I think I had read somewhere that Joss Whedon had written and directed the new uber-geek movie in a long line of monotonous comic book superhero movies, but I had forgotten that until just before agreeing to bring my kid and his friend to see The Avengers (no, it doesn’t violate the copyright for the TV series with Diana Rigg with lame remake with Uma Thurmond). It’s the one that geeks everywhere have been waiting for. Action movies actually tend to bore me. I don’t think there’s an extended fight in any movie I’ve seen where the outcome isn’t easily predictable based upon conventional plot lines, when it takes place in the movie (good guys lose the first fight and win the last), and the relative mood of the antagonists. The longer the fight scenes get drawn out the more I start rolling my eyes. And I’m really not impressed with 3D technology. It gives me a headache. But when the sequences are funny, they’re fun. And these were funny.
But with Whedon, at least you know it’s going to be funny. If there was too much CGI; too much of the movie was taken up by tedious and predictable “suspense;” and too much deference to the mass market (and there was on all three counts, but Whedon has learned his lesson and probably wants to make some money – and he made it as the opening weekend broke all records); it was going to be funny. And it’s hilarious. From the first moment to the two epilogues, one following the animated credits and another following the overly detailed credits – the first being a gift only the uber-geeks (like me) will get, and the second worth waiting for if you have a sense of humor.
John Bennett of the NCJ wrote a great review. I agree about Ruffalo being the most compelling of the heroes. I disagree that Loki wasn’t menacing or compelling – I thought, oh, whoever it is who played him, actually did the most real acting in the film. Johannasen isn’t very convincing as an ex-Russian spy turned good, but her character is probably the most fun to watch. Some geeks have complained about her lack of accent, but as she is a super-spy, I would expect her accent to be perfectly American. She does cry out in Russian at one point of stress, but I don’t know if her accent would be convincing to anyone who speaks the language. One of the more hilarious moments of the film (which is saying something) is her early “interrogation” scene (of questionable appropriateness for kids considering the prurient imaging, but nothing to throw a tizzy over).
The premise of the Avengers was originally conceived by Marvel Comics as the anti-Justice League. Where all of DC’s pantheon of heroes were basically morally perfect at the time (with some exception for early writings of Batman), the Avengers was a dysfunctional team of social misfits, egomaniacs, and sociopaths with superpowers kind of thrown together by circumstances – a perfect setting for Whedon to weave his magic. There’s a great scene where the heroes are all arguing over stupid crap while the evil Loki’s machinations come to fruition. Anyone with half a brain can see it coming, but that doesn’t detract from the effectiveness of the delivery. It’s fun.
And with all the big names in the film, I have to wonder if there were ego fights on the set that played into the storyline. Somehow, Whedon managed them well.
Anyway, there’s absolutely nothing deep about the film at all. It’s pure fun. But how many action movies are this well written? The last one I can remember is Die Hard. And this script is actually better.
Here’s the trailer. It doesn’t do the movie justice. But I’m sure it sold plenty of tickets.