Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Catching up with 2012: The Avengers

“A movie like "Marvel's The Avengers" doesn't need critics and critics don't need it.”

 “[T]he movie has some of the easygoing charm of "Rio Bravo," Howard Hawks's great, late western in which John Wayne, Angie Dickinson, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson did a lot of talking on their way to a big and not-all-that-interesting shootout. The difference is that, in keeping with the imperatives of global franchise entertainment, the big shootout in "The Avengers" must be enormous, of a scale and duration that obliterates everything else.”
So, I finally saw The Avengers. Two things: the first quote is from Jim Emerson in this piece here. Everything he says about the film is spot on (although I think I like the CGI shot at the end more than the one he mentions in his essay). The second quote is from A.O. Scott’s article found here. I like that he mentions how some of the scenes involving Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Captain America reminded him of the “easygoing charm” of one of Howard Hawks’ greatest movies. He’s right: there’s a certain amiability that is infectious throughout the middle of The Avengers. There isn’t a cynical note in the film. I appreciated that. Oh, and you don’t have to be a comic book fan, geek, nerd, or whatever do enjoy it. Lord knows I have little to no knowledge of the vast Marvel Universe, yet it doesn’t seem to matter as writer/director Joss Whedon just kind of comes right out (well, he has his characters come right out) and says what the audience is thinking, “we don’t need the logic; just give us what we came for: the crème-de-la-crème of Marvel superheroes teaming together – sharing the same frame – to jape and jest and smash things real good.”

So, yes, Emerson is right in that a movie like The Avengers doesn’t really need anyone to say whether it’s good or bad (especially someone getting to it as late as I am). But, here goes: I liked it. I liked the breezy way it moved through its exposition. I liked the cast and the quips and the tone. I even liked some of the CGI. My favorite shot is in that big finale (which Scott is right: it goes on way too long) when the camera follows the action without cutting so that we can see each of the Avengers in some kind of heroic moment. The camera starts by showing us Iron Man swooping in to help Captain America fight aliens on the streets of New York. And then without cutting, the camera (or the computer) moves from setpiece to setpiece catching glimpses of each Avenger at work. My favorite moment within my favorite moments has to be when the camera moves from Hawkeye battling aliens on a rooftop to the Hulk fighting on top of some kind of alien aircraft with Thor dropping in off frame to join him. It’s encouraging to see CGI being framed in a way (it actually comes across as if your eyes were moving from panel to panel in a comic book) where the audience can actually tell what the hell is going on.

I checked my cynicism at the door (I fully understand what the studio’s intent is with The Avengers; I also think that Whedon and co. do a fine job making the film come off as something more earnest than its “hey, let’s get together all of our 100+ million dollar superheroes and make a movie that we know people will shell out big bucks to see numerous times” exterior suggests) and found a film that I was more than glad to spend a little over two hours with. Huzzah. 


  1. Yeah, I loved this film. Good to see Joss being allowed to play with the big toys for once and hitting it out of the park. And finally, someone did HULK justice! Suffering through the last 2 films, which, admittedly, did get a bit better with each film but Whedon finally nailed it. I just hope when they do get around to making another HULK film they get him to do it. Or, at the very least, write the script.

    1. If I would have written a longer, more conventional review, I would have definitely singled out Ruffalo's performance. He's so great in this, and the way he gleefully plays Banner's interactions with fellow techie Stark was one of my favorite things in the movie. I bet Joss has "consultant" duties on all future Marvel films. What do you think about his TV series based on S.H.I.E.L.D.? I'll watch, of course. I really like Clark Gregg, so I'm pretty excited for the TV show.

      Thanks for the comment, J.D.

    2. Yeah, I'm pretty stoked about the SHIELD show. I sure hope Joss gets some of his old writing staff from other shows back to work on it. Would be hard as most of them have become successful in their own right but ya never know. I also really like Clark Gregg and so it'll be great to see him headline the show.

      Agreed with you on Banner and Stark's interactions... great stuff. I thought Joss really pulled off all of the heroes interacting with each other. So hard with such different characters, most of which are from their own films but he brought it all together as cohesive whole.