The Avengers – Review

THE AVENGERS (2012) 

Directed by Joss Whedon. Starring Robert Downey Jr.Chris EvansMark RuffaloChris HemsworthScarlett JohanssonJeremy RennerSamuel L. JacksonGwyneth PaltrowTom Hiddleston.

At the time I’m writing this, just 2 weeks after its release, the Avengers (or as it is, stupidly, known in the UK, Avengers Assembled) has already broken all the possible records at the box office (biggest opening, biggest week-end, biggest poster, longest end-credits and so on) and it’s fast and steadily climbing along the list of the top grossing movies in history. So basically no matter what I think or say (read as “bugger off moviegeek!”), this movie is a massive success anyway! To be anti-Avengers would mean being pretty much against anyone who’d be interested in reading this blog… So going into the theatre I had a certain trepidation and fear at the same time… What if I don’t like it? Will I be able to tell my friends… and readers?

Well, you know what? We can all relax, because I actually found the Avengers (I’m sorry, but I refuse to call it with the UK title), not just entertaining, but actually among the best movie about superheros I’ve seen in a while. It is certainly up there with both Spiderman 2 (my favourite from the Spiderman-Raimi trilogy… but then again I have a Spidey soft spot), and, might not be as stylish those first two Nolan-directed Batman movies, but it’s certainly a lot more fun.

If you’re going to see a superhero movie, this is exactly as it should be! And if you’re going to see a movie where lots of superheroes get together, this is exactly as it should be done!

Hats off to Marvel and Joss Whedon, whose gamble seems to have really paid off!

We’ve been teased by tantalising snippets, trailers and film clips for years and the expectations seemed to be just a little bit too grand to be gracefully met… and yet the Avengers is everything it should have been and probably a bit more than that.

It understands exactly what comics are and the kind of wide range audience they are speaking to: for a start it is all very light and tongue-in-cheek the way it should be (after all this is a make-believe-world where people fly, turn green and travel from space), it is very funny (I surprised myself a couple of times laughing out-loud as I had not done in a long time in an action film. There a couple of moments involving the Hulk which caused the biggest and most spontaneous laugh from an audience I can remember since Indiana Jones shot the sword-man in Raiders of the lost Ark). But aside from this, however far-fetched and silly it all is, the action is done skilfully, the story is told with conviction and characters are rooted in enough reality to make it all much more enjoyable, so that even though you know exactly that no superhero is ever going to die, you are still sitting on the edge of your seat trying to work out how on earth they’re all going to come out alive.

The film is beautifully balanced, filmed and crafted with meticulous attention by a studio and a director who clearly care and they are not just going for the big explosions a-la Transformers (though, you do get those too!). Whedon has created a something for the hard-core fans, the geeks and nerds but also the freshman, the first-timer and the novice. He gives each character the right amount screen-time and whoever you’re a fan of, you won’t feel shortchanged. He created the perfect baddie, he orchestrated the smoothest actions scenes, fast and yet always clear. He even answered the ultimate geeky questions like “Who’s stronger Thor or Captain America? Iron Man or the Hulk?”, but on the other hand he was always aware of his newcomers and gives them enough information to be able to enjoy the film and follow the story without resorting to boring expositions.

Clocking at around 2 hours and a half the Avengers rarely looses its steam (it has a bit of a dip just before the last battle, but it picks up straight away and it’s hardly noticeable): yes you may argue both the two great action set-pieces go on for a little too long, but there are so many characters to follow, that it’s a weakness I’m willing to forgive.

The Special Effects are pretty seamless and the music is well judged throughout: you get the hero theme, but also you get the silence when there should be some. Even the 3D wasn’t as annoying as it usually is and the retro-fitting was very well done too.

Of course, it’s ludicrous, but hey, it’s the Avengers, it’s not a arty-French drama!  To be honest I had not had so much fun watching an action movie in a long time! Only one suggestion: try to watch it in a packed cinema with an audience of fans and just go with it!

Does it deserve to be the third top grossing movie in history? Certainly not, but as long as it knocks down Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest I’m happy.

7.5/10

CHECK OUT MY OTHER REVIEWS OF SUPERHEROES:

Thor

Captain America

Green Lantern

Thor – Review

Thor (2011)   6.5

Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Chris HemsworthNatalie PortmanTom HiddlestonAnthony HopkinsStellan Skarsgård

I must confess I was never really a huge fan of the comic Thor (but then again, are there really many Thor fans out there?) so I went into this not only with the lowest of expectations, but also with pretty much zero knowledge of this viking-looking superhero. And maybe because of that I came out pleasantly surprised and I actually liked a lot more than I thought I would.

In a time of heavy-handed and preposterously dark movie adaptations of comic book heroes, full of calculated allegories and deep symbolism, it is actually quite refreshing to find a film that knows exactly its boundaries and never really takes itself too seriously: I mean, after all we are talking about Thor!

This will probably not find a permanent place in cinema history, but as a pre-summer blockbuster, it was plain fun! And while it worked as a stand-alone adventure, it also paved the way for the eagerly expected (well, among comic book fans at least) “Avengers“, a film which has been in the pipeline for a long time and it’s going to re-unite Thor, Iron Man, Captain America (to be released in July 2011), the Incredible Hulk and other Marvel heroes in what promises to be one of the biggest comic book adaptation yet. In a very calculated marketing campaign, there are plenty of references, in-jokes to other marvel heroes and several hints towards the forthcoming “Avengers” peppered throughout this film, including a semi-hidden sequence right after the end-credits which made even a non-believer like me looking forward to the summer of 2012 when the actual film will finally be released.

This is probably film-making by committee, thought of  by marketing campaigners and executive producers with big fat cigars, but mercifully Kenneth Brannagh has been able to inject it all with enough mischief and fun. In the end it might not work as well as the first Iron Man, and it certainly doesn’t have the invention or heart of the first couple of Spiderman movies but it’s polished,  fast and short enough to get away with it.

The Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, most famous until yesterday for playing in the TV soap Home and Away, looks like he was born to play this role. he not only fits the part perfectly but somehow he manages to make the potentially dull Thor into a likable and sympathetic character.

The film does look great too: production design, costumes, photography and special effects are of very high standards. Unfortunately the conversion to 3D, once again, is not among the best. Generally speaking it is quite unnecessary and aside from a couple of instances becomes fairly forgettable pretty soon and in the end it just serves to make the film a little bit duller in colors… (I’m seriously wondering how long this 3D-mania is going to last for as it seems to be fading out already. But this is a subject too long to be taken here).

I saw this film almost a month ago and I’ve already forgotten about Natalie Portman‘s performance in all this. That should tell you all you need to know about her role in “Thor”. But then again, if she had been really bad I would have probably remembered it…

Finally you’ve got high calibre actors like Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgård to give it more credibility.

If you asked me in another couple of month to tell you about any sequence in Thor I would probably not be able to remember much of anything, but while I was with it I’m sure I never looked at my watch and I had more fun than I was ready for.

6.5/10

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