By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Review-ish: The Avengers
It’s mighty… mediocre.
There isn’t anything BAD about the film. On the flip side, the only thing I took away as remotely memorable was Joss Whedon’s rendition of The Hulk.
Downey does his Iron schtick. Thor is a little looser, but still a bit of a stiff. Sam Jackson has never really been this uninteresting. Paltrow, in brief appearances, is better as the cat who has already eaten the canary. And the earth-bound Avengers, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye are really stranded through much of the film, victims of bringing dull knives to a CG gun fight.
The opening sequence with Natasha Romanoff is meant to be edgy and dark and non-CG-surprising in a heavily CG movie, but we’ve seen this scene literally hundreds of times, 95% of the time shot better. Of course, the fantasy of it being Scarlett Johansson letting herself being smacked around before giving it back 10x harder… well, I guess that is a geek orgasm. (I prefer thinking it was just spilled Coke on the floor.)
But hey… it was fine. Whedon remains a much better writer than a director, though this film has endless passages of talking that seem to do nothing but fill the running time with the cheap content of actors talking on a set. And I have no idea what Marvel obsession there is with massive ships that fly over cities and have little value to the story until the countdown to a crash begins. But, whatever.
For me, the ONLY thing I feel any compulsion to see again in this film is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and, again, Whedon’s take on The Hulk… basically the take that this comic book loving kid felt was the most natural I’ve seen on film. Perhaps it was only a real option because The Hulk was not counted on to move the story, but I would happily pay to see Whedon’s Hulk movie with Ruffalo. The understanding of power and rage and intellect really, really works.
On the other hand, the adversaries in this film really, really suck. It’s petty motivation and not well defined and in the end, it’s another endless storm of faceless, characterless machines (or whatever the hell they were) wreaking havoc.
It was fun to recognize Powers Booth and Jenny Agutter in little roles. It was fun to see director Jerzy Skolimowski (here in a DP/30) hamming it up. It was amusing to see Cobie Smulders in Sue Richards’ uniform from Fantastic Four, her primary superpower seemingly the ability to stay incredibly skinny. And honestly, the great Harry Dean Stanton turning up was a little painful. He didn’t seem well.
All that said… it was okay. It’s probably the best of the Marvel-made Marvel movies, though I prefer Captain America up until the very end (which, after messing up that ending, is not really in this film as it is in CA, as I recall it) and I get why Iron Man is so beloved, even if I was turned off by some bad directing and the shocking lack of a character arc. But Whedon does deliver the Marvel Universe and it feels fresh enough.
Very much defining this movie is the Captain America character, who remains strong and focused in spite of mocking by Stark… Evans is really quite good in the role. But… so what? In the end, this is a movie about the mechanics. Cool suit, cool hammer, big green. Lots of stuff to break. I’d be interested in the Xavier/Magneto relationship of ideas between Stark and Rogers… but there is only time to glimpse it here. I’d be interested in S.H.I.E.L.D. as a player… but only a glimpse of it here. Johnasson is actually quite good in her role… but it is just not that much of a role.
The only thing that stuck, for me, was Hulk. And really, because it was the first time we’ve seen a CG Hulk that had a little joy to him. And Ruffalo is a great brooder, so getting into the levels of emotion around that character, with Whedon writing, could be a joy. Meanwhile, the pure pleasure of id displayed here is very quick to stick.
The one other action sequence that should have been great was not because the motivations made no sense…. when Iron Man and Thor go at it.
So I’m not calling out everyone giving it a pass. Some of the enthusiasm seems a little ratcheted up by all the hype and the Whedon lust (welcome to his first hit movie), but I’d have to go red on the Tomato rating too. It’s fine. It is what it appears to be.
I just wish it was actually a really good, memorable summer Movie Movie. And it’s not. It doesn’t suck, but it’s not One Of Those.
In the world of mega-movies, we have five more shots this summer. Battleship, Men in Black 3, Prometheus, Amazing Spidey, and TDKR. If 2 of them are great Movie Movies, I will be very, very happy.