Runtime: 2 HR, 22 MIN
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson
After five movies, four years of teasing, three different studios being involved, and films being released in two different dimensions The Avengers are finally assembling. It’s actually a pretty amazing accomplishment when you think about it; the amount of planning and cooperation that went into getting this film made is pretty impressive and isn’t something that I can recall ever happening on such a large scale before. Now only one question remains… does it live up to all the hype?
Possessing a passing familiarity with the previous five films involving the individual characters that make up the Avengers isn’t necessary to enjoy the film but it certainly can’t hurt. Thankfully for those not in the loop The Avengers plot is pretty straight forward.
Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother and villain from 2011’s Thor is intent on ruling Earth by unleashing an alien army upon its defenseless people. All he needs is the mystical Tesseract (aka: a glowing cube) from last year’s Captain America to open a wormhole of destruction and chaos. In order to stop him S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Nick Fury enlists the world’s best deep core driller’s to– just kidding… he enlists the services of all the superheroes in his arsenal. If Nick Fury can bring together the recently unfrozen Steve Rogers (Captain America), the genius playboy Tony Stark (Iron Man), the demigod Thor, and the ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ish’ Bruce Banner (The Hulk) the Earth may just stand a fighting chance.
To put it in the most simple of terms The Avengers is a hell of a lot of fun. Is it a perfect film? No, there is definitely some room for improvement. Unsurprisingly The Avengers feels somewhat crowded; not only do you have your four principle Avengers but also Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Loki, Agent Cloulson, Doctor Selvig, and Pepper Potts that you have to weave into the story. Everyone is given their little moments but occasionally The Avengers loses its sense of focus and the film’s pacing suffers slightly for it.
The Avengers is surprisingly long when you look back and break down the film critically. Much of the first half is spent re-introducing the principal cast, thirty or so minutes are dedicated to the infighting among the dysfunctional heroes, and then there’s a nearly hour long battle/finale. There’s not a lot to The Avengers, it’s a straight forward action-adventure. Perhaps a sequel will have bigger script aspirations when they don’t have to spend so much time just bringing the team together.
There’s a lot to like about The Avengers. First off, it’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but it never descends to the level of camp. With the exception of a slight dry spell in the middle of the film there’s a lot of action throughout and it doesn’t disappoint. I did get a slight sense of déjà vu since there are only so many ways for the Avengers to dispatch of endless hordes of enemies especially after watching these same characters work their “magic” through five other films in the past four years. Nevertheless, the action is well done, exciting, and constant.
The dialogue is sharp with only a few lines being worthy of an eye roll. Director Joss Whedon rewrote the original screenplay by The Incredible Hulk screenwriter Zac Penn and you can hear Whedon’s influence throughout. The banter between the heroes is a lot of fun; having so many ‘alpha’ personalities with different styles, conflicting aims, and strengths & weaknesses took The Avengers in a direction that not even the X-Men movie franchise was able to accomplish. I haven’t been a fan of Whedon’s work in the past but his work on The Avengers is worthy of note.
Whedon’s direction is sufficient yet I wouldn’t say extraordinary with it falling somewhere near the bottom of the Avenger director list. You might ask why I feel that way and the answer is simple- The Avengers was shot Flat whereas Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America were all shot in Scope. Shooting a film in the scope aspect ratio creates a more epic feel to a film which sadly Whedon decided to not carryover from the other Avenger films. I simply don’t understand how five films are shot in Scope and then when you combine all the franchises together you release a Flat film that doesn’t match the look of the others. Whedon’s aspect ratio choice didn’t cost The Avengers anything in regard to my overall rating but it’s still a bit of a continuity head scratcher.
The Avengers wasn’t shot in 3D, it was shot in 2D and converted to 3D in post-production. It’s a good 3D conversion for a number of different reasons specifically it’s not gimmicky or straining on the eyes. You’re not going to see a lot of objects flying out of the screen, the 3D effect is mostly used for added depth which is the way I prefer it to be used. There is one scene that I think was negatively affected by the 3D process which is the fight between Thor/Iron Man/Captain America which took place at night in a forest. Scenes that take place at night are only made darker by adding 3D glasses which in turn makes it that much harder to tell what’s going on. Overall however the 3D is very good and easily bests that of other recent 3D titles such as Wrath of the Titans.
I’ve gone back and forth trying to decide whether to give The Avengers 3 or 4 stars. In the end I decided to give it a tepid 4 star rating. The Avengers is a really fun film, it’s not particularly deep but then again I don’t believe that was ever its aim. In terms of action and witty dialogue The Avengers is a great success whereas it falters slightly in the pacing department due to the large cast and making sure every character has their fair share of screen time. In the end The Avengers accomplished what many said was impossible by bringing all these franchises together and doing it well. Marvel has set the bar pretty high for DC and their upcoming Justice League movie.