Page to Screen: The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers
based on characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

So there we were, in the theater at midnight, a band of geeks more or less in costume. To our left, a tiny Hulk-loving girl; to our right, some genuine hippies. I turned and grabbed Megan by the hand. “Megan,” I said, “we’ve been waiting four years for this. Four years.” The excitement was, as they say, palpable. To a geek, we fidgeted through the trailers (okay, we sat up straight for The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus, and I teared up at Brave), and then the lights went down. Two and a half hours later, we strode out into the early morning, our minds utterly blown. Ultimately, the experience was better than the movie, but it was still extremely worth it.

The Avengers gathers all the disparate strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into one story for the first time. While experimenting with the Tesseract Cube, a possible source of eternal sustainable energy, SHIELD accidentally opens a portal that unleashes Loki, god of mischief, on Earth. Loki is hellbent on conquering Earth, and has teamed up with an alien army known as the Chitauri in order to do so. The threat is so large that only a superstar team will do, and SHIELD calls in Tony Stark, Steve Rogers , Bruce Banner, and Thor to team up with SHIELD agents Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton to take him down. But Loki is the god of mischief, and with such big personalities, will the team fail before it can save Earth from utter subjugation?

Confession time: I’m not a huge Joss Whedon fan. (It’s a sign of trust I’m telling you, dear reader; I had a friend actually stop and ask me what was wrong with me this weekend when I told her.) It’s not that I don’t like him—his female characters are very well-done and we definitely need more of that—but rather that I usually find his banter a bit too light and casual for the situations at hand. It works in Firefly and Serenity for me, not so much in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While the banter issue is still present here for me, it overwhelmingly works. Downey, unsurprisingly, takes to Whedon’s quippiness like a duck to water, but neither actor nor director overindulge. Whedon loves these characters, and it absolutely shows; every character is given character development, especially Clint and Natasha, who didn’t get films of their own. Natasha, in particular, comes out sparkling; she’s more than capable, she’s seen everything, and she gets to be best buds with Clint without a hint of romantic tension. I’m sure they’ll get to it in time, but it was fantastic to see a man and woman just be very good friends in a big blockbuster. (As for Hawkeye… bow and arrows? Really?)

So the character development and writing is sparkling. I’d pay money to see Whedon write a sitcom about these cats, which is teased slightly at the end. (There’s two credit scenes; remember to stay!) The rest of the script, not so much. Avengers falls prey to the same problem as Thor; a fantastic and endearing cast in a slightly less fantastic and endearing film. Whedon does a pretty good job of setting up the inevitable team clashes, and there are some hilarious and organic moments, but the further along we get into the film, the more the film creaks. The ending, in particular, feels rushed; the movie’s original cut was three hours, but Whedon has mentioned most of the cut footage revolves around Steve. The climax, for instance, constantly tries to top itself, which will hurt it upon a second viewing, although it is amazing on the first. And I hated how our villain was ultimately taken down—it crossed the line from action movie believability to cartoonish. And therein is the problem; it can flirt with cartoonish at times, which I find disappointing in a franchise that opened with making Iron Man utterly real. It’s still an extremely fun and a little deeper than usual action flick, but we all know that they can do better.

The cast, however, are at the top of their game. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony is as fantastic as ever, and Chris Evans’ Steve gets even better when confronted with a world he doesn’t quite fit into (his sheer delight at getting a movie reference is adorable). My biggest concern was Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as Bruce, and Ruffalo does well; he and Downey have fantastic scientist chemistry together, and it’s lovely to see them working so well together. But I’d still pay money to see Norton deliver Ruffalo’s most heart-wrenching line. I begrudgingly respect your Bruce, Ruffalo. It’s such a large cast that it’s hard to pull out certain performances, but Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has finally gone around the bend and he absolutely nails it. There are some lines crossed here, folks—in fact, they’re downright pole-vaulted over.

The action scenes are brilliant, although the climax can flirt with the cartoonish; each clash has a different style and a different feel. Perhaps the best is Thor and Iron Man duking it out in a forest, and we really get a feel for what everybody can do and accomplish. Alan Silvestri, who scored Captain America, brings that same bombast to the wonderful score here. The film looks great; for the most part, the CGI is integrated well, but there’s a few wobbly bits here and there. And the production design is quite good; they make the helicarrier work, which I really appreciated. It’s a good-looking movie, is what I’m trying to say here.

Bottom line: Avengers is packed to the brim with fantastic character interaction, character development, and action, but the script can disappointingly flirt with the cartoonish at times. Definitely worth a watch, but if you’re seen all the other films, I don’t think you need a push from me to see it.

I saw this film in theaters.

3 thoughts on “Page to Screen: The Avengers (2012)

    • I give it a B. Avengers had plot holes at the beginning and in the middle (why did Loki need to actually be on the Helicarrier when his minions did ALL the work?). The lineup was still mostly “white men only” for me. I’d say it’s probably only the 4th or 5th best movie I’ve seen this year.

      (The best, of course, is JOHN CARTER.)

  1. Pingback: Page to Screen: Iron Man 3 (2013) | The Literary Omnivore

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