Avengers assemble! Marvel has been building toward The Avengers at least since Iron Man in 2008. While the individual films along the way – Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America – were a mixed bag, Joss Whedon finally puts all the pieces together and he’s delivered the most entertaining of the bunch. The Avengers won’t do anything to convert the unconverted, but it’s a fun payoff for anyone who at least liked those stand-alone films. While it doesn’t have the gravity of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, it’s also mercifully free of the brooding pretension. It doesn’t have the semi-auteurist stamp of Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films either, but Whedon gets in enough of his personal voice to make it his own without getting in the way of what we like about the comics in the first place. In short, The Avengers is a funny, action-packed, personality-driven blockbuster and a promising start to the summer popcorn movie season. If only all comic book films could be this light on their feet and this much fun.

The story is basically just another world-in-peril device but one dangerous enough that it can’t be handled by a single superhero. Enter S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his “Avengers Initiative” to form a super team made up of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Together they have the power to save the world, but can they overcome their various personality differences in order to form a cohesive unit? The good news is that all the characters have already been introduced so we’re spared yet another tedious superhero origin story, the bad news is that at nearly 2 1/2 hours long, The Avengers still takes its sweet time getting going. First the risk to the world has to be set up, then the individual members of the team have to be brought together and then they have to have fight one another before finally getting their shit together which is where the real fun finally begins. Really, there’s enough material here for two movies, but had they gone that route, the first one wouldn’t have been very good so it’s just as well they put them together.

To Whedon’s credit, he does his best to keep the slower opening relatively light and entertaining with plenty of snappy, in-character superhero patter. All the while, he’s setting up each character is set up uniquely so that when the inevitable team up occurs, they remain distinct and interesting. The enjoyable crap finally starts hitting the entertaining fan and The Avengers finally fully capitalizes on the ground work laid by Whedon and the makers of the previous stand alone movies. The characters are OK by themselves, but they’re essentially one-note. Put them altogether however, and they’re a melody of action fun. Even the lesser known characters Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) have their moments in the spotlight.

We already know what to expect from Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and even bad guy Loki (Tom Hiddleston) because all of them were clearly defined in their respective films. They’re all terrific (especially Hiddleston) if somewhat familiar. The Hulk on the other hand was a bit of a wild card. After rebooting the character with Ed Norton in Louis Leterrier’s 2008 The Incredible Hulk, Marvel went back to the drawing board once again, this time with Mark Ruffalo. As you’d expect from an actor of Ruffalo’s caliber, his scenes as Dr. David Banner are excellent, but the big surprise is how much fun The Hulk himself is. As a special effect, the CGI still looks more like rubber than flesh, but it’s good enough to not be distracting. Wisely, Whedon keeps a lid on the monster for most of the film. We already know what The Hulk is capable of, but instead of laying all the cards on the table, Hulk is held in reserve and he kind of hangs over the film as an element of unpredictable danger. When he’s finally unleashed and he commences wrecking stuff, it’s scary at first, but when that rage is focused on the task at hand, it becomes a cathartic and climactic joy to behold. Iron Man might get all the best dialogue, but Hulk smash and it good.

While the Hulk was my personal favorite individually, the movie really shines in the interplay between the different characters. Personality and dialogue play right into Whedon’s strengths so he’s a natural fit for this type of thing. He gets the characters, he loves them and he lets each one be great alone and in different combinations with the others.

We know Whedon can do character, but a big question is how he handle large-scale action and I’m happy to report that the action finale is a doozy. This type of carnage can be numbing and dull (see: Bay, Michael [Career]) but here The Avengers benefits from its variety of characters. Just as each hero has his or her own distinct personality, each also has his or her own clear fighting style and Whedon makes the most of all of them, jumping from one to the next with skill and confidence as the epic chaos unfolds while never losing track of the bigger picture. Each character is given a sequence or two to do what they do best in the way they prefer to do it. Here, all the smaller, more intimate moments Whedon developed in the quieter early going are finally allowed to pay off and they do so in most spectacular fashion.

Thankfully, no one is trying to reinvent the superhero wheel with The Avengers. Drawn in broad strokes and filled in with bright, primary colors, it’s simply an attempt to make the most entertaining superhero team movie possible and it’s pulled it off beautifully. For once, more really is more as The Avengers team proves to be a far more interesting and entertaining entity than any of the members are by themselves.

