Ever since the release of the first Iron Man back in 2008 The Avengers has been at the forefront of almost every geek's attention (this one included). Well four years later The Avengers finally assemble and the result is probably one of the best action movies to come out in years (which is really sad and really great all at the same time). This spectacular feat is thanks to the combined efforts of the cast and crew of the film who worked on it. Everyone must have been working at 120% because it shows. The movie lovingly sets up each and every character with a clear motivation (yes even Loki) and shows how they feel about what's going on without going too deep. The action scenes are always awesome and better yet: comprehensible! It's truly sad that shaky-cam has managed to turn action scenes into a mess of blurs and nausea inducing pans and sketchy cuts. While it does have it's place in filmmaking, I feel it's horribly overused. Here, director Joss Whedon has decided that it's better if we can actually see what's going on and enjoy the spectacle of the images we can clearly see.
Which brings me to my second point: Joss Whedon was born to direct this movie. I now shudder at the thought of someone directing this movie who isn't Joss Whedon. Some may think that I'm one of those Whedon purists who thinks everything he makes is pure gold. It's not true. I hated Dollhouse (albeit admittedly I should say I hated the idea of Dollhouse, I never watched the show.) and haven't seen a single episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (I'm just not into it). And I'm very well aware of how fallible the man is, he wrote Alien Resurrection after all... However, I do know that like any other good storyteller he has his strengths and weaknesses. Whedon is great at making fun and memorable characters who are full of so much wit and charm you can't help but love them. This trait of his shines in The Avengers with almost every line being a clever retort or one liner. This movie is legitimately funny (whereas movies like Transformers are funny in the fact that someone thought they were funny) but isn't throwing joke after joke in your face to tide you over until the next action scene. Whedon's talent for wit works perfectly with Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, the pairing of which I was eager to see when first hearing of Whedon's involvement, RDJ has some of the best one liners in the movie.
However, cleverness isn't the only thing Whedon has talent for he also manages to be very good at directing action scenes. Again, the action in this movie is spectacular. It's on a level that Transformers can only dream of. This is because of the fact that, regardless of how bombastic the action sequences are, they have meaning and purpose and are logical progressions of the story. An excellent example of this is the fight between Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America near the beginning of the movie. At this point, Iron Man has only just met Captain America after saving his ass from Loki so undoubtedly Iron Man feels very full of himself. So when Thor swoops in and steals Loki away from them as they're flying back to SHIELD Iron Man is miffed that some blond haired reject from an 80's rock band decided to steal his prisoner. So he goes after him and the two duke it out in a forest until Cap arrives in an attempt to quell the fighting because they're supposed to be on the same side. This action scene is a perfect reminder of how these characters feel like they can take on Loki by themselves because, hey, they've taken care of trouble by themselves before they don't need help. The clashing egos are established through this fight and we keep coming back to this theme later in the movie. It's action that shows rather than tells us what is going on, and Joss Whedon manages to capture this perfectly.
While I normally tend to separate reviews into non-spoilerish and spoilerish, I felt this was important to convey, even if it spoils an action scene in the movie. Nothing feels wasted in this movie, not even secondary characters. Everyone feels like they have a reason for being in this movie, even Cobie Smulders' (How sexy is that name? Seriously I wish it were my name.) SHIELD agent Maria Hill feels like she belongs there (and that outfit...).
Everyone in this movie is great. Robert Downey Jr. of course, is always awesome. He's fun, snarky, and actually manages to convey levels of his Tony Stark that we have only barely seen in Iron Man 1 (which were sadly forgotten in Iron Man 2). I love the scenes with him and Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner, where they're working together as a scientific duo discussing their own issues and what they mean, and the scene where Tony is zapping Banner in an attempt to make him Hulk-out.
Mark Ruffalo quickly erases any issues I had of him taking up the mantle of Bruce Banner after Edward Norton dropped out (I loved The Incredible Hulk). Ruffalo portrays Banner as a guy who has somewhat accepted his other half, albeit unwillingly (we get some backstory on his attempts to deal with his problem that really work out great). Considering the fact that this character is the same one from Incredible Hulk the fact that Banner does have a level of control over "The Other Guy" make sense (even if this control is precarious at best). One of my favorite lines from the movie is about Banner's trick to keeping the Hulk at bay. Plus, the character of the Hulk himself has some great moments in the movie, most of which are with Thor.
