I kicked off the Superhero Summer this weekend by going to see The Avengers at the drive-in, which is my favorite way to see summer action movies. The weather was perfect, the food was tasty, and my drive-in always has double features, so we also got to see John Carter.
I really think The Avengers lived up to expectations. It was just a really fun movie to watch: witty dialogue (courtesy of the great Joss Whedon, writer and director), even physical comedy at times, awesome fight choreography and special effects, and good acting all around.
[Mild Spoilers] The plot is nothing extremely special: Loki’s back for another round, this time trying to use the Cosmic Cube (or as the movie calls it, the Tesseract) to bring an extraterrestrial army to conquer Earth. It borders on “convenient” in a few places, such as a blow to the head being enough to break Loki’s mind control on certain characters, and Dr. Selvig building in a failsafe to the Cube even while under that mind control. It was also never well explained how exactly Thor was able to return.
But in some ways it was also cleverly done. The first meetings of the Avengers members don’t go well–too many different backgrounds and way too much ego–which makes perfect sense, and it was great to see all their powers as well as personalities clash. The turning point of the movie was a certain well-loved SHIELD agent’s tragic display of courage and duty during Loki’s attack on the Helicarrier, which stunned me as well as the rest of the Avengers. It was exactly what they needed to get their act together.
The climax fight was pretty cool (and shot in Cleveland). I feel like the threat of the nuke was built up too little too late, so it didn’t quite carry the impact (no pun intended) it could have. And as always, the little teaser scene at the end gave us a glimpse at the possible villain for Avengers 2: Thanos; I think these post-credit preview scenes help give the collection of movies the feeling of the comic book serials they came from. And you definitely want to stay all the way to the end of the credits! [End Spoilers]
The characters are the highlight of the movie. The script really brings to life the differences in personality and opinion. The actors stay true to how the characters were portrayed in the lead-up movies. We got a lot more personality out of Nick Fury this time around. I wish we could have had a little more of Hawkeye, who is one of my favorites. He gets a decent amount of screen time, but almost no character development. And would it have killed them to have put a little purple somewhere on his outfit? I was a little bummed that he is being set up with Black Widow instead of Scarlet Witch, another favorite Avenger of mine. Another female superhero would have been welcome in this movie. We did get Agent Hill, but while her actions are competent, she barely opens her mouth. I sadly assume that I will never see Scarlet Witch in an Avengers movie, merely because she is probably tied in with the X-Men movie rights that are owned by Fox.
The most pleasant surprise for me was Bruce Banner and the Hulk, and I mean both of them. I haven’t seen either of the two Hulk movies from the past decade, and the Hulk has never been one of my favorites. But Banner’s portrayal by Mark Ruffalo (replacing Ed Norton) was the unexpected gem of this movie, showcasing both the intelligence and inner turmoil of the character. He has some of the best lines, too. And the Hulk gets probably the 2 biggest laughs in the movie.
All in all, it’s the best Marvel movie recently (excluding only the first Iron Man, which is still my favorite; it set the bar high).
You should also go see John Carter, because it is not nearly as bad as that awful trailer made it look. No, it’s not that original. But remember, the source material predates all of the scifi movies it resembles. The characters and acting were pretty good, and the story line was not really predictable at all. The setting was pretty novel, and the action was satisfactory (and that arena scene was mercifully short). I would liken it to Prince of Persia, not groundbreaking but fun to watch. Honestly, I am glad someone at Disney got sacked over it, because while they should not have spent as much as they did on it, there is no way this movie should have done as badly as it did. I would also recommend firing whoever titled the movie, as well as anyone remotely connected with its publicity.