44 Responses to “The Avengers (2012)”

  1. Glad to hear you liked it, Craig.

    Saw it yesterday. It stars quite slow but then it turns into a lot of fun. I had some bit of doubt on Ruffalo considering my bias for Edward Norton, but he made a great Bruce Banner and the Hulk was the best so far. I wonder how Ruffalo as Hulk would fare in an individual film. I know you won’t like that idea, but it would be somewhat interesting to see Ruffalo on his own.

  2. Boy did it ever start slowly. I was worried there for awhile it was going to suck, but it finally started to click and the payoff at the end was well worth it.

    If everyone else likes the Hulk as much as I (and you) do, I’d be surprised if they don’t do another standalone Hulk and I’d be ok with that. The key I think is less moping and more smashing.

    I liked Norton fine as Banner, but I didn’t much care for the film overall except for the part where he beat the shit out of the guy basically using two police cars (or was it one torn in half?) as boxing gloves.

  3. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. They don’t have access to the best of Marvel’s line-up due to other studios owning the rights (though I would be surprised if negotiations weren’t running under the table as we speak), but that doesn’t really matter much for the Avengers, considering the classic line-up has never included the likes of Spider-Man, Wolverine or whatnot (yes, they and others have been included in recent years, but that’s mostly to attract readers and underlines just how second-tier the Avengers were, to begin with). I’m especially curious to see how Whedon fares with the action, as he’s never been good at that, on television or the big screen (it also makes me curious as to why he shot this in 1.85 instead of 2.35– is it just the comfort factor of a more televisual format or does that make converting it to IMAX easier?).

  4. Haven’t seen this yet but glad to see that you liked it. It looked like it could either be great fun or a hot mess. Glad it was the former.

  5. Since you liked RDJ in Iron Man, Alison, I think you’ll like this. He gets plenty of screen time and some funny one-liners, but there are some other interesting characters to break it up a litle bit and keep it fresh.

  6. Bob, they’re going to have to pry X-Men and Spider-Man from Fox and Sony’s cold dead fingers. The whole reason for the next Spider-Man reboot to exist is so Sony can keep the rights to the character. As long as they keep movies active, they can keep the rights. The last series ran out of gas so they cynically started over. So did Fox with X-Men.

  7. I still think it would be possible to do a joint venture with Fox and Sony if the price were right– Marvel and Disney may not be willing to lowball themselves, but in the future, who knows. As for the start-overs– “First Class” doesn’t negate the other “X-Men” films, so it’s not quite in the same reboot territory as the new “Spider-Man”. And I frankly hate Sam Raimi’s take on the character, so I welcome anything new at this point.

  8. Haha, seriously, I don’t know what you’re smoking Bob but it’s stronger than weed.

  9. Sure, anything is possible in Hollywood, but what would either side really have to gain by making some sort of expensive arrangement?

  10. Enough money to make it worth the arrangement, I’d say. It’s more an ego thing at this point than a financial one. All three parties are equally responsible for the absurd arrangement here, which to me comes close to the clusterfuck that the Bond franchise was in back when “Octopussy” and “Never Say Never Again” competed for audiences. Then again, after the “John Carter” debacle, it’s hard to say whether this would be a safe or risky bet for them.

  11. It’s not a clusterfuck at all. Marvel sold the movie rights to their best characters when they were not in the movie-making business. It’s pretty simple really. The studios could always team up so that Spider-Man could be in an Iron Man movie or whatever, but that would be as dumb an idea is it is when they do it in the comics.

    The Bond thing was another studio taking advantage of a legal loophole involving the rights to the story for Thunderball. Completely different.

  12. I didn’t say the Marvel thing is a clusterfuck, but that it comes close to the Bond one, where the loophole was opened just as much by Fleming’s writing of “Thunderball”, but whatever. And really, Spider-Man being in an Iron Man movie may be a dumb idea, but it’s exactly the same dumb idea that led to the Avengers as a comic-book and movie in the first place. Besides, they’ve already had to juggle with Paramount after the Disney merger, so there’s precedent.

  13. Another great review! So far I have not run across one that was negative. It makes me even more excited to see the movie tomorrow. Thanks for the honest input.

