‘The Avengers’

avengers movie action heroes

The sheer numbers are staggering. Marvel’s “The Avengers” crossed the $1 billion threshold at the global box office on its 19th day in release. This after the Disney release shattered records with a $207.4 million opening weekend in North America.

So the question is: Given that these figures surprised no one, why did the filmmakers play such a conservative game? They didn’t set out to make a great movie. They simply made sure not to screw it up so badly that all these box-office figures remained within easy reach.

The template did exist: Several of the films leading up to “The Avengers” were damn good, especially the Robert Downey Jr./Jon Favreau “Iron Man.” If the filmmakers wanted to get jokey and goofy they could look to the “Men in Black” film series. If they wanted to get super serious about crime fighting than there are the Christopher Nolan Batman movies.

Instead you get the convoluted mess that is “The Avengers.”

iron man in the avengers movie“The Avengers” arrived as the summer’s first tentpole movie with a team of Super Heroes going up against one lonely villain. Ever hear of the word “overkill?” “The Avengers” is overkill with a vengeance.

Whatever one thinks of Super Heroes in general or Marvel Comics’ iconic Super Heroes specifically, they go down so much better in single shots rather than as tutti-fruitti blended cocktails.

A little backstory: The original Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, caused many cynics in the day to feel it was a me-too lift from rival DC Comics’ Justice League of America. All Marvel did was bring together a trash heap of characters that never really made it on their own — including Captain America, a World War II character who got benched once the Cold War was underway — and ran them in and out of a series of comics as you would dress extras in a ballroom scene. But movies can do wonders to “unstable” creatures, as these Super Beings are called at one point in the movie written by geek-savvy director Joss Whedan from a story he dreamed up with Zak Penn.

Downey’s Iron Man proves once again it pays to be a witty Super Hero. Mark Ruffalo is the latest actor to take a whack at the Incredible and incredibly boring Hulk — acceptable in human form but as a Big Green Monster all you can do is stifle a yawn and watch the destruction. Scarlett Johansson, barely introduced as Black Widow in “Iron Man 2,” almost needs a new introduction for her super powers seem to keep changing to fit the story’s needs. Aussie Chris Hemsworth flexes his muscles as Thor. Ditto that for Chris Evans’ Captain America, looking like he is auditioning for a Village People cover band. Jeremy Renner turns up as Hawkeye but is shanghaii-ed into the enemy camp far too early.

Scarlett JohanssonThese Super Egos, as they should be called, spend most of the movie fighting among themselves, which may be just as well given that the nominal villain, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, is dull enough to be a Republican presidential candidate. In fact, the nearly two-and-a-half hour movie hits the 90-minute mark before Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of an international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., actually pitches the idea that instead of fighting each other they should team up against the villain. Hey, there’s an idea.

It seems the door to hell or a portal to another dimension has opened up and Thor’s half brother Loki has slipped through. He bristles with threats — world domination, human slavery, broadcasting an AM talk show. (No, the last one I made up.) He says he’s a god but the Avengers tend to toss him around like a sack of potatoes so I’m thinking demi-god at best.

But he has stole the Tesseract, which you may or may not remember was an all powerful energy cube found at the ocean’s bottom in Captain America.

As I said, a good 90 minutes pass before the battle scene is set up in midtown Manhattan. (What, you were expecting maybe downtown Des Moines?) At this point, Whedon abandons any sense of story or characters and turns things over to the visual and special FX folks, not to mention a legion of stunt personnel. You either like seeing Manhattan destroyed or don’t. This one has featureless warriors and giant sphincters that float about mid-level to all the high-rise buildings with tails that seem to destroy half of them.

The whole movie is a strikeout where it comes to imagination. Were Marvel Comics really this bad? The villain is tired, the Super Heroes engage in ego games and Downey has all the good lines.

The movie comes in 3D in some venues and for once the 3D isn’t bad at all. The problem is the story is flat and it’s the characters that lack dimension.


