The Avengers (2012)

Reid (originally posted May 14, 2012)
Dir. Joss Whedon
65/100

I’m not sure who is going to like this, but my brother reacted in a similar way to myself, if that means anything. I’m pretty sure people like Penny, Mitchell, Marc and Don will at least think this is OK. It’s basically on the same level as the X-Men films, and some other average superhero movies. Larri liked it more than I did.

**
Loki, Thor’s evil brother, plans to bring an army to earth to take it over. Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. attempt to bring together several superheroes–Iron-man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and two special agents, Hawkeye and the Black Widow–to stop Loki. That’s about it.

Let me say a few more things about the film in the next section, including my problems with the film. I will say that the problem doesn’t stem from an unfaithful adaptation to the comic books. I wasn’t a big reader of Avengers, and I never really encountered this story in the comic books.

***
In a film like this, one of the biggest challenges for a film like this involves managing the characters–specifically, their personalities and storylines–and integrating them into a cohesive plot. The subplots (if any) have to blend in well, either enhancing the main drama or at least not diminishing it; it shouldn’t make the film confusing, either. The film doesn’t really do a good job of handling this, imo. For example, one of the film’s main objectives was to show way the Avengers formed into a team, including who became the leader and why. The leader seems to be Captain America (a good move, since if he’s not the leader, he’s rather superfluous), but the film doesn’t really show the how they arrive at this decision–including the reason the other characters would decide to follow him.

The main drama of the film also seems to center around Loki and Thor, but the story isn’t very compelling or clear. Why would Loki want to take over the earth? Just to hurt Thor? This seems a little weak.

A part of me feels that Captain America (CA)–the way he becomes the leader and maybe the way he adapts to the new world–should be close to the heart of the film. While the other heroes are physically superior to CA, he might far exceed them in terms of character. (Also, I would have used the CA film to establish that he was a master of military tactics–something he studied to compensate for his weak physique.) CA could help Stark see the importance of working as a team. He could help Thor see the same thing, but also make Thor gain greater respect for the “mortals.” Maybe CA could win the Hulk over by showing his sense of trustworthiness or honor. (Maybe have an earlier scene where Iron-man and Thor deceive Hulk to keep him contained and contrast this with CA’s character.) But then, how would this tie into the drama involving Loki? That might be tougher, but these are just some ideas off the top of my head.

The action set-pieces and predicaments weren’t very creative or clever, either, and this was another disappointment in the film. Having said that, there were some funny moments, that I’m sure most idiots would enjoy–and maybe this will make the movie for many people.

Finally, I don’t think Joss Whedon is much of a director in terms of visuals. I like his wit and some of the ideas he has, but visually this was sort of bland.

Mitchell
he Avengers (2012)
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye)

Loki’s got a chip on his shoulder. The younger, adopted brother of Thor has possession of a fearsome power source, the tesseract, and has made an agreement with an extraterrestrial race that will serve as his army in his takeover of earth. Don’t ask me why he wants earth; I know he wants it in a grand, self-glorifying way so he can demonstrate his superiority to his brother.

The Avengers need to stop Loki, to regain the stolen tesseract, to close the gateway through which Loki’s army is invading the planet, and to protect New York City, the location of the portal. It’s a plot with too many pieces because it’s a group of superheroes with too many members; they’ve each got to have something to do, after all.

As an ensemble movie, The Avengers works if you don’t try to make too much sense of it. Just go along with what happens and you’ll probably enjoy most of what you see: fun interactions between the characters, a lot of stuff that goes boom, and some pretty neat-looking visuals involving super-able people in weird costumes.

The temptation is to compare it to the X-Men films, but I found those movies much more enjoyable; something about the X-Men plots is much more compelling, plus there’s an extra charisma that most of the X-Men have, something the Avengers are lacking. For all their coolness, the Avengers are actually more interesting in their non-costumed alter-egos, except Thor who doesn’t have one.