  14. I don’t personally see the interplay and dialogue you are issuing praise for here. I realize the tone of my comment is going to get me into trouble here, but what the heck. I was chided when I came here with praise for THE HUNGER GAMES, which trumps this pyrotechnic mess by quite some distance. This superhero movie has no soul, no character development by an endless array of headache inducing visuals, and alienating characters.

    Thanks but no thanks.

  15. Seconded, Sam. If this is the best that the Marvel corporate moviemaking machine can come up with, then I’m actually kinda okay with the fact that Spidey and the X-Men weren’t invited to the party.

  16. Wow, I feel sorry for anyone who can’t enjoy this but maybe you guys aren’t fans of Marvel. Or superhero films. Or brilliantly shot, written, and executed popcorn blockbuster blow-the-doors off and put-every-penny-onscreen entertainment. If you were expecting Hamlet with capes, you really showed up for the wrong party.

    I agree 110% Craig. This was exactly what I wanted/hoped for from The Avengers. Whedon takes all the little character elements in the various prelude films and then amps them up to 11. It doesn’t have the emotional resonance that Star Wars or Lord of the Rings does for me, and it isn’t as visually new as The Matrix, but I just had as much fun and as many laughs as I did at any of those films.

    I didn’t stay for the post-credits “extras” because I was trying to escape a parking lot of doom when the film ended but no worries: I will go and gladly see this again.

  17. Who chided you for Hunger Games, Sam? I think you’re mistaking disagreement for chiding.

    I will not make the same mistake with you not caring for Avengers.

    I’m not sure why Avengers is suddenly taking shots for not being particularly deep since we’ve known for 5 years now that this is what these movies are. I went in with expectations based on all the other Marvel produced movies which up until Captain American were marginal at best. This solved so many of the problems of those others, namely that none of the characters is interesting enough to carry a whole movie by themselves.

    Avengers was slow to start, but it was funny and had a great finale.

  18. Re: Joel feeling sorry– Substitute “Star Wars” for “Marvel”, “space opera” for “superhero”, and “robes” for “capes” and you have pretty much how I feel about– well, you get the idea. Then take whatever feelings you have for those movies, and you know what I think about “The Avengers”, give or take.

  19. Joel, as I said above, my favorite part of the film was Banner/Hulk which is surprising because both of the stand alone Hulk movies were problematic at best. I kind of like the Ang Lee one better than most people, but it admittedly didn’t go a very good job of superhero thrills and it’s artistic pretensions didn’t quite pay off. The Norton movie was boring.

    This Hulk was much less mopey. Ruffalo was terrific and it was literally thrilling when he’d rage out.

    ***SPOILER*** In my screening, Hulk beating the shit out of Loki got cheers from an audience made up mostly of the press. Admittedly, these were the upper echelon press, but nevertheless I rarely see that in a press screening.

  20. Bob, I take everything you say and basically I have to assume you’re like Mork from Ork, desperately trying to assimilate humanity and our culture and failing painfully to do so.

    I have no actual idea what you’re getting at. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the film, but I have no idea what those substitutions have to with The Avengers. Either you misunderstood my meaning or you’re talking Bizarro logic. Because I think you generally like all the things you substituted, or…I am confused.

  21. Craig: If there’s one misstep I see coming, it is Marvel assuming that just throwing up another Hulk standalone film is a great idea. Ruffalo did a great job with the character, but this is the first time anyone bothered to write the Hulk in a crowd-pleasing way.

    My biggest peeve with Ang Lee’s version wasn’t the asinine Daddy issue that climaxes the film, although that was bad, or the Hulk dogs, although that was bad too. It was that the only time it felt like the Hulk were the two minutes where he is batting around tanks in the desert. Otherwise, the whole thing felt like a bad family drama on the CW that happened to have a dude who occasionally turned green.

    Norton’s Hulk was a bit better, but not by much. The problem with doing a standalone Hulk is that you either need to get at the core of the Banner/Hulk duality or you need to play him off other superpowered characters. The Hulk as alternately angry rage machine versus mopey dopey puppy dog just doesn’t work on the screen.

    It’s telling that all of the most popular Hulk storylines of the last 20 years in comics are ones where he basically isn’t acting like classic Hulk at all.

