Movies: “The Avengers”
May 15th 2012 · 0 Comments
The Walt Disney Company, owner of all Marvel Comics properties since 2009 (the purchase cost Disney a staggering $4.25 billion), has the superhero-team-movie-formula down pat. Conversely, DC Comics (owned by competing media giant Time Warner) hasn’t been able to get their long-rumored Superman/Batman crossover film off the ground, and with the impending final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy coming later this year and yet another Superman reboot on the horizon, it doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.
Bringing “The Avengers” to the silver screen required many of the Avengers to first star in their own successful film franchises, in order to hash out all of their complicated back stories and ensure that the team-up film would be a profitable venture.
Since the first “Iron Man” (2008), a post-credit sequence has teased viewers with the possibility of the united super-team, and it has finally arrived. While far from flawless, “The Avengers” manages to get enough right to make this complicated team of characters work in a manner that will be eminently satisfying for comic book film fans.
The plot is fairly straightforward, high-stakes, saving-the-world type stuff. The Tesseract, an object of incredible power, is stolen by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the main antagonist of “Thor” (2011). With it, Loki can open an inter-dimensional gateway to allow a large invasion force of aliens to subjugate the earth. Standing in his way is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the Director of the secret government organization known as ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’
His plan involves uniting Iron Man (Robert Dowey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, who appeared as the character in 2010’s “Iron Man 2”), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who previously portrayed the character in a cameo in “Thor”), and the alter-ego of The Hulk, scientist Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, becoming the third actor to portray the character in the past decade, after Eric Bana and Edward Norton).
Things don’t go quite as smoothly as Nick Fury hoped, however. For the first half of the film, there’s quite a bit of infighting between the prospective members of the team. Of course, these are big personalities, but their squabbles smack more of fan-service than necessary character building (Writer/Director Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the brilliant but short-lived sci-fi western “Firefly,” isn’t exactly renowned for his restraint when it comes to indulgent fanboyism). Fans will likely enjoy the Hulk vs. Thor fight, and all of the other big hitters’ fisticuffs, despite the fact that they do little to advance the plot.
Another issue is the characters of Hawkeye and Black Widow. As the two lightweight members of the team who didn’t warrant their own film franchises, they don’t seem to fit with the larger-than-life swagger of the other heroes. Small-caliber pistol fire, martial arts, and archery can’t really compare to a futuristic suit of armor that flies and fires energy beams, a godlike being from another planet who controls lighting, or an impossibly strong, invulnerable giant. Black Widow at least gets a fair few scenes, but Hawkeye spends much of the film as a mind-controlled thrall of Loki, working against the heroes. It feels like there was never really a solid place for him among the rest of the Avengers.
The final act throws all pretense of character out the window as the aliens invade. The greatest menace comes from massive, flying, armored whale-like things that look a little too much like some of the baddies from the most recent “Transformers” film. The fighting is a half-hour long mess of repetitive punching and explosions that grows quite tedious by the end (the film clocks in at an almost overlong 142 minutes).
While the ending is at tied up neatly enough, with no flagrantly unfinished sequel plot threads, a post-credit sequence revealing a popular villain to have been behind the invasion will certainly whet fans appetites for the inevitable follow-up.
“The Avengers” isn’t a perfect film, but those going to see it aren’t looking for the next “Citizen Kane.” It does as well as can be expected with the superhero team format, especially with so many characters competing for screen time. Those who haven’t seen the characters’ individual films may find themselves a little lost, but the characters ultimately take a backseat to the action. For fans of any of Marvel’s recent franchises, “The Avengers” is a must-see.
By Mark Ziobro