The Avengers

First reactions aren’t always the most reliable.  About half-way through The Avengers, I felt like it was a serviceable action film, but I got stuck being disappointed with the plot.  Yes, it is a ‘superhero’ film, but recent entries into that genre have raised the bar.  I think my expectations were a little higher, given my familiarity with Joss Whedon’s work.  I kept waiting to be impressed.  I’m still waiting.

The Avengers was a fun film, almost breezy if it were not for the death of a significant character (more on that below), with several notable laugh-out-loud moments interspersed with tons of action.  The dialogue is really a high point in the movie, which is no real surprise given the script was written by the director.  That dialogue was constructed around a comics-simple plot.  It’s a film that is appropriate and unchallenging for its target audience: children.

So, how do I feel about The Avengers?  Perhaps I’ve become spoiled by superhero films with more depth, but I found The Avengers to be a very entertaining movie, but nothing I’d hold up as an example of excellent cinema.  The Dark Knight, Iron Man (1), and The Incredible Hulk are superior examples of what happens when you add story and gravitas to characters running around in suits.

Now on to *spoiler* elements…

I was impressed by the use of the Black Widow.  Not normally associated with the higher ranks of costumed heroes, the Widow carries her own and then some.  I didn’t clock it, but I’d suspect she has as much screen time as Iron Man or Captain America.  She definitely made the biggest impression, and might have had one of the few development arcs allowed in this film.

The Hulk was the scene-stealer of the film, certainly in the last third.  His trashing of Loki and arbitrary left on Thor were moments of genuine brilliance.  I think the film was worth it just for those two scenes.

But in that same brilliance was the arbitrary trashing of New York City.  The Avengers was epically epic, fighting to save the world, etc., etc., but where do you even go from there?  I’m not so concerned about the sequel, which I might imagine could be a more intimate film since it will be tough to top the destruction in this film.  And do you want to even top it?  Explosions, billions of dollars of damage, the US economy will not recover too quickly from the bill paid against an intergalactic foe.

Of course, when you have a SHIELD helicarrier, I guess you have some adequate financing.  I still can’t quite wrap my head around the plot that Loki “hatched”.  The characters come to the conclusion (after the Black Widow “tricks” him into revealing his motive for being captured) that he is there to induce the Hulk into a rampage and trash all his enemies while his Barton-led team sabotages the helicarrier.  Well, why does Loki need to be there to make this all happen in the first place?  Couldn’t he have done that remotely?  I’m probably overthinking it, but as I’ve said, I’m accustomed to having plots make sense.

Loki was probably there in order to execute the death of Agent Coulson, which in the Whedon world, is a necessary element into forging a team.  I genuinely did not want Coulson to die.  (You could sacrifice Nick Fury in a heartbeat.  Sam Jackson kinda mailed this one in.)  He was portrayed as a likeable, dry everyman by Clark Gregg, and I think the series and the Marvel universe will miss him badly for it.  He had a great exit, though, have to admit it.  And this is the comics universe – characters don’t stay dead for long.
So, what to think of it?  I will have to watch it on repeated viewings to really assess.  The two kids next to me (6-8 years old) fell asleep half way through, so I don’t think I’m way off here if that’s any indication.  Solid B or B+ on a grading scale.