smiley face. 2 hours of complete joy.

    @frothy: i fully agree with you. while i think that the dark knight is the better movie, the avengers is the better super hero movie.

  22. what i would also like to mention is this: it was the best time at the theaters for me but also the most expensive. 10.50€ for the ticket and 9€ for lousy popcorn and a cola.

    i think what i want to say deserves its own article, BUT GOD DAMN WATCHING A MOVIE IN THE CINEMA IS F***IN EXPENSIVE. its not something i can just do whenever i feel like it but its a total luxury. many years ago i would go to any random movie about every week but now i have to really really know wether the movie is good or if its my geek fantasy. and if its under or at 90 min don’t bother.

  23. Maybe now with the huge success of The Avengers, Whedon can get the financing he needs to revive the Firefly series? Thats what should be owed to him and us the fans

  24. I loved the film, but Iron Man still ruled over everyone else. Not only did he stop mid-battle to have a drink and a chat with Loki, but he saved the day. Although the Hulk bits were good, I don’t see why everyone is saying he owned the movie.

    Also, Iron Man’s energy supplies being supercharged by Thor’s lightning blast was a bit strange as an addition, seeing as this wasn’t used at all in the end battle (namely when Iron Man is shooting the Giant worm thing with his lazers and his energy levels are low, why not get a top up from Thor?).

    I still think Mark Ruffalo has the wrong build to play Banner, but he played the awkward scientist very well (despite my doubts). A good actor and great performance.

    One of the best movies I have seen. Will become my rainy day movie 😀

  25. great example of joss clever mind and the writers

    science bros.

    There are no words to describe my feelings about this relationship. But I’m going to try.

    First of all, their parallels. Both geniuses, top of their field. Both suffered an accident that physically changed them, forever, and not in a wholesome Spider-Man kind of way. Both try to do what they can to help others despite their own issues; Banner heals people, Tony works on developing clean energy. And both struggle, in their own way, with duality; Tony and Iron Man, Bruce and the Hulk. Two identities, one body. Only difference is Iron Man’s bad side is Tony.

    I mentioned somewhere that Tony sees a bit of himself in Banner because they both have a monster inside them that they can’t control, a creature that springs fully formed from the id, the base impulses and the nasty stuff at the back of the mind. Bruce’s is a giant green rage monster. Tony’s trashed a party in Iron Man 2. Banner has a control over his that Tony hasn’t quite achieved yet; don’t think I didn’t notice Tony pouring himself a whiskey when confronting Loki. Tony is envious, fascinated, and most of all, impressed by Bruce’s control.

    So he doesn’t walk on eggshells around Bruce like the others, because that’s not what Bruce needs. Tony sees Bruce’s restraint, sees the quiet, brilliant man making self-deprecating jokes in the corner of the room, sees the way people look at him like he’s going to snap any second, and thinks “nope”. Tony does what no-one else aboard that Helicarrier does. He trusts him. He makes jokes and jabs him and teases him and above all, treats him exactly how he would treat anyone else— he has a great regard for Bruce’s brilliance, and tells him so, but he doesn’t try to ignore the Hulk in the room. When he says “wow, you’ve really got a handle on this, haven’t you?” he’s not saying “gosh, it’s incredible you haven’t snapped yet and killed everyone on board” he’s saying “I know you have a handle on this, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t, so I’m gonna poke you with this sharp object to prove it”. And you can see Bruce relax, and smile, and trust him back.

    But then Tony goes even further, and invites Bruce to come to his R&D department. I’m pretty sure the two of them drive off together in Tony’s car at the end of the movie to do just that. And, okay, sure, Bruce is smart, but Tony’s tech is his baby. How many people get invitations to come and see his work? He invites Bruce because he recognises his brilliance, yes, but there’s another reason. He’s inviting Bruce to come down and work with him after this is over. He’s giving Bruce something to do next, a purpose, an alternative to disappearing into the ether to be alone with his monster. Tony knows from experience that being alone with your issues doesn’t end well, so for what’s only the third time in his life he extends the hand of friendship to a guy he’s known barely an hour.

    And then, he tells Bruce to let the beast loose. Not just because they need him to fight, but because it will help him. If Bruce can take this thing that he sees as a curse and turn it into a gift, well, that’s going to lift him out of a very dark place. I’m not saying Tony knew about Bruce’s attempted suicide, but I think he had a suspicion that Bruce had been, in his words, “low”. So he encourages Bruce to take all that crap and pain and the Other Guy and use him to help people; after all, that’s what he did.

    And it pays off. Nobody— nobody— thinks Bruce is going to turn up for that final battle. You can see the look on Natasha and Steve’s faces when Tony asks if Bruce turned up yet. They’ve counted Bruce out. Guy’s a mess, right? He’s too volatile. Doesn’t play well with others. He could never work as part of a team. No-one thinks he’ll come through when it matters. Except Tony. He has faith in him, and that faith is rewarded. It’s no wonder the Hulk is the one to catch Tony. Tony’s the one who helped let him out. He’s just returning the favor.

    (via fuckyeah-avengers)

  26. The choice of Jos Whedon for the Avengers was as audacious as the choice of Peter Jackson for Lord of the Rings. And paid off in the same way.

  27. FINALLY got to watch this last night. Epic, of course.

    We managed to see it without any internet spoilers, so the very end scene with Thanos.. I think brought tears to my boyfriends eyes.. (We have Thanos/Death action figures displayed in our house.) Although I’m not a hardcore comic nerd like the rest of my friends, I completely understand how seeing these long-beloved characters on screen for the very first time, and done RIGHT! Especially ones you’d NEVER think would get their moment on the silver screen.

    Thanos brings a whole new universe to these films.. I cannot wait to see more of the mystical characters. Common Adam Warlock… if he shows his face, I think my bf might die. Literally die a happy man.

  28. I agree that this movie is one of the greatest in the last years BUT one thing really bothered me: the enemies are way too weak. I’m pretty sure the american army could have defeated them (even without nuclear weapons). I’m not blaming Whedon for that, and i really hope he’ll get a “do whatever you want”-card for his new or maybe old series, new firefly+dollhouse seasons? hell yeah!

  29. Seriously you guys? WTF. THIS MOVIE SUCKED! Cheesy script meant for unintelligent audiences. HOrrifically entangled and pointless storylines. A completely reemed flow of events. Probably the worst, most overrated movie of the decade. None of you people are really paying attention to this movie.

    You are all so dazzled and amazed by a few funny, cheesy lines and pointless drama and censored actions scenes, that you fail to actually take a step and ask yourself, “Wait a minute….. what the hell is actually going on?”. Movie sucked. 1 out of 5 stars

  30. I watched it!!!
    GREAT movie, Ironman was great as usual but Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk gets the best nod. He was fantastic, you could feel the tension of feeling that he would transform at any second, and when he did on the ship, that was horrifying! I felt like running away too.
    Great performance by the rest of the cast and the final action sequence was fantastic. Great movie!

  31. Thor is supposed to be a “GOD” and yet possibly could be beaten by Iron Man if he custom made a suit specifically to fight him im just sayin, A small explosive tipped arrow manage to take down a super massive engine, dragged on a lil bit till the main battle, had many cheesy scenes in it, but over all i did like the fight sequences and the random bits of humor i would give it at least a 8.

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