Opened: May 4 (Walt Disney Motion Picture Studios)
Production companies: Marvel Studios in association with Paramount Pictures
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director/screenwriter: Joss Whedon
Story by: Zak Penn, Joss Whedon
Producer: Kevin Feige
Executive producer: Alan Fine, Jon Favreau, Stan Lee, Louis Esposito, Patricia Witcher, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham
Director of photography: Seamus McGarvey,
Production designer: James Chinlund
Music: Alan Silvestri
Costume designer: Alexandra Byrne
Visual FX supervisor: Janek Sirrs
Special FX supervisor: Dan Sudick
Editors: Jeffrey Ford, Lisa Lassek
PG-13 rating, 143 minutes


Comments

  1. James says

    Good Review, this was an overrated film, not a bad one, but not a “classic”either

    • Kirk Honeycutt says

      I have great hopes for Marvel’s Iron Man 3 despite the stumble with the second movie.

  2. Soupcannon says

    I don’t know what movie you saw but it wasn’t this one. Perhaps the theatre you saw it in was showing the awful version from the mid nineties or perhaps you aren’t able to enjoy a movie of that length. If you didn’t get it say so, I didn’t get lost in translation or avatar but that doesn’t make them bad movies.

  3. Owen says

    I went to this with a group of friends and high hopes. I’ve loved all of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies but didn’t enjoy Thor or either Ironmans and didn’t watch Captain America. I think it’s a horribly cringey film. It tries to take itself very seriously and not seriously at all at the same time which makes it quite messy. All my comic geek friends loved it and talk about it in reverent tones but I thought it was awful. Cringey dialogue, a villain that doesn’t particularly bother me and never seems a threat and poor acting. Cue attack of the nerds for not liking their wet dream of an over hyped and over produced shite film.

    P.S. The outrageous laughter at some of the shockingly unfunny dialogue or the scene where Hulk punches someone, makes me fear for the state of our generation and people in general.

    • Chris Matheson says

      Dude … Seriously? The fact that you didn’t like Thor or either Iron man is perfectly fine, everyone has different things they look for in a movie to really enjoy it. The thing that baffles me is that you would have “High Hopes” for The Avengers when it combines a few movies that you didn’t like or bother to watch, then pan the movie like it let you down. I guess your used to watching movies that are only comedy or only drama, but most good movies have serious tones at times and playful tones at others. As for Loki … he’s not the most Menacing Villain physically, but neither is Lex Luther or many of the other villains who play the role of mastermind where they themselves are not the main threat, but their plans and army of minions that pose the real danger. The last part about your fear for a generation and state of people in general (if that’s not tongue in cheek) makes me seriously question your mental capacity and ability to socially relate to the rest of “us people”. All in all I enjoyed this movie immensely and so did just about i know who saw it regardless of their comic book status.

  4. Havlyn sands says

    This movie was so boring and predictable. The fighting techniques were stolen from other movies especially Hawk Eye and he wasn’t half as good as Legolas from the LOTR. I love Scarlette Johanson but her acting was boring and she was useless. Also Hulk in his human form was not convincing. There was nothing interesting about Alien enemy. As far as putting together a team effort to combat any enemy is concerned: The Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Rings team was more dynamic, interesting and all characters were relevant. This movie was a waste of my money. I don’t have any interest in watching it again.

    • Kirk Honeycutt says

      I agree with you about everything except perhaps about Scarlett Johansson. She can never really bore me but I’d admit her acting suffered from this underdeveloped character. Thanks for the comments.

  5. Tyler Schmall says

    Very well said, this is a good and honest review. Nothing about this movie is that good. None of the characters are relatable and it’s impossible to feel any sort of tension when THEY’RE ALL INVINCIBLE. The scene when Thor fights Ironman is so droll I almost fell asleep. They both came out completely unscathed. So why would I worry about them being able to ward off an entire army of one-hit one-kill drones when Thor can get blasted 300 yards by Ironman’s weapons and still come out looking THAT handsome? Not to mention Nick Fury is just Mace Windu with an eye patch (and just as uninteresting). The only scene in the whole movie that I genuinely enjoyed was when Hulk was chasing around Black Widow because it was the only time one of the characters felt the least bit vulnerable. And even after that happened, Hulk fell out of the sky onto a brick building and lived to quip about it. Unlike Nolan’s Batman series, never once did I think “How are they possibly going to get out of this one?” nor was I relieved when they finally did get out of it.

