Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Avengers (2012 film)



Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Avengers is the story of a group of different superheroes and assassins who team up to fight against an evil force that is threatening Earth’s existence. Written and directed by Joss Whedon from a screen story co-written with Zak Penn, the film is about the formation of the Avengers as they have to fight Thor’s brother Loki who decides to bring destruction to Earth. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, and Samuel L. Jackson. The Avengers is a sprawling yet magnificent film from Joss Whedon.

After recovering a mysterious cube known as the Tesseract that is to hold unlimited power, S.H.I.E.L.D. head Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) asks Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) to uncover its source as things start to get troubling during the experiment as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) emerges from another planet. After taking control of the minds of Selvig and top assassin Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner), Fury and his assistant Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) decide to gather a team to stop Loki. Among them is assassin Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who is asked to convince Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to help Fury out while Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) asks Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) to help out. Another person joining the team is Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) who is still dealing with being frozen for seventy years as Fury reveals what he has to do.

When Loki emerges in Germany to let the world know what he’s doing while Barton steals a power source to stabilize the Tesseract’s power, he is confronted by Captain America and later Iron Man as they capture him. Yet, Loki’s adopted older brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) arrives to have Loki return home to Asgard for his actions as a fight between Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America nearly ruins everything. With Loki imprisoned in the S.H.I.E.L.D. flying aircraft carrier, the team try to figure out what Loki is up to as motives start to cause dissension in the group. Yet, Loki’s mind games would eventually lead to his escape thanks to the mind-controlled Barton as things go out of control where Banner turns into the Hulk. Despite saving the aircraft carrier from further damage, Loki escapes as the team tries to regroup with Barton out of Loki’s control. With Stark realizing what Loki wants to do and where, the whole team decides to form the Avengers to fight off Loki and an army of alien creatures known as Chitauri.

The film is the story of how the Avengers is formed as this team of heroes who are asked to save the Earth from any kind of huge threat. Yet, it’s not just these evil alien forces they have to deal with. They also have to deal with each other as these six individuals are the last group of people who all should be part of a team. There’s two very skilled assassins that both try to maintain their emotions as neither of them have any superpowers. There’s a demigod from another planet who carries a mighty hammer and can unleash powers of thunder from that hammer. There’s an old-school hero from World War II with amazing strength and an idealism who is confused and lost in the modern world. There’s an arrogant playboy billionaire who sports a mechanical super-suit that is powered by an arc reactor near his heart. And then you have this mild-mannered doctor who turns into a huge green monster whenever he gets mad.

Writer/director Joss Whedon understands that these characters, who are all quite flawed, shouldn’t be in the same team due to their egos, emotional baggage, or idealism that sets the apart. When they’re in a corner and realize they have to fight something, they can put all of that aside and kick some ass. Whedon understands who these characters as he gives each of them a chance to display their skills and who they are as people. Meanwhile, there’s these supporting characters like Agents Coulson and Hill who are very different parts of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team as they’re quite skilled at what they do. Coulson and Hill each have different ideas but they do play part of this team that provides additional support for the Avengers. Leading all of this is Nick Fury who is hoping to save the world though he is just as complicated as he believes that the Tesseract cube will help humanity fend off against whatever intergalactic threat that might happen.

This cube that represents unlimited power would end up causing all sorts of trouble as it leads to the arrival of Loki. Loki is presented as much more vengeful villain who wants to rule the world and become king after feeling slighted and overshadowed by his older adopted brother Thor. He would team up with a much darker force led by a conqueror named the Other (Alexis Denisof) who wants the power of the Tesseract and have Loki control his army of aliens. This would add a lot of trouble to the Avengers as Loki is this very manipulative and cunning individual who can get into anyone’s mind while he also adds further complications to this very dysfunctional team of heroes. Notably Thor as he still cares for his adopted brother and just wants to bring him to justice at their home planet.

Whedon’s script succeeds in not just fleshing out the characters and their motivations but also manages to create a story that does more than what is expected in the superhero genre. There’s a lot of action moments that is balanced by simple yet engaging drama as Whedon wants to know how these people can try and get along while figuring out what to do. A lot of the film’s second act following Loki’s capture has a team trying to get know each other where not everything is working. Steve Rogers is trying to deal with the cocky Tony Stark. Natasha Romanoff tries to confront Loki about what happened to Clint where she nearly becomes this emotional mess once he uncovers her dark past. There’s Thor dealing with Loki as he tries to assure Fury that the Tesseract is something not to be trifled with. Then there’s Banner who is trying to maintain a low profile so he wouldn’t unleash the Hulk.

