*****WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!!! WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!!!****
This blog entry contains spoilers from The Avengers; if you haven’t seen it yet and you read it, and it ruins the movie, it’s your own damn problem.
Several years ago (okay, roughly ten or so), Marvel comics went rogue, creating its own film studio, and coming up with a daring, ambitious plan: run through their superhero characters that they retained film rights to (more on that later), introduce them in small groups (title characters plus supporting characters), then combine them for a super-sized blockbuster the likes of which the entertainment industry hasn’t seen in a long time.
First came Iron Man, then The Incredible Hulk (both a sequel and reboot to Hulk), Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: the First Avenger. However, you know all this already, and beyond that, you know how obvious the tie-in threads to get to The Avengers was; Captain America gets frozen for seventy years being the big one.
Onto more serious matters, I get that part of the film was trying to get the characters to forge a serious bond and put their egos aside, but I think they took it too far; you have a fight scene between two of them with the bad guy sitting on a cliff, and no one looking after him. An argument that occurs between all the main characters that is obviously pointless, feels more like filler than film, even though I know it wasn’t. I think they were trying to hit the point, but they hit it so hard, so many times I was quite happy when it was over.
Of course, the team does come together, after a dramatic and vicious fight that tears away at the fabric of SHIELD. Joss Whedon, whose style I don’t always like, did one thing right: he turned the team from being a SHIELD team to more being a rogue one; they leave without clearance, operate without clearance, and resolve the situation, you guessed it, without official clearance from the SHIELD Council. Even better, you sense that that’s what Nick Fury wanted all along, since let’s face it, Tony Stark doesn’t play too well with others, and Hulk, well, he is good at smashing; even Captain America has a bit of a problem with authority. Again, though, it’s a refreshing touch: Captain America shifts from his ultra-patriotic stance to one a little less rigid, and Tony Stark seems to mature a little, both in domestic bliss with Pepper Potts, learning to work with others, conceding leadership to Capt. Rogers, all this shows how he is growing into the hero people expect. I highlight those two because they are the both the most obvious, and the best examples.
I feel, in a sense, like Loki was made too powerful in the beginning, and the invading army was too overwhelming. When things look that grim, and you know the film will likely be ending on an up note, a lot of the darker, grimmer aspects seem unnecessary. I thought that Loki getting the crap beat out of him by the Hulk was brilliant, as it was not only funny, but ensured that the finale of the last action sequence would not trying to finally beat him; the seemingly sacrificial move by Stark was instead, and was probably the most rewarding part of the film.
I thought the film also made good use of Nick Fury; Fury, who had previously been relegated to bit parts, is revealed to be both calculating, and in a twist, he becomes more human, by realizing that humanity has to grow and mature beyond what we think and do now. Other highlights include Gwyneth Paltrow reprising her role as Pepper Potts, where it becomes apparent that she is letting some of Tony Stark rub off on her, and as result their relationship works great; Stellan Skarsgard, who I’ve yet to see give a bad performance, is brilliant as Dr. Selvig; and Clark Gregg gives a great and humorous performance as the doomed Agent Coulson, who is fleshed out quite a bit, including being a Captain America fan.
I describe the film as being great summer fun, but not a film that will be contending for any Academy Awards, and that’s all we expect from it. I think that I let my expectations get in the way of fully enjoying the first few minutes of the film, and had to learn to just leave my expectations at the door. Quite frankly, I think that it is easier to enjoy a film that does not present itself as being big and grand, but rather just an entertaining feature.
I also enjoyed the fact that, with a few small exceptions, all the characters we deal with are people we met previously in the Marvel cinematic universe; we are not saddled with Steven Rogers new girlfriend; hell, with the nice development of the Potts-Stark romance, we don’t have to deal with the characters’ personal lives too much (aside from the plot-relevant Loki-Thor familial issues), which in an ensemble piece is usually a good thing.
The pacing of the film suffers from the lack of action in the second half of the first act and most of the second, and suffers further more from the prolonged action sequence that dominates the third act. There just wasn’t enough movement in the plot (again, fighting between characters holds it up) in the lull between action sequences to keep it up.
The film holds together through the lull long enough for the characters to click, start working as a team, and work together to beat the bad guy, which is all we really want, right?
The film, amusingly enough, doesn’t just serve as a sequel to the Marvel films, but it opens a wide door for all the projects to come:
- The SHIELD film gets an investment through the SHIELD council and their questioning of its leadership.
- Tony Stark is made more human, a setup for Iron Man 3 due out next year.
- Captain America’s adjustment to modern society sets the stage for a potential second Captain America film
- And, of course, the supporting cast all get a nice bump, such as Black Widow, who is in talks for her own spin-off film
So, the question I asked: does it live up to the hype? I say yes. It was definitely worth the ticket price.