    • Dano says

      Awesome comment. If there’s anything I would add it’s that the movie is terribly inconsistent about who’s invulnerable and who’s not. So, Iron Man is being pounded by Thor, we can see his suit is starting to crumble and boom, just like that, in the next scene it’s “all systems go”! Wait, does titanium have a healing factor or something? Thor tries desperately to break free from the glass cage falling from the sky, only to hit the ground with even more speed than if he’d stayed inside! He emerges unscathed, of course, being a god and everything, so why even care whether he’s inside the cage, or not? And if Thor is invulnerable, on account of being a god, how come the other god (Loki) has every bone in his body broken by Hulk? If only we could turn our minds off and enjoy the movie the way it was meant to be enjoyed (that is, the way a 14-year-old fanboy enjoys it)…

      • Kirk Honeycutt says

        Good points all. If only the makers had subjected their script and designs to as much scrutiny as you have, the movie might at least have made more sense.

  6. RWMendez01 says

    I laughed at this entire review (I mean that in a good way) because this guy was spot on. I don’t know what people are raving about. The only (partially) interesting thing they did was put the heroes from the previous films in one movie. Other then that, nothing was different. Nothing was special. Everything was predictable and stuff I’ve seen a millions times in every other 3D movie. Sorry fanboys but the film was ok, like how the 5 films prior are ok. It’s not amazing. It’s not the greatest comic book hero of all time. It’s not the greatest action film of all time. It’s the biggest mess of all time. Deal with it. This is facts.

    • Kirk Honeycutt says

      It is a mess but some see it umpteen times and don’t notice. I hope they come back to this site to raise the bar of film appreciation a little.

  7. Blaven says

    I agree with this review. After waiting month to see it, during which time it racked up huge returns at the box office and received mostly glowing reviews, I was ready to be overwhelmed. Instead I was underwhelmed. What we have here is a pretty standard superhero movie, but with lots of superheroes instead of just one. The plot–a bad guy opening a gate of doom that threatens Earth–is pretty standard fair, and too much time is spent on over-the-top special effects instead of interesting plot development. Not a terrible movie, just not up to the hype.

  8. mr pockets says

    Eh, Loki’s a joke, and the plot was dumb, but I think you guys are seeing something that wasn’t there. It’s supposed to be an over-the-top entertaining movie. You go to it to watch splashy action scenes from totally out there characters and for those goofy one-liners.

    If you are looking for a serious action film, that’s fine. When the first 10 minutes of the film though introduce a little cube of infinite power and such a silly villain, I sorta realized this was a movie that was not to be taken seriously. It’s entertaining fluff, escapism at its finest. Don’t look too hard into it.

    • Barry says

      This is the best response! This is not a documentary or something based on a true story. If you take all movies this seriously, I feel for your well being.

  9. Alex says

    Haha people just want to have a different opinion thats all. I was surprised by the amount of people trying to relay something as a plot hole while not understanding the orgin of many of the main chrs and/or villians. In case for some reason you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and see the chrs. individual movies(prequels if you will) before you come off sounding nick-picky

  10. Jordan says

    I thought the acting was better than the production. And the acting was pretty one- dimensional. I don’t know what it was (3D maybe?) but the Blu-Ray looked like a daytime soap. I cannot stress how awful the artificial lighting was. Telenovela of super hero movies. Bad makeup, bad cgi and pretty much some of the most amateur camera angles EVER. I think he was trying to play on the TDK “chaos spin” shot with a *vertical* cam. It was just not good. I felt like the cameraman was drunk. I haven’t seem this many action jump cuts and continuity errors since Police Story.

    • Kirk Honeycutt says

      Thanks for letting readers know that the Blu-Ray isn’t up to snuff. I wonder why that is?

    • crzydroid says

      I haven’t seen the Blu-Ray, but your comment about it looking like a daytime soap makes me think that what you’re talking about has something to do with the frame rate. It’s possible that if you have a new high-def tv, there is some sort of frame interpolation feature turned on, which draws new frames that weren’t in the movie in order to have the frame rate mesh with the unnecessarily high refresh rate. Try going into your settings and turning this feature off, and movies might look better.

  11. Laughingmad says

    Most of this is pretty accurate, but all of it is stated in an obviously negative and shoehorned context. It takes too many liberties with itself to be considered a strong review.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This carefully preserved tone of serious drama and exciting action crumbles in the final act, however. While it may be expecting too much for filmmakers to maintain sensitivity over 9/11 a dozen years after those horrors, the sight of Manhattan buildings exploding and toppling on a terrified populace is nothing more than a CGI replay of the city’s destruction in “The Avengers.” [...]