  22. Joel, a translation, though by now I thought it would’ve gone without saying– your “Avengers” is my Prequel Trilogy, and vice versa. While I love one and shake my head at any of the rampant overcriticisms it gets, my mind boggles for any of the hyperbolic praise and acclaim given to the other. And, at the same time, I more or less accept the fact that the reverse is true for most other critics. It’s basically the same experience I had with the first “Spider-Man”, though I will admit “The Avengers” is probably marginally better than that one, if only because it doesn’t spoil any characters or storylines I care too much about to begin with.

    What bothered me about the Ang Lee “Hulk” were the self-conscious comic-book transitions– they have a condescending feel to it, making me feel that he was less interested in telling a story from a comic book, and just wanted to experiment in a lot of De Palma style splitscreen effects. And yeah, as far back as Peter David and as recent as Greg Pak, the most popular “Hulk” stories are the ones that do something other than the classic default mode.

  23. OK, but I was implying that if you didn’t enjoy the Avengers, it’s likely you’re not a big fan of Marvel comics or superhero films in general. And there’s actually nothing wrong with that, because superhero films aren’t anything to get that excited over and Marvel comics have a lot to answer for, as much as they’ve also gotten right.

    I went in hoping to be entertained. I was, in spades. The Avengers as a concept was always and has always been about getting a bunch of superheroes together, letting them play off each other, and then throwing them up against some Big Bad that is out to obliterate a large portion of the Earth. That is exactly what Whedon delivered.

    The Avengers has really never had the thematic depth of Claremont’s X-men, or the weight, darkness and/or horror of Moore’s Watchmen or Ellis’ Authority. Even the recent reboot Ultimates mini-series have all been this same basic idea: throw together a bunch of mismatched heroes, let them react to each other in entertaining ways, and then send them off to beat the living tar out of some horrible threat. Cue the credits.

    Again, if you didn’t like it, you didn’t like it. I don’t think Whedon was setting out to cure cancer with this film but I have a feeling this has more to do with your general dislike of Whedon than anything else.

  24. I worry Joel that the Hulk only worked as well as he did in Avengers was because he was a supporting character… same reason all the other characters, hell even Black Widow, worked. But we’ll see how it goes. After Thor last year, I was ready to give up on these Marvel movies altogether, but then Captain American renewed my enthusiasm by giving me something I hadn’t seen before. I really loved the Rocketeer style naivety of that one.

    But, we’ll see.

  25. “I’m not sure why Avengers is suddenly taking shots for not being particularly deep since we’ve known for 5 years now that this is what these movies are. I went in with expectations based on all the other Marvel produced movies which up until Captain American were marginal at best.”

    Craig, this was not really the issue with me as I went in knowing full well this wasn’t going to be deep or meaningful. However, with so many critics falling for it, and some family members hot to trot I had all intentions of giving it a whirl. The difference between this and HUINGER GAMES (for me of course) is that this latest superhero display was devoid of emotional connections and went nowhere with character development. Sure it’s popcorn through and through, but with no salt or butter, it eventually is a chore to eat. I am not begrudging you or Joel or the legions of others who like it including my three sons, but I could never see myself sitting through this again. I cared about the characters in HUNGER GAMES, but for THE AVENGERS were strictly juvenile. This is as empty as any multiplex film, and it’s one big set piece after another with little cohesion or distinct style.

    Yes, it’s taste, and yes, Joel, I am no fan of superhero movies or Marvel, though the brooding DARK KNIGHT worked reasonably well for me on that front, and I actually liked THOR for it’s mythological strain.

    The reason why I didn”t care much for THE RAID either was that it played the same note from start to finish.

    Joel, I don’t question the technical achievements, including cinematography you issue praise for here, but they would resonate better for me if I cared for the film, as they did in films like TREE OF LIFE and HUGO.

    To each his own, I don’t begrudge anyone this film, I’m just not on board myself, and thought once in a while I would spur on a more meaningful discussion with a bit of perspective by not coming here to say how much I agree.

  26. In other words, knowing the film wasn’t going to be deep beforehand doesn’t give it a free pass upon viewing. It still has to be held accountable for what it offers or what it doesn’t.

  27. Joel, again I get what you’re saying. And I’m just saying that the closest approximate I can offer to compare how I’m feeling here, as a Marvel and superhero fan who didn’t like “The Avengers”, is to say it’s like those “Star Wars” fans who didn’t like the Prequels. I could just as easily say that if you didn’t enjoy TPM that you just plain don’t like “Star Wars” or science-fiction movies in general. But obviously, there would be people who disagree with that assessment.

