Thursday, May 10, 2012

avengers ... hmmm

Like a whole lot of other people, we saw The Avengers when it opened last Friday. As a big fan of Joss Whedon, I am happy for the director's success and hope that it helps him in his future projects. The cast was terrific. I liked Scarlett Johansson in this film more than any other movie I've ever seen her in. I didn't even mind the 2 1/2+ hours length. But I have to admit that the enemy — some horde of CGI insect/crustacean monsters were just damn ugly and uninvolving.

I understand that is the Hollywood deal. No matter how clever the repartee that Whedon and Co. have created for the bevy of superheroes, modern blockbusters demand ridiculously loud, city-destroying special effects. New York gets trashed once again on film, with Grand Central taking the brunt of the assault. Yawn.

Oh no, New York City is under attack! Again.

But mind-numbing ending battle aside, there were some definite highlights and Whedonesque flourishes that would bring me back for the inevitable sequel(s).

The opening sequence features Johansson as Black Widow. She kick-asses her way out of what at first appears to be an impossible situation. The scene was definite nod to Buffy and all the other cool gals that Whedon has loved to write and celebrate. It also set the tone for introducing the rest of the reluctant and unpredictable band of superheroes. Black Widow didn't need a big iron suit or any superpowers to work her magic, either. Cool.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man was in fine form as always, bantering a mile-a-minute with anyone and everyone, "Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I'm a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster."

Chris Evans as Captain America managed to hold his own with RDJ and the rest of the crew. Many of his lines played off his man-out-of-time situation and good-guy professional hero ethic.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor was a hoot, spouting pompous Asgardian dialogue, but somehow knowing it sounded out of place, which kept him from becoming pompous.

Mark Ruffalo was a perfect Dr. Bruce Banner, AKA The Hulk.
Captain America, "Doc ... I think now is the perfect time for you to get angry." 
Bruce Banner, "That's my secret Cap, I'm always angry."
Samuel L. Jackson was his usual Samuel L. Jackson super-cool self as Nick Fury, who takes no crap from anyone, including the ominous and bossy World Security Council, "I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that it's a stupid ass decision, I've elected to ignore it!"

Jeremy Renner was also good as Hawkeye, his never-ending supply of special arrows proving remarkably effective against gigantic aliens.

And did I mention how absolutely fine they all looked?

All of the Avengers had their moment to shine, but the scales seemed definitely tipped in the direction of The Hulk. Ruffalo got the most character development, and his alter ego got the funniest moments, taking out his frustrations in wonderful ways on Thor and Loki. Tom Hiddleston, another one of the film's highlights, may have been given a thin motive for his badassery as main villain Loki, but he managed to be intriguing and have some bad guy individual screen time with each Avenger.

Captain America to Loki, "What's the matter? You scared of lightning?" 
Loki, "I'm not overly fond of what follows ... " (Thor arrives)
The best part of the film was all of the bickering between the reluctant team members — i.e. Whedon dialogue.
Iron Man, "Falling in line's not really my style." 
Captain America, "You're all about style, aren't you?" 
Thor, "You people are so petty. And tiny." 
Did you see that, Thor? It looks like a gigantic shrimp!
Bruce Banner, "I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him." 
Thor, "Take care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother." 
Black Widow, "He killed eighty people in two days." 
Thor, "He's adopted."
Hulk disoriented. Which way downtown?

The Avengers, as individuals, dislike each other on sight and are far from being team players. But when the chips are down, they manage to pull it together to fight the CGI. The Avengers the film, even with the too-much CGI at its climax, is still a lot of fun. Joss Whedon may direct the sequel, which would be fine. But maybe he should consider doing a smaller, but still action-packed movie centered on Black Widow. With no alien lobster-monsters. That would be really interesting.
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