Saturday, 25 April 2015

Film Review: The Avengers (2012)

©Showbiz*411 | Marvel

USA; 143 min.; action, adventure, sci-fi, superhero
Director: Joss Whedon
Writing: Joss Whedon and Zak Penn, based on the comics by Stan Lee und Jack Kirby
Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow

Superheroes? In New York? Give me a break! - Stan Lee

Disclaimer: This review was written completely voluntarily. It was not a task/punishment given to me by my fellow BSP-bloggers to ensure we could hold our next staff meeting at the movies watching Avengers: Age of Ultron. No! Since the dawn of time – well since 2012 when the movie came out anyways– it’s been my deepest desire to review this class reunion of Marvel’s big guys, but to do so I actually had to watch the movie. I always planned on doing that, honestly, but in preparation I wanted to have seen every superhero movie of the individual Avengers, and that never happened. I just never got around to it.  So now it’s 2015, what feels like 50 Marvel comic adaptations later, and I still never watched The Avengers. I always felt underprepared for it and wanted to be able to appreciate this masterpiece everybody has been talking about for three years to its fullest capacity. All that changed this morning when I finally sat down to indulge myself in the Marvel-verse.

So how about those Avengers, eh? In 2012, when geekiness reached its peak of coolness, geek-god director Joss Whedon finally took the chance to step out onto the big stage as writer and director of Marvel’s mega blockbuster The Avengers. And he stepped out in a big way! For starters: What decent superhero movie can go wrong in starting with a failed scientific experiment/ lab accident and a multi-vehicle chase with multiple explosions? Answer: None. The Avengers takes the established superhero format of catastrophe >> savior >> struggling hero >> victory, and delivers. Along the way it just surpasses its predecessors in budget, number of superheroes, and special effects. No wonder the movie turned out to be 2 hours and 20 minutes long…

Yet those 2 hours and 20 minutes sure didn’t feel that long. A storyline that reintroduces 6 extraordinary individuals, stepping up to save planet Earth, plus a villain out for revenge, plus a shady agency who cannot be trusted, as well as an extraterrestrial conspiracy, needs some time to unfold. But let’s recapitulate: Loki of Asgar (Tom Hiddleston), comes to Earth to rule over humanity, seek vengeance on his brother Thor, and to recover the Tesseract, an unlimited power source currently in the possession of S.H.I.E.L.D.. S.H.I.E.L.D. is an international (not inter-planetary) peace keeping organization that wants to utilize the Tesseract to provide the planet with unlimited, sustainable power. But the agency also has ulterior motives (duh, what a shocker) and plans on using the energy to develop a nuclear weapon against attacks from space. Well, let’s just say they are a little bit behind schedule, when Loki uses the Tesseract as a portal and drops by for a visit. Things escalate quickly and S.H.I.E.L.D. calls in the big guns in the form of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner; ok, technically he’s on the wrong side of things for ¾ of the movie, but hey – who’s keeping score). All these individually awesome guys struggle to work together as a team. Only when they realize they have been given false information by S.H.I.E.L.D. and when Loki calls upon his army to conquer Earth do they get over their egos and collectively save the day.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, obviously. As you would expect from an action-packed picture of this scale the message isn’t all too deep, but shows us that even super-humans need to work together to live together happily. It’s funny really how humans long for and strive towards the supernatural and god-like all the time. When it comes down to it though, we need it to be that one human element that saves the day. The ability to empathize, the notion of a group being stronger than any individual, or that one human spark of resistance like the old German man in Stuttgart, who stands up to face Loki, despite having to fear serious repercussions. I don’t know if it is necessary to look for deeper meanings and truths in The Avengers. What you see without looking for meanings at every corner is special enough for me.

There are many impressive fight and flight scenes within the movie that for some would serve as more than enough entertainment on their own. The super cool gadgets and outfits are sort of a dream come true for anyone who ever dressed up as a superhero as a kid or who is constantly improving their outfit for the next comic con. Fair enough. What I really didn’t expect to find were the witty dialogues. Granted, this is a Joss Whedon movie and I should have given the man some credit, but it still caught me off guard. The fact that these individuals come from different places and times gives their interactions a highly entertaining friction, and side-references to the tale of Jonah or Shakespeare in the Park are clever as well as sarcastic, which is exactly my kind of humor. 

The source of humor and entertainment in this picture are, as they should be, the Avengers themselves. Their very different characters and back stories transform the movie into a mix of action, sci-fi, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and historical and military drama. The performances of the lead actors completely complement their super-human alter-egos. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth play their characters ‘out of place and time-ness’ in an estranged but admirable way. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is a force and doesn’t let herself be pushed into a cliché – despite her Russian descent and provocative outfit. I always appreciate Downey Jr.’s sarcastic way of portraying the bored genius-billionaire Tony Stark, but the performance that I enjoyed most was that of Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/ Hulk. The subtle restraint of his character was palpable every second of his screen time, and when he finally unleashed the beast for that final battle, the ease of his transformation produced an eerie fascination. Only Jeremy Renner, like his character Hawkeye, pales a bit next to his very prominent company.

So now it’s done: Another big item checked off my To Watch list. Like with any movie of its genre The Avengers is not free of superficiality and easy thrills, but I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 hours and 20 minutes I spent watching it. Characters and plot said enough to get me interested, but little enough for me to want more – especially since the movie ended with some doubt by authorities within the Marvel-verse of what these guys might be capable of. So there’s trouble ahead for sure for the Avengers, and now I can’t wait to see what they get up to next, in Avengers: Age of Ultron.


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