Movie Review: The Avengers

(l to r) Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Wow! Did you hear that deafening sound? Perhaps, due to the fact that The Avengers is already a mega-hit overseas (trumping the U.S. release by one week), it’s the blast of  an international box office rocketing skyward. Or maybe the explosion is that of a starter gun, signifying the opening day of the summer blockbuster season … a date that continues to crawl back toward April. (It will be no surprise when at some year in the near future, we’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve and the first film of summer simultaneously.)

Before we consider such questions as “How did Edward Norton turn into Mark Ruffalo?” and “Seriously, has Lou Ferrigno worked his way onto the payroll of every single Hulk project from inception?”, we need to know: Does this Joss Whedon creation deserve all the globally buzzy brou-ha-ha it’s reaping? Well … yes, mostly yes. And a little no, as you’ll read below.

But first, to keep you dangling in the mode of the cliff-hanger, let’s review the set-up in a super-concentrated nutshell: The evildoer, one Asgardian demigod named Loki (Tom Hiddleston, reprising his role from Thor), makes a deal with some dude in a hood with bad teeth, bringing to mind Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars franchise. (Please: how many prior epic action series can we handle?) Then it’s off to earth, with Loki on a mission to capture the Tessaract (a cosmic cube of unfathomable power, previously introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger). Once the Tessaract opens up a portal from Loki’s world to ours, the bad-ass Chitauri army can invade our planet, enslaving all earthlings, and Loki will rule forevermore. Say it ain’t so. And yet … if Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) fails in his attempt to get all the heroes in his e-Rolodex to show up, dressed in their best regalia, their props and gadgetry in top form … it will be so.

(l to r) Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow

Pulling off the hat trick of finally answering to the embedded teases in five prior films — all intersecting in the storyline of The Avengers – is a superhero feat in and of itself. Obviously, credit goes to the original comic book “Avengers” creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who first published the work in 1963. But credit should also go to Marvel producer Kevin Feige, who’s overseen this film as well as Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. When Nick Fury saunters on screen during the end credits of 2008′s Iron Man, telling Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), “You’re part of a bigger universe; you just don’t know it yet,” it’s a foreshadowing of events that we haven’t been able to appreciate until now.

As for the filmmaker of the hour, Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods) has succeeded in juggling the directorial styles of all the prior films, yet is still able to weave in his own particular brand of sly humor amid a great big mélange of thrilling 3D/CGI action, a smart plotline and disparate characters. His voice is best echoed by the irrepressible Downey as Stark, quick-witted and wily as ever, who finds his intellectual match in Ruffalo’s beautifully downplayed Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Their mutual respect is well-delineated, working in opposition to Stark’s quick dismissal of goody-two-shoes Steve Rogers/Captain America. Whedon doesn’t forget Rogers’ alienation in a 21st century world, incorporating that element with an effective sensitivity.

The outlier of the group is Jeremy Renner’s intense, somewhat morose Clint Barton/Hawkeye, entrusted to guard the Tessaract with his special recurve bow and deadly silver-tipped arrows. Perhaps the sole cinematic character in filmdom who could take on The Hunger Games‘ Katniss, Hawkeye has a special place in his heart for Scarlett Johannson’s Natasha/Black Widow. Incidentally, Natasha’s first scene in the film is a delightful highlight … but this reviewer has no intention of spoiling it by describing it further.

It’s interesting to note that unlike the other super-powered characters, the two half-brothers from the planet Asgard have singular names. Chris Hemsworth is simply Thor, and Hiddleston is Loki. These solitary identities are reflective of their more simplistic personalities – and when they quarrel in the second act, the scene turns flat. Actually, much of the middle bogs down with excessive infighting among our heroes, carrying on protracted battles that aren’t particularly suspenseful. It’s obvious that the team will have to overcome their individual egos and face the real enemy; sooner, rather than later, would have been better.

The other minor negative note goes to the delineation of Loki. With a costume that looks like it was stolen from Willy Wonka’s closet, this supposedly superbad baddie seems more silly than scary. Compare, for a moment, the intrinsic evil that thrums through the Joker (both Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson); or Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin; or Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull. While Hiddleston probably hoped to convey a charming smile that masked a black heart … all we get is the smile. This lightweight rendition is nowhere near what we need from a fellow who we’re supposed to believe just might overcome every last Marvel superhero in Stan Lee’s universe.

Back to the praise of all that’s Marvel-ous: Let us not forget to salute the one-eyed man doing heroic battle. Kudos to the brave Nick Fury, who has to fight the worst enemy of them all: Mindless bureaucrats. Shiver. Gasp.

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Rating on a scale of 5 Emma Peels & John Steeds: 4

Release date: May 4, 2012
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Screenplay by: Joss Whedon
Story by: Zak Penn and Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 142 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 450+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/kimberly-gadette/). Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.

Comments

  1. Ren says:

    Now this is a first class celebrity! Everyone loves a viialln, but this one takes the cake! I’m going to rank Tom on the same level as Chris Klein and Channing Tatum as the celebrities with the best fan interactions I’ve ever seen. Not only did the man sign picutres, he took his time. So many celebrities rush through or skip this part of premieres, but Tom took the time to take pictures and actually talk with fans. He even held up a giant fanart poster that a fan gave to him for everyone to see. He was extremely good natured, funny, and an absolute pleasure to see. With fan-treatment like this, it’s no wonder Loki was able to raise an army. Step aside, heroes! This girl’s rooting for Loki!

  2. Yeah Hulk! He and Iron Man could have taken on the Aliens by themselves, no problem

  3. Cory Joy says:

    I think it’s fair to say you are both right. Yes, a lot more could have been done to show Loki’s overt menace and that he really was a threat to the world. On the other hand, no, he wasn’t pure evil, not a 100% irredeemable evil such as Ledger’s Joker. It was a balancing act which was easy to get wrong. .. On the one hand, up to about mid point through the film, he’d shown he was beyond Cap in terms of ability, and was evil enough to want to see his brother perish, not to mention his scene with the Black Widow

    So to then get the scene with the Hulk both showed that his threat level wasn’t as high as it could have been, but at the same time no one else came close to man-handling him the way the Hulk did.

    Anyway, perhaps more could have been done with him…..but I was personally happy with how bad his bad was!

  4. Pure awesome! Can’t wait to see this and now I’m even more excited to.

  5. John Booth says:

    Finally I get to compare Kimberly’s excellent review with the film itself, as over here in UK I saw this over a week ago.

    I have to agree with her on almost everything. The one point of discord is that she didn’t ‘get’ Loki. In the Norse mythology and the Stan Lee one, Loki is the god of mischief and, the evil he shows is a consequence of his belief in his own superiority. Throughout the film Whedon’s intelligent script shows this by sudden deceptions, as Loki uses what he perceives as the weaknesses of everyone else to try and take advantage. It is these weaknesses in others (loyalty, self sacrifice etc) that lead to his defeat.

    Thus while Heath Ledger’s Joker is the embodiment of evil, Loki is a much more subtle character with as much good as bad in his nature.

    • Thanks, John, I appreciate your comments as always! As for what I perceived as the problematic villain in Hiddleston’s Loki: Yes, I did know about Loki from mythology. But as a compelling villain? The Riddler is also mischievous, yet can still be threatening. As is the Joker himself. I believe Hiddleston’s Loki was such an, er, low-key Loki, that the character’s underlying psychopathic urge to overpower earth in order to exercise absolute dominion was not conveyed.

      I invite others to comment. Did Loki do it for you? Or not???

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