Marvel Movie Madness! Part 36: Marvel's The Avengers
Cat: This film was a long time coming for me. I'd been anxiously waiting since Iron Man 2 for the amalgam of all these wonderfully awesome super heroes and, thankfully, there was only one minor speed bump -- it dragged a little with getting to the main act of the Avengers assembling, but I can forgive all the exposition after the plethora of one-liners and an end result that far exceeded my expectations.
I've become a bit of a comic book movie geek over the past decade. However, there's one character I've been a fan of since childhood. I have fond memories of watching Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk in reruns when I was a kid, but was severely disappointed by the two films that were initially supposed to launch this franchise. When it came to Ruffalo's take on the big guy, I felt some trepidation that he -- and the latest technology -- would fail me once again, but as they say, the third time -- really -- was the charm. I should have known with Joss Whedon at its helm that all would be right with the world. By far, the best scene was when the Hulk started flailing Loki around like a paddle board, calling him a "puny God" as he walked off and leaving him stunned in the concave marble floor. Classic.
An ensemble cast definitely takes the pressure off one person to feel the need to carry the film, but Robert Downey Jr. still runs the show on this one and I'm perfectly fine with that.
Kerr: I am a Hulk freak -- it's a bit of a love affair -- and everyone around me knows it (and yes, I'm not ashamed to say I think the 2003 Ang Lee film is still an incredible film, one of my faves). So to me, Avengers is really another Hulk film. And a pretty good one (not as darkly, intensely interesting as Lee's Hulk, though). It's hard to pay attention to much else when an iconic ginormous green creature conquers the screen. So if you're gonna hate on Hulk, Kerr just might SMASH!
Putting the Hulk aside for a moment, which is quite difficult to do (at least physically), Avengers was a rip-roaring stadium show. It met expectations, which is saying something. The repartee and relationships between the heroes is what really piques my interest here. All those male hormones fussing over each other... that's really entertaining. It's an all-star celebrity showdown and I don't think Donald Trump would fire any of these guys, at least based on their performances (hey, has anyone checked to see if Gary Busey is available for the sequel?).
Mark Ruffalo steals this one. I know I'm probably not completely objective, but hell, can't deny his strongly subtle comic delivery. Sometimes it's a bit too subtle, though, or, rather, quiet; I couldn't always hear all his lines in the theater. Do I miss Eric Bana? Sure, but Ruffalo delivered, even if his performance wasn't as close to the comics version of Bruce Banner as Bana's. And I think that's why Avengers was more successful than either Hulk film. Action film fans aren't interested in psychological drama, and Banner is a psychologically dark, often sad character (which is why most Hulk fans love him). Ruffalo catered more to the popcorn crowd, but it add to the overall success of the film.
Captain America ends up being the more boring hero. I hoped he would be a stronger presence, but Avengers took place when Austin was still a new hero -- of course he still needs to get his feet wet. Iron Man is a fun guy to hang with, outspoken and mischievous as usual, but the Iron Man highlight for me was the choice to put him in a Black Sabbath t-shirt. That is comedy. And also a nice homage. I usually get turned off by most huge box-office hits, but this one was good. And I was pretty psyched to see that Hulk stole it.
Ryan: You'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't enjoy The Avengers, but truth be told, I think I was chosen to be a third contributor to this discussion because, while I still had a great time watching this, I wasn't over the moon about it like a lot of people were.
First, let's get this out of the way: The Avengers is exactly what a summer blockbuster should be. It's fun (and funny), it's big, and it's spectacular to behold. For those that have enjoyed all the previous Marvel "Phase One" films, picking up bits and pieces of the Avengers Initiative lore and staying for post-credits teasers, this is the culmination of five years of frothy anticipation, and it delivers with an impressive punch. I'm not going to go into detail about what I specifically enjoyed in The Avengers, because I'd be covering a lot of the same territory you guys already have (the banter, the action, the Hulk, etc). I will say that, ever since I was a boy, I've loved "this is how we got our gang of awesome individuals together" stories, so I was sold from the start.
The one small gripe that I had with the film -- and it's one that I have with a lot of action films in general -- is that the big clash at the end dragged on a little bit for me. There comes a point in most action films when the narrative has largely run its course, and the remaining screen time is devoted to "the big fight." Often when this happens (not always, but often), I lose interest, because it's rare that an action film will subvert expectations with a surprise ending. You know the good guys are going to win and the bad guys are going to get their comeuppance, so "the big fight" often essentially amounts to 10-20 minutes of flashy filler. With that in mind, what I'm looking for in that flashy filler is something new, something fresh; since I already know what the end result is going to be, show me the most creative way you can take me there.
I think The Avengers did an admirable job of it, showcasing the various heroes and their unique abilities, but to be honest, their adversaries never quite seemed a fair match for them. It did start to take on a video game-ish feel, though, as the Avengers dispatched wave after wave, and if I'm being completely honest here, I don't think the comparisons to the end of Transformers: Dark of the Moon that others have made are terribly off base, right down to the "space bridge."
All in all, though, that's a relatively minor quibble in what is otherwise an utterly satisfying and rewatchable entertainment. The Avengers was the capstone of a rollicking "Phase One," so I'm looking forward to more good times in "Phase Two."
More Marvel Movie Madness:
Four (1994) Fantastic
Four Fantastic Four:
Rise of the Silver... Blade Blade II Blade: Trinity X-Men X2: X-Men United X-Men 3: The Last Stand X-Men:First Class X-Men Origins: Wolverine Ghost Rider Ghost Rider: Spirit of... The Punisher (1989) The Punisher (2004) Punisher:
War Zone Man-Thing Red Sonja Howard the Duck Spider-Man Spider-Man 2 Spider-Man 3 The
Amazing Spider-Man Kick-Ass Men in Black Men in
Black 2 Men in
Black 3 Daredevil Elektra Iron Man Iron Man 2 Captain America (1944) Captain America (1990) Captain America: The First Avenger Marvel's The Avengers