In this one, we ponder why G.I. Joe: Retaliation got pushed back to March, offer my thoughts on the House finale, and wonder if this would be a good end point for my annual summer hiatus.
Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johannson, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders, and Samuel L. Jackson.
In the mid-2000s, Marvel Comics secured a financing deal that would allow them to start producing their own movies based on their properties. The first products that they produced on their own was in the summer of 2008, with the pretty good 1-2 punch of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Buoyed by that success, Marvel announced a grand scheme for their film franchise. The slate was Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, all leading up to the supergroup where they all join forces, The Avengers. Well, the endgame has hit theatres. The Avengers is upon us. To produce this meshing of the heroes, Marvel called on Joss Whedon. Whedon is a talent that I mostly like. Despite insistence from my friends that I would love it, never got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was late to the Firefly party, but by the time I got around to it, I enjoyed the heck out of it. I did have a friend who once dismissed Whedon as “a geek who writes for geeks,” but when you’re