Disassembling The Avengers

Wow, The Avengers, a movie that took 7 years to come to fruition. I had been looking forward to this for a quite a while and the moment I saw the clip after the credits of ‘Iron Man’ I knew it could truly be something special. In my younger years when I was more of a comic book kid my fandom was broken down from favorite to lesser favorite like this: The X-Men, Aliens, Batman, Iron Man and The Avengers. Basically in that order was how I bought comic books at the store with my allowance. So this review is not complete without comparing my expectations from the other comic book favorites. Be prepared, there will be SPOILERS.

Now I’ll admit I was probably more hyped for the X-Men movies when they first started showing trailers. I mean, I was more of a fan of the X-Men than The Avengers. Unfortunately, they just didn’t live up to the hype nor did they really do them the justice they deserved(Patrick Stewart as Professor X not included in that criticism). The team dynamic seen in The Avengers was just not there in the X-Men. Which is crazy considering that the X-Men are the ultimate personification of team. I’ll have to do a another post about the X-Men movies some other time since I have quite a few issues with them. Needless to say, The Avengers made me think of all the disappointment I experienced with the X-Men.

Anyway, let’s move on to ‘Alien’, a great franchise, one which has been watered down since ‘Alien: Resurrection’ in my opinion. The newer ones have not lived up to the standard and hopefully ‘Prometheus’ can right the ship and bring it back to its true genre.

Batman, Christopher Nolan hath delivered us from Joel Schumacher hell. Nolan’s take on the bat has been really good so far. It’s gritty, dark, and just about everything I imagined when I read the Frank Miller comics. So far the movies have lived up to their hype in my mind, I wasn’t as hyped as X-Men, but I was very excited none the less. Though I think the adaptation of Batman to the big screen is a far easier task than many other comic book heroes.

I was worried about Iron Man because the complexity of Tony Stark’s character is very difficult to portray. He is flamboyant and self-serving, yet riddled with flaws like doubt, addiction, and loneliness. He is not Batman because he isn’t as driven and his alter ego is not a cover like Bruce Wayne is. He is the anti-hero hero. I was having a tough time imagining a successful Iron Man movie. I thought they would go one way or the other in terms of extremes, either totally dark like Batman has or totally campy. Needless to say, I was wrong and completely blown away. I thought Iron Man was probably the best adaptation of a comic book character ever. I knew then that Marvel was on track.

This left me experiencing more hype for an Avengers movie that I wasn’t expecting to have. I also came to the realization that Marvel was doing this proper. The failure of the X-Men movies is that you have all of these great superheroes but the limited screen time had to go to the biggest egos on the roster. The Avengers on the other hand gave the biggest egos their own films, so that the writers would not need to fight over screen time. We already knew the back story and the heroes, for the most part. The only real problem the writers faced was creating a compelling team story.

The movie itself was fantastic. I think my only complaint would be that it was probably a bit too short. I really think they could have given us another 10 minutes, maybe some more Loki material or Captain America talking more about Tony Stark’s dad with him. Also, a bit more explanation could have been given on who the Chitauri are. Aside from that, there isn’t much major to criticize. I suppose I wondered why Loki didn’t just leave when Cap, Iron Man, and Thor were fighting, but later it made sense how he wanted to get captured to unleash the Hulk. Maria Hill(Cobie Smulders) was kinda trivial at times. I just didn’t see the value in her lines. I guess it was a bit odd having them unite around Agent Coulson’s death, but showing how Nick Fury manipulates the team made it plausible.

Aside from these minor issues I am having a tough time finding fault with the storytelling. The pacing felt good, no character really outshines any other, and the humor was quick and witty. Speaking of the humor, I was impressed with how well they used it. The banter when they are all bickering on the ship. The lines that break the tension at exactly the right moment like this:

Captain America: What are you without your suit?
Tony Stark: Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist.

And then there was this head nod from Black Widow that was fantastic. Subtle, but executed remarkably well. I mean there are so many of those moments in the movie that are timed perfectly, and with each hero too. “He’s adopted”, “Puny God”, “I got that reference!”, etc. Everything could have come off as incredibly corny, but the deliveries were spot on, so they just didn’t. The writers(Joss Whedon and Zak Penn) should be commended for such seamless wordplay and well constructed scenes.

The Avengers was the greatest example of excellent casting. Each hero was cast correctly. Chris Evans makes a far better Captain America than Human Torch. Chris Hemsworth has acting like a Norse god down pretty well. Robert Downey Jr. truly embodies Tony Stark and all of his failings. Mark Ruffalo added a reserved more approachable human side to Bruce Banner that perhaps Edward Norton didn’t have. Mark Ruffalo also reminded me more of this Banner than the others. Jeremy Renner was good as Hawkeye and kept up with the big boys in the fights, especially when he is going all Legolas from the roof. Scarlett Johanssen was excellent as Black Widow and her scene with Loki was great. I was fully expecting most of the Hawkeye/Black Widow stuff to be lame in comparison to the other major cast members, but they were written well enough to not be overshadowed. They all played off each other extremely well, which was surprising.

Visually speaking, the movie was eye candy from start to finish. The first hour was more of the lead-up but the locales and story driven effects were done well and in moderation. Of course as we got closer to the major fight scenes the effects ramped up 10x, though they were still not intrusive. Nothing looked dumb or out-of-place, which is very important to me. Now, I saw the movie in IMAX 3D. I would say that I am not a fan of 3D. I am a film snob in that I don’t believe 3D adds any value to the story and frankly distracts attention away while covering big faults. It’s a gimmick at best. The 3D in The Avengers was not bad, nothing appeared to be overtly done to compromise the film and make it more 3D accessible. That is a very good thing. Thankfully the film wasn’t too dark to make viewing it with tinted glasses even more dark,  like say, Clash of the Titans. I plan on seeing the film again, though the next time not in 3D.

I left the theater on cloud nine. It was great to not be let down by all the hype for a change, not even a little bit. Very rarely does a movie leave you with this sort of feeling. This was also probably aided by the scene at the end featuring….THANOS! That evil smile, wow. This obviously sets up for an incredible Avengers 2. I don’t want to dive too far into that now though, maybe later. The Avengers was a true comic book story at its best. The panels come to life.

So this all brings me back to my comic book core. A core which has been rocked by this movie, almost completely upended even. I have this slight sense of guilt for feeling like I may perhaps like the Avengers more than the X-men now. How can that be? The Avengers was everything The X-Men should have been. I understand the movies and the comics are separate entities, but in this age of larger than life superhero movies it is incredibly difficult to unlink the two. Hopefully when Marvel gets all of the rights back from Fox they can give us a proper X-Men, thus righting my fandom world and placing them back on top. Then again, maybe there is nothing wrong with the Avengers being so good. I sure as hell enjoyed it.

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