  28. Bob, that is fair. I am simply saying that I think The Avengers accomplished everything it set out to do. It maintained the same tone as the films that lead up to it. It developed the relationships from the previous films, forged new dynamics, and expanded on every single character in some significant way. There isn’t a lot of story here, and the whole plot is an excuse for these characters to interact, but what the sticking point of the film is that these superpowered individuals are becoming a team. That is the theme of the film and I think it does that incredibly well.

    I think if you’re a fan of these characters, whether from the page or the screen, there’s a lot to like here. It is very similar to what JJ Abrams did with the Star Trek reboot. That film also has a story that is more or less an excuse to build these headstrong individuals into a team, and it does a good job of that. Star Trek has a bit more gravity to it, what with Spock and Kirk’s stories, but Whedon was forced to pick up characters that other writers and directors had created.

    Whedon didn’t even have the courtesy to cast the roles. He had to work with the raw materials others had envisioned. Certainly Marvel had a big picture they were working towards and it’s likely Captain American and Thor were written to fit the template that Whedon’s treatment set, but still. What he did is a major accomplishment and unprecedented in Hollywood, as far as I can recall.

    Some critics, AO Scott included, have compared The Avengers to Rio Lobo. Quentin Tarantino dubbed it one of the “great hanging-out films.” I think that appraisal is accurate here.

    I honestly don’t know what you expected, or what Avengers template you mentally envisioned, but as I said, he was accurate, faithful, and appreciate of what the Avengers mean in the Marvel universe. But most importantly, the film was fun.

  29. Sam, The Avengers and The Raid: Redemption have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I appreciate that you think The Avengers is pointless, but comparing it The Raid is pointless. Hugo and Tree of Life also have nothing to compare to The Avengers. I could bring up a Bergman film as a point of comparison and it would be equally out of left field.

    Star Trek is a soild comparison, as I mentioned in the previous post. As for Hunger Games, I think that’s a bit more fair but thematically opposite. The Hunger Games is about individuals being pitted against each other to entertain and thus pacify the masses, until one individual stands alone against the system. That’s pretty heavy stuff, but not at all what The Avengers is about.

    The Hunger Games has a lot more in common with The Dark Knight. If anything, The Avengers points out how ponderous and heavy-handed Nolan’s Batman films have been. I don’t think DKR will suffer much in comparison, but it makes Nolan’s weighty P13 drama feel leaden.

    I will admit that this film is made to satisfy fanboys and the mass audience. It’s made with the same energy as a typical Michael Bay film, but it actually has a coherent narrative, realistic characters, entertaining jokes, and some small amount of empathy for the destruction that ensues. I don’t think Whedon was setting out to solve the world’s problems with The Avengers. He set out to deliver a satisfying and entertaining film. It doesn’t deserve to be nominated for Best Picture, but neither did Star Trek. That doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

  30. And when I said Rio Lobo, I obviously meant Rio Bravo. I got my Rio’s confused. I apologize to fans of either film.

  31. Sam, I’m not trying to make you like the movie or to not like Hunger Games. Speaking more generally I’m just not sure why anyone would’ve bothered seeing it in the first place if emotional depth and character development were big issues for them. It’s like complaining about the steak at Denny’s.

    And I’d still love for you to point out where and how you were chided over Hunger Games, because I don’t see it either in the review thread or in response to your comments on the Watercooler.

  32. OK, Craig first and then Joel in a subsequent comment.

    Craig, I well understand that you are not trying to make me like THE AVENGERS nor not like HUNGER GAMES. I came to this thread, as I have come to so many other threads at LIC over the past four years primarily to enrich the discussion, to support the site, and to voice civil disagreement. While my pen is 99% of the time effusively in enthusiastic agreement, there will be that occasional instance where I stand on different ground. It seems like I am being defined by those rare instances of civil disagreement, which to be honest should be seen as the boon of any serious site on cinema and the arts.

