IMDb Challenge – The Avengers

IMDb Challenge – The Avengers (2012)
 
If you are unfamiliar with my foray into watching and reviewing the IMDb Top 250 you can go to my post introducing the IMDb Top 250 Challenge.  Also, for the next two review I will be facing-off The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.  First up is the high-box-office-grossing, constant action blockbuster, The Avengers!  I’ll be looking at the Story, the Characters/Actors & Actresses, the Pathos, and Entertainment value of each movie.  They’ll be short quick bursts, but don’t blame me if they get a little lengthy.
Story

“The Chitauri grow restless.”

You would think that a movie that relies on smashing together of a bunch of different narratives would lead to a convoluted plot that lacks cohesion, but it works extremely well.  Enough of the different story lines are introduced that you aren’t left clueless and enough is left out that they don’t lose you in the weaving.  You miss some of the slighter jokes and other small elements if you haven’t seen Iron Man, Thor or The Hulk, but in the end it doesn’t take away from this movie’s story.

The story itself is compelling and gets going right away.  From the opening scene, there are very few lulls in the action and the direction of the movie keep a steady flow without losing pace or feeling choppy, something that can escape a lot of the more horrendous action movies.  Also, there was complete lack of throwaway in the movie.  A lot of times movies, especially billed blockbusters, tend to carry a lot of extra “Hollywood weight” and have gratuitous violence, sex, or just stupid scenes.  I don’t think I could find a single scene that fit the bill of adding time or could have used trimming.  It did make The Avengers feel a tad packed and a little long (clocking in at 2 hours and 23 minutes), but it worked and I didn’t get to the point of saying, “Just make it stop!”

Although there is nothing new about superheroes fighting an intergalactic menace (i.e. Superman II, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Oh, the humanity that’s a bad movie!)) or aliens invading the world (Independence Day, District 9, Predator, Mars Attacks!, War of the Worlds, etc.), but this story has some teeth and comic book intrigue. I won’t give away the story for those of you who might not have seen it, but needless to say the story lacks banality and is original, which says a lot for a movie that could have come up with something completely awful (see the movie Green Lantern or Fantastic Four movies).

Characters/Actors & Actresses

“I still believe in heroes.” – Nick Fury

The obvious highlights of the characters in this movie are Iron Man and the Hulk.  Robert Downey Jr. steals all the great lines (You have reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark, please leave a message,”) and his wit adds levity and breaks up the possible tension of certain scenes.  Also, his pure awesome-ness as a super hero carries a lot of the action.  Somehow the guy with no super powers ends up being the best superhero.  Sounds like another hero from another movie I will be reviewing!

The Hulk doesn’t really get awesome until he unleashes the full fury of “the green guy” on the Chutauri.  Those poor little Uruk Hai from outer space didn’t stand a chance against Hulk and his “SMASH”.  

I was pleasantly surprised by Nick Fury.  Samuel L. Jackson channels some Jules Winnfield for his performance and does a masterful job of balancing between serious commander and comic book bad-itude.

I wanted to put Loki for the lowlights, but I had second thoughts.  Tom Hiddleston does a great job acting, and the direction captures Loki’s journey of starting off as the sadistic, power hungry tyrant that he wants to be, but then eventually he turns into a sniveling wimp who gets told off by Agent Coulson and TonyStark/Iron Man.  Loki doesn’t carry the screen, ala Bane or the Joker or even The Green Goblin, but I think his character is stronger that way.  He ends up being more of a thorn in the Avengers side while a greater threat looms (the Chutauri and the unseen Other).  

The obvious lowlight is Black Widow.  She is the exact opposite of the no super power Tony Stark.  Stark has an awesome suit, Scarlett Johansson has a black, Catwoman-like jumper;  Iron Man has super cool weapons and Jarvis; Black Widow has…a…gun.  How the Chutauri, or even Loki, didn’t turn her into a meat patty long before the ending is beyond me. She was not cool, but not as disappointing as Thor.  He ended up taking a backseat in the story, and only becomes everybody’s whipping boy (Iron Man, Hulk, Loki).  

Pathos

“I’ve got red in my ledger, I’d like to wipe it out.” – Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow

You don’t expect a lot of moments of pathos in a superhero blockbuster, but the movie, despite all the action, manages to have its genuine moments.

Loki, from the get go, when he is in his “tyrannical” stage, addresses earth as freeing them from freedom.  That kneeling is humanity’s natural posture.  We want to be subjugated and Loki is cast as bringing the subjugation we desire.  It is fitting that he addresses this while ransacking an art museum in Germany and whre he first faces off against Captain America, a truly American hero.

Black Widow’s checkered past and mistake has left, in her words, a “red ledger”.  Her motivation for joining the Avengers and stopping Loki is to remove that guilt and shame she feels for her past mistakes and sins.  We all can relate to wanting to be able to atone for past mistakes, and there certainly are some great underlying references to human sin, salvation, and atonement.  There is a really good take on this from James Harleman at Cinemagogue which I would encourage you to read.

Also, the dynamic between Agent Coulson and Captain America ends up being the catalyst for their pursuing Loki and defeating the Chutauri.  Coulson, since he was a boy, had been a huge fan of Captain America, and after being rebuffed to sign some of Captain America’s vintage trading cards, Coulson shows the heroism exemplified in Captain America by taking on Loki.  It is Coulson’s belief in Captain America’s past heroism and the values that Captain American stands for that bonds the Avengers together and to put aside their differences to save millions of peoples lives.  It was pretty cool to see some of these small elements on display, plus more that I won’t elaborate on.  I was pleasantly surprised, and that put the movie in a different category from some other blockbuster movies.

Entertainment

All of these elements combined make this movie a truly entertaining and engaging film.  The action starts right from the beginning, does not let up, and is interesting throughout.  The CG and the special effects are masterful, and only add and do not take away from the story and the action.  One of the biggest things is that there were no groaner moments, where the acting/dialogue/special effects make you groan audibly because it is so terrible/cheesy.  You know the moments I’m talking about (Spiderman 3 – Peter’s bad-boy phase; Dark Knight Rises – Miranda’s death, etc.).  It is a complete lack of those moments that keeps the movie from losing major points.  The big thing is that the movie was great, and there was nothing you could throw away or do without.  It all came together really well and was a fantastic movie!  And now (drumroll please), it’s time for my rating:

I give The Avengers 9.5 out of 10! 

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