Through the script, there’s a lot of humorous dialogue that is part of Whedon’s trademark that allows the film to not take itself so seriously. Notably as a lot of the humor comes from the arrogant Stark while characters like Rogers, Romanoff, Barton, and Banner do each get to spout a few funny one-liners in some of the film’s battles. Particularly the final one where the Avengers have to face off Loki and the Chitauri as each character has something funny to say about their situation.

Whedon’s superb script allows him to create a film that is big and not afraid to say exactly what it is. At the same time, the direction of the film is filled with spectacular set pieces and action sequences that allows itself to standout on its own. While the audience can easily figure out who these characters are without needing to see the other films that preceded it. Whedon does create moments where the characters are properly introduced including the first scene where Loki talks with the Other about their plans. Other introduction scenes for the characters that form the Avengers has Whedon giving the audience a chance to get know these characters and what they do.

The more dramatic moments where the characters interact with each other or try to figure out what to do has Whedon framing them in a simple yet direct manner where it’s all about the conversation and what is happening. The camera is still as Whedon knows to just play things out while creating movements to help intensify the drama in order to build up the suspense of what is to come. When it comes for the big action scenes, Whedon knows to keep up with the rhythm of these hits and explosions without delving into more conventional action film territory as he would have brief moments for the characters to catch their breath. Particularly for the sprawling yet operatic final battle between the Avengers and Loki with the Chitauri as it’s all about the excitement and intensity to fight for the world. Overall, Whedon does a truly phenomenal job with the film that truly lives up to the hype as what a superhero film should be and more.

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey does an excellent job with the film‘s cinematography from the more low-key intimate lighting on some of the film‘s interior settings inside the aircraft and a scene in India and Russia to some wonderful exterior shots outside of the aircraft and some scenes in New York City for the film‘s big battle. Editors Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek do superb work with the editing by maintaining a leisured pace for the film while knowing when to utilize more straightforward cuts to play out the drama as well as more rhythmic cuts for the film’s action scenes.

Production designer James Chinlund, with set decorator Victor J. Zolfo and art director Richard L. Johnson, does amazing work with the set pieces such as the look of the Hellicarrier and its interiors along with the design for Starks tower and the computers used for both sets. Costume designer Alexandra Byrne does terrific work with the costumes from the leather costumes of Hawkeye and Black Widow to a more updated uniform for Captain America plus a more regal look for Loki. Visual effects supervisors Erik Nash, Janek Sirrs, Colin and Greg Strause, and Guy Williams do brilliant work with the visual effects where there‘s a more realistic look to the look of the Chitauri aliens and their big creatures to the look of the Hulk that is more menacing but also more human. Sound designer Christopher Boyes and sound editor Frank E. Eulner do incredible work with the sound to play up the intensity of the action scenes with its clanging objects and gunfire along with more intimate sets for some of the film’s dramatic moments.

The film’s score by Alan Silvestre is truly a spectacle for the orchestral themes to play up some of the film‘s action scenes with swelling arrangements that is bombastic in its delivery as well as some of the drama that occurs in these action scenes. Music supervisor Dave Jordan provides a soundtrack that is true to its bombast as it includes a couple of rock cuts from AC/DC and a new song by Soundgarden to play up the energy of the film.

The casting by Sarah Finn and Randi Hiller is truly outstanding for the ensemble that is created for this film as it includes some notable cameos from comic book creator Stan Lee, Harry Dean Stanton as a security guard, Ashley Johnson as a waitress, Jerzy Skolimowski as a Russian mobster Natasha tries to deal with, Paul Bettany as the voice of Tony’s computer JARVIS, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony’s girlfriend Pepper Potts. Other noteworthy small roles include Powers Boothe and Jenny Agutter as members of a World Council that Nick Fury tries to deal with, Alexis Denisof as the villainous Chitauri leader the Other, and Stellan Skarsgard as professor Erik Selvig.

Clark Gregg is excellent as Agent Phil Coulson who is proven to be a huge fan of Captain America as well as brave agent. Cobie Smulder is wonderful as Agent Maria Hill who is proven to be a very tough agent who can also take care of things for Fury. Samuel L. Jackson is superb as Nick Fury who tries to get everyone under control while trying to hide his motives for the Tesseract only to realize that it might not be a good idea after all. Tom Hiddleston is great as the vengeful Loki who wants to overshadow Thor while wanting to take over the world and wreak havoc as it’s very slimy character as Hiddleston makes Loki fun to watch.