    You ask why I bothered to see the film in the first place, and offer up that Denny’s simile. The answer is couched in my weekly contributions to the Watercooler, on display here since 2008. I see anything and everything that is humanly possible to see on a weekly basis, and I have a family of five children, four of whom are superhero fans. Whatever preconceptions or expectations I had for THE AVENGERS are always second-fiddle behind the eternal adage ‘the proof is in the pudding.’ I had few expectations for HUNGER GAMES or CABIN IN THE WOODS, yet I was pleasantly surprised. A few years back I did like the brooding THE DARK KNIGHT to fair degree, and was a moderate fan of the original SPIDER MAN film, so I am not exclusively on the I-Hate-Superhero-Movies bandwagon. I went to see this movie for several reasons consist with my movie-going habits. That it didn’t float my boat is no big deal (heck I saw a movie last night titled THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, which I expected to like a lot more than I did) and it will hardly compromise my future movie-going habits, much less seeing movies that are targeted to my family. I expressed disagreement much the same way that I express agreement, with the intentions of widening the discussion, not to strain long-standing friendships and affiliation. In the end it all comes down to taste and perception, and no analytical discussion of any length or scholarship will change that.

    As far as the semantics of ‘chiding’ and ‘disagreement’ I am referring to a comment you made which is innocuous enough but which supports my perception of this latest cinematic parting of the ways. After I issued two stars for the movie THE RAID a number of weeks back, you responded by saying that what you see is what you knew from the beginning you’d be getting, and that the film was still ten times better than HUNGER GAMES, or something along that line. It was a reference to my liking of HUNGER GAMES. It’s no big deal, in fact it is a very little deal, but I mentioned it here for comparative reasons ONLY.

    For the record I will say here in public that I did also send you a private e mail saying I was “shocked” that you liked the film, but it was along the way of one friend to another, and it was based on my mistaken perception of how you Craig Kennedy would react to the film. Obviously I was wrong in this instance.

  33. I also hated “Star Trek”, which if anything forced me to consider how much I actually liked the franchise before that movie, and how annoyed I was to see my favorite portions of it written out by doing the timewarp again. It’s a little different I suppose, because that movie is drawing mostly from the original television series, whereas I grew up with the movie series and “The Next Generation”, but beyond that X factor, perhaps my frustration with that and Whedon’s stuff here is just me really not digging the most modern incarnations of the spectacle blockbuster. You have more obvious character development, yes, but it’s of an overemotive style that doesn’t do anything for me, and when nowhere near as much attention is paid to the story, visuals or action, I don’t really think we’ve gained that much.

    I mean, Nolan’s “Batman” movies have been brought up here time and again, and really the failure of Whedon’s movie to articulate his vision and action in a unique or meaningful way is forcing me to reappraise how much good was done in those past movies. Yeah, he resorts to a lot of the “Bourne” style shakycam for his fights, but his vehicle set-pieces have been cool so far (the Tumbler/Batpod stuff from TDK was more fun and coherent than any of the action in “The Avengers” for my taste).

    And really, though I loathe what it’s turned modern blockbusters into, I rather prefer the “Bourne” style of unmotivated movement everywhere to the “Avengers” style of what you might call unmotivated editing– in all of the pre-Hulk action, Whedon’s using a lot of static camera angles that might work if you held them long enough, but they’re so cock-eyed and he cuts them too fast for my eyes to settle quick enough, or know where to look.

    One small thing I was expecting, or at least hoping from, in “The Avengers”, was a team-based action movie that didn’t spend so much time on the exposition. I mean, we’ve been thoroughly introduced and debriefed on these guys for the better part of 4 to 6 movies already (the “Hulk” movies being a grey area for the revolving door of actors), and yet the film doesn’t really pick up until well past the first hour mark. I kept thinking about how “Predator” could sketch its band of mercenaries so succinctly in the chopper, jungle and guerilla battle sequences before they became the hunted. Granted, the whole point of that movie is to watch that team get slaughtered, rather than watch them come together, but still.

  34. “Sam, The Avengers and The Raid: Redemption have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I appreciate that you think The Avengers is pointless, but comparing it The Raid is pointless. Hugo and Tree of Life also have nothing to compare to The Avengers. I could bring up a Bergman film as a point of comparison and it would be equally out of left field.”

    Joel, in your original response you asserted that THE AVENGERS was brilliantly-shot and edited even within the specification of an action blockbuster. I don’t feel my comparisons of using THE RAID, TREE OF LIFE and HUGO were out of left field at all, but a way of establishing how great components like these are far more effective if wed to an emotionally resonant story. I well understand these films have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and I thought my use of them in this context would be obvious.