Thor kinda comes off as one of the weaker characters in the movie, though this is mostly because Chris Hemsworth has to play a more alien character compared to the rest of the team. However, that doesn't mean he is bad. In fact, I rather liked him. His connection to Loki gives him a unique perspective on things and somewhat puts him at odds with the rest of the team as he is fighting his brother. This adds a depth to the character that was needed in order to keep the character from becoming simply source of exposition. He is mostly used for exposition to folks who don't know what's going on, and when he fights he really brings the hammer down (no pun intended).
Chris Evans returns as Captain America, a role I believe he plays far better than his previous super hero persona. However, If there is a character lacking in strength here, it's Cap. While his general fish out of water outlook on modern day life manages to make him sympathetic, Cap seems to fail in the one place I hoped he wouldn't: being a credible leader. I never fully buy Cap as the leader of this team, instead, at worst, it's more like they all just work together, at best Iron Man seems to come off as the more credible leader (mainly because of Robert Downey Jr.). Sure, Cap gives them orders here and there, but I was really hoping that his journey to becoming a leader in this movie would be more powerful.
Jeremy Renner is introduced to the cast as Hawkeye, a SHIELD agent who specializes in sniping... with a bow and arrow. When I heard Hawkeye would be in this movie I felt that he would be the weakest character in the film because he didn't get the opportunity to be introduced in his own movie. That, however, isn't the issue here. In fact, Hawkeye is given some great character scenes with Black Widow and his trick shots with his bow are truly awesome. Jeremy Renner continues to solidify himself as an action badass thanks to films like Mission Impossible 4, this actually makes me want to see the next Bourne movie he is currently starring it.
Of course I must mention Scarlett Johansson's performance as Black Widow. Wow! What an improvement over her appearance in Iron Man 2. Albeit, Iron Man 2 was laughable at best, but Johansson really brings the character to life in The Avengers. She feels like a character, and not just a tacked on piece of eye candy like I felt she was in IM 2. She continues to be a totally badass assassin/interrogator while conveying a depth to her character regarding her history. She has a great scene with Loki halfway through the movie that is probably one of my favorite scenes.
Speaking of Loki, Tom Hiddleston is down right sinister as the angry Asgardian. I didn't see Thor so my opinion of him wasn't colored in any way. I bought him as a villainous trickster and master manipulator. My only complaint would be his ridiculous helmet. I mean, it's silly, even if you compare it to the other characters' choice in attire. Sure, Captain America wears an star-spangled outfit, sure Thor is dressed up like.. well Thor, but it's easier to sweep those under the rug of suspension of disbelief. Cap kinda has no other identity other than being Captain America at this point, he's been frozen in a glacier for 70 years, plus the guy who designed his uniform was a huge fan of Captain America so it is somewhat justified. Thor is, well Thor and to be honest his getup isn't all that ridiculous if you think about it for a moment. Loki, on the other hand, is shown in two different outfits in the movie: a very suave looking black and green suit, and his more Asgardian clothing, sometimes wearing said silly helmet. The helmet is what put me off. Every time I saw it on him I couldn't help but giggle.
Then there's Loki's motivations for wanting to attack and rule the earth were somewhat... lacking... it didn't detract from the fact that this guy had a clear goal: ruling the world. Simple and clean, which is good for a movie that already has so much to deliver.
This brings me to another point: simple and dumb are two different things. People claim that action movies are "big dumb popcorn flicks" and that really is the wrong description. Action movies are simple, or at least they should be. The overall premise should be fairly simple, what you do in the execution of that premise is what makes a movie dumb or not. The simple premise of Loki wanting to rule the world works for a movie like The Avengers because there is so much else going on at the forefront of the story. You have the story of these great heroes having to learn to work together, and having to learn how to deal with their own issues while working together. Everything works in The Avengers, because the premise is simple, but the execution is brilliant.
So for those wanting to know what I thought of the movie: It's amazing. Go see it! Now! It's an action movie that doesn't insult your intelligence and is by far one of the most impressive movies I've seen.
I give The Avengers five of Loki's silly helmets out of five!