The real disappointment is in Loki as the villain. In 2011′s Thor, Loki is a great villain because he’s Thor’s brother. He’s a villain easy to sympathize with because his torment is believable and because there’s a genuine fondness and love between the brothers. This is pretty much completely absent in The Avengers, and Thor himself, while still a pretty cool superhero, lacks the layered conflicts that made his solo movie much more interesting. Where the X-Men films have the great tension and fondness between Professor X and Magneto, this film just seems to have a lot of ugly flying mechanical caterpillars and butterflies.

What can separate the good superhero movies from the not-bad superhero movies are themes that have universal and personal applicability. While the X-Men films tend to be a bit heavy-handed with these themes, the attempt to be about more than just their plot and heroes gives them a little more resonance, a little more stickiness. In the post-credits scene at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, we get to see a quick dialogue between Logan and a bartender, and it rings like those bronze bells at Buddhist temples. Okay, not really like that, but it rings a little, and we’re meant to feel something for Logan in this small moment. There’s very, very, very little of that in The Avengers, very little that’s meant to make us feel for the characters, a disappointing departure from the solo films of Thor and Iron Man, which give us enough angst and inner turmoil to make us feel like there’s a bigger and better reason to watch a superhero movie than just the costumes and explosions. Scenes with Bruce Banner (Hulk’s alter-ego) hint that there could have been a lot more, but the film seems intentionally to avoid becoming a movie with Hulk as the central figure.

I really wanted to see a lot more interaction between different combinations of heroes, something there just isn’t enough time for in this one picture. This can be forgiven if the intention is to build a long-term series with these characters. All by itself, though, the movie is fun to watch without being especially engaging. This is a bad decision, no matter what the box office receipts say.

6/10
64/100

3 Responses to “The Avengers (2012)”


  1. Reid

    The temptation is to compare it to the X-Men films, but I found those movies much more enjoyable; something about the X-Men plots is much more compelling, plus there’s an extra charisma that most of the X-Men have, something the Avengers are lacking.

    Hmm, these comments surprise me a little–specifically, I’m surprised the revolving cast of characters in the X-men didn’t really bother you so much.

    …and we’re meant to feel something for Logan in this small moment. There’s very, very, very little of that in The Avengers, very little that’s meant to make us feel for the characters, a disappointing departure from the solo films of Thor and Iron Man, which give us enough angst and inner turmoil to make us feel like there’s a bigger and better reason to watch a superhero movie than just the costumes and explosions.

    I don’t think the X-Men films do this very well, except for maybe Wolverine, but I agree with what you’re saying about the Avengers. It goes back to what I said about managing the all the characters and their backstories.

    I agree with you about Loki, too. He was much more interesting in the movie, Thor. I feel choosing him as the central villain was a mistake–unless you make Thor and storyline involving him and Loki at the center of the film. But the filmmakers don’t really do that. They seem confused about what is at the heart of the film.

    Red Skull might have been a better choice, as that would make some storyline with Captain America central to the film. (Hugo Weaving is an effective villain as well.) I mentioned some reasons for putting Cap at the heart of the film, and I wanted point out another comparison. Captain America’s strengths are his character, leadership and maybe even intelligence–qualities that we can relate to a lot more than superhuman powers. This reminds me of the LotR trilogy where Frodo and Samwise–their decency, simplicity and loyalty to one another is really what defeats Sauron and the ring. I’m suggesting the filmmakers for The Avengers could have done something similar by putting Captain America at the center of the film.

  2. Mitchell

    You don’t think the X-Men movies do much to generate sympathy for Professor X and Magneto? I do. And what about Beast?

  3. Reid

    No, you’re right about Prof. X and Magneto. They’re one of the constants in the four films and the filmmakers do a good job of developing their characters and backstories. I don’t agree about Beast, though. The Avengers have one film, plus one film for each of the main characters, so I’m not sure the comparison is entirely fair.

    For what it’s worth, I think the filmmakers should have either a) made this into an HBO-like series. The drawback is that the production values aren’t going to be as good; b) made the Avengers into a multi-part film; c) created a neo-movie serials (i.e., perhaps shorter films that screened every few months).

    I think superhero movies have the potential for creating a new type of film experience–one that would better suit the material as well.

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