    I did think that my dislike for THE AVENGERS (or indifference, let’s put it that way) would be fair game at a site where effusive praise for some of the most venerated films annually is often met with “yes it’s good……..but” If the game here is unremmiting scrutiny and a refusal to accept even the best films for their artistic value without even the smallest reprisals (I think here of THE ARTIST for one), then I feel I have the right to be honest in the comment section, especially since most of my activity here has been to promote good will in true celebration of cinema mode. The difference is though that I will not go to the mat any further than I have here, as I respect and even admire the love (or like) for the film. Sammy and Danny loved it, and that means a lot to me. And as far as the “Hamlet” comment, I will only say that I frequent the multiplexes as much (or almost as much) as I do the art houses, and as I have reported on the Watercooler and at my own site, I’ve reacted warmly to many multiplex films and have engaged in impassioned defenses with those I know who hate every multiplex film every released.

    As you may know I am a life-time defender of Pixar and rated AVATAR among my best five films of it’s release year. I am far from adverse to what the multiplex has to offer, but I’ll admit the superhero scene has never pulled me in.

    But what of it? More power to those who connect, I envy all of them.

    Joel, I know you and I have had a contentious on-line relationship, but I think we can agree to disagree here with no lingering damage.

  35. Aha! I’d forgotten about my Raid/Hunger Games comment. That was petty of me, I have to admit, though it’s still true, I’d watch The Raid again a dozen times.

    You are indeed an omnivore Sam and it’s to your credit and I’m not singling you out for your stance on the Avengers, but in the few negative reviews I’ve read critics seem to be pointing out the film’s obvious (and to me expected) limitations and I’m not sure why they weren’t as vocal with Iron Man or some of the others. Maybe they were, but it kind of feels to me like Avengers is being punished a little more because some people are tired of this type of thing.

    Personally, much as I liked them at the time, I’m a little tired myself of Nolan’s angsty Batman movies. The Avengers was refreshingly free of weight of the world mopiness and was simply fun. I’ll admit though that “fun” is as subjective a term as “scary” or “funny” and not everyone will agree. Nor should they.

  36. Thanks Craig for the kind words and terrific embellishment.

    And Joel, as I stated earlier I respect your position here after stating my feelings. I am fully prepared to step back. You and I have agreed many times (I know for example you are generally a very big Pixar fan) and this is nothing more than a bump in the road.

  37. Craig, in the solo movies you had a lot of reviewers who were won over by the novelty of the characters (all of them second-tier Marvel heroes). The style’s a bit of a novelty too in the post-TDK superhero matrix, but it’s not that much of a departure– Raimi’s “Spider-Man” films were all very bright and colorful (too much so, to my eye– his New York looked and felt as much like the real thing as the fairy-tale Paris of “Amelie”, and even the Manhattan of Lee & Romita’s best years had more realism than that), and Fox’s “X-Men” films have long stradled a line between dark sci-fi and breezier pop, with “First Class” become just as light as “The Avengers”. That Matthew Vaughn flick is still the best superhero movie I’ve seen, and a great example of a team-oriented movie full of characters who don’t even qualify as second-tier heroes (Banshee? Havoc? I mean, they had Beast, don’t get me wrong).

    Anyway. What was new and fun in the standalone movies just seems repetitive and redundant here, so it’s easy for some of us to be a little “what have you done for me lately?” to the prospect of RDJ snarking it up all over again, etc. A dose of in-medeas-res would’ve helped the movie clear its humps tremendously.

  38. “One small thing I was expecting, or at least hoping from, in “The Avengers”, was a team-based action movie that didn’t spend so much time on the exposition. I mean, we’ve been thoroughly introduced and debriefed on these guys for the better part of 4 to 6 movies already…”

    Right Bob, and the exposition and character development in those films is primarily about introducing the characters as individuals. None of these characters have interacted before. What is the point of a team-based movie if the characters don’t actually interact? Your criticism really makes no sense, because the power of the team-based X-men movies (which you applaud) is in the character interaction.

    I get the impression you went into this film determined to find fault with it, because everything you complain about are all the elements that I would say worked exceedingly well. There are certainly things to criticize the film for, as thoughtful, reasonable critics have done, but I don’t see that in your comments.