Finally, there’s the role of the Avengers themselves as all of them give out fantastic performances. Chris Hemsworth brings a much more grounded performance as Thor as a demigod trying to deal with his brother as well as trying to inform everyone about the Tesseract as Hemsworth also has funny moments involving the Hulk. While the character of Hawkeye is more low-key as spends about half of the film in control of Loki, Jeremy Renner brings a cool approach to his character as well as being someone not to be messed with as he becomes more determined once he is out of Loki’s control as it’s a remarkable performance. Chris Evans brings a lot of wit and charisma to his role as Captain America as he tries to deal with his new surroundings while becoming the guy that can rally a team once a battle is about to happen.

Robert Downey Jr. is incredible as Tony Stark/Iron Man by maintaining the swagger that Stark brings as Downey also provides lots of humor into his character that irks some of the team but it’s a truly a performance to enjoy watching. In what is her best performance since Girl with a Pearl Earring, Scarlett Johansson brings a real sense of charm and restraint to the role of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow as she tries to deal with her own emotions relating to Hawkeye while providing some witty lines for some of the film’s battle scenes while proving to be someone not to mess with.

Finally, there’s Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk where Ruffalo finally gives both characters what they needed. As Banner, Ruffalo brings a laid-back approach to his character as someone that just wants to work and not cause trouble as he has some great banter with Downey’s Stark character. When he’s the Hulk, all hell breaks loose as the character is far more dangerous but also very funny as Lou Ferrigno’s voice gets a chance for the Hulk to say a very funny line. Ruffalo is the true scene-stealer as he definitely makes Banner and the Hulk into exciting characters that is finally given the presentation it deserves.

The Avengers is a truly awesome and very entertaining film from Joss Whedon. Thanks to a very remarkable ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s a film that truly defines the idea of what a summer blockbuster action film should be as it does more than just entertain. It’s got a lot of humor, lot of action scenes to cheer for, and characters to root for. In the end, The Avengers is a marvelous superhero film from Joss Whedon.

Joss Whedon Films: Serenity - (Much Ado About Nothing (2012 film))

Marvel Phase One Films: Iron Man - Iron Man 2 - (The Incredible Hulk) - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger

Marvel Phase 2 Films: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) - (Guardians of the Galaxy)

© thevoid99 2012

11 comments:

Sati. said...

Wonderful review! I agree about Johansson being great in the movie I was pleasantly surprised by her strong performance. I really loved the humour in the movie, the script was very well written.

Stevee Taylor said...

Great review! I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It was a very fun film that I wouldn't mind seeing again.

dtmmr said...

Fun as hell and I hope that the sequel is even better, and doesn't take 4 years to come back around. Good review Steve. Definitely my favorite of the year so far.

Andrei S. said...

Agreed. It's definitely one of the greatest superhero blockbusters in a long time -- if not of all time. I'm holding off writing a review of it until I get the chance to see it once more.

thevoid99 said...

@Sati-One of the things I like about Joss Whedon is that he actually cares about female characters as he definitely gave Scarlett something to work with. I was amazed at how good she was and it reminded me why I loved watching her in films like Ghost World and Girl with a Pearl Earring.

@Stevee-I would just love to see it again just for the Hulk. He's my new hero.

@Dan-The sequel better rock and I want more funny moments from Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner & the Hulk. I had a lot of fun watching that film.

@Andrei S.-It's one of those films that understand what it needs to do. Yet, it does it with such intelligence and respect to its audience. Michael Bay, Peter Berg, McG, and all of those other big-blockbuster hacks just got schooled!

Chip Lary said...

I saw this yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll join the chorus of positive reviews in a couple days.

thevoid99 said...

@Chip-I'll definitely anticipate your review. Man, I had fun watching this film.

Lesya Hearst said...

Loved this film! And glad that you did, too.

thevoid99 said...

@Lesya-This film is becoming quite popular. I guess it brings out the best qualities in what people want in a blockbuster movie.

Diana said...

Very good review, I am always amazed of how big, informative and eloquent your reviews are. My favorites were Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo, I think both the actors and the characters stood out amongst the others. And yes, it was very funny, more than I could have imagined!

thevoid99 said...

@Diana-Thanks. I just wanted to write a review that emphasized on why it's a better film than what it's expected to be. It's because Joss Whedon knows how to focus on characters and stories rather than spectacles. I feel like you have to give the reader some substance about what to expect but also why the film works.