    Sam, if you comparing films based on the quality of cinematography and editing, I guess that’s a fair level of comparison, but it seems like a broad means of comparison. If the films didn’t move you and you needed that, just say that. I wasn’t moved to any great degree either, but I was thoroughly entertained. It’s fair to criticize The Avengers for being pure pulp and popcorn. I consider Avatar fairly pulpy popcorn and it didn’t do a lot for me. We’ve disagreed on that one already, so let’s leave it there. I’m sorry you didn’t like it, but as I said, I don’t think it failed to do anything it set out to.

  39. Joel, a major strength of the X-Men films is that they get that character interaction by putting it into the action and moving the story along, instead of merely putting them all in the same room and having them bark quips at each other for an hour. Maybe it’s a fault of the story they’re saddled with, and maybe it’s because Whedon’s handling of the one-on-one fights ranks somewhere beneath those of shot-on-camcorder fanfilms and sweding exercises, but there’s not enough to make up for the absolute lack of momentum in the film up until the helicarrier attack sequence.

  40. Joel I will admit I was rather much too broad there after again looking at what I said. And yes, with AVATAR I did have my hands full, and not just with you but with friends, other bloggers and movie fans. Seems most people I know were speaking your language with that. I need to look at that film again at some point to see if it holds up. But another side of me is fearful to do that as it might compromise my fond memories.

  41. You must have seen different X-men movies, Bob. The team work occurs at the end of First Class and X-men 3 (which isn’t a shining example of a great movie, either). In X-men 1 and 2, the action is broken up between single characters or small groups of characters. They never actually fight cohesively as a full team in either of those films.

    They act as a team in exactly the same way that they do through most of The Avengers. All the character development is done through exposition and interaction.

    If you didn’t like the film because you don’t like Whedon, just say so. That’s obviously what you’re talking around. Quit making things up to establish a point of criticism.

    I have better things to do, so I am moving on. Debating with you is a thankless, pointless endeavor.

  42. Joel, I’m roughly 50/50 on Whedon. I don’t like “Buffy”, but quite enjoyed “Firefly” and “Dollhouse”, and respect the additions he made to the X-Men comics (I think the whole “cure” idea that’s a big thing in “X3” was at least partly inspired by his run on “Astonishing”). And yeah, there’s no whole ensemble full-teamwork in those films to speak of, but the way the action gets broken up between the small groups throughout those movies, and most especially “X2” and “First Class”, delivers action and interaction that’s both constant and streamlined in a way that you don’t have in “The Avengers”.

    In Singer’s and Vaughns films we almost never slow down to just follow the characters in pure conversations, and when we do they’re brief, to the point, and move right along into the driving action. At their best moments, they string the story and development together through lots of mini-cliffhangers that force them to use their mutant powers in sequence, rather than simultaneously. Even the most nakedly expository sequences, like that speech Xavier gives Logan in the first film about his history with Magneto, are broken down into visually exciting sequences through movement and montage.

    What Whedon does in “The Avengers”, relying almost wholly on his dialogue and actors without any additional story pushes or visual investment (aside from painfully strained stuff like that upside-down camera movement at the height of their pre-attack bickering) is the sort of thing that can work alright in his native habitat of television, where you have to generously stretch a little bit of serial storytelling across the entirety of an hour-long episode. And even then, it can get sort of annoying to sit through that much table-setting and wheel spinning before getting to the real meat of a season’s development (this is true of both Whedon’s shows and programs by other people that I’ve liked by and large, like “Lost”). As such, “The Avengers” feels something like a season’s worth of one of his TV shows reduced to feature-length size, along with all the devotees’ excuses for a story that only really gets kind of interesting mid-way through.

  43. Joel, this is neither here nor there, but I’ll bet you Avengers is the first and last superhero movie ever in which the evil villain refers to another character as a “quim”

    That alone is worth half a star.

  44. I was worried there for awhile [The Avengers] was going to suck,

    So was I, Craig. But I was amused, as time passed, by the cutesy dialogue, as well as by the humor injected by the players, most memorably Johansson, Hemsworth, Ruffalo, and of course Downey. In fact, I giggled every time the Hulk did his stuff.

    So ultimately this flick was enjoyable and it felt good to know that if my mind became distracted for a moment, it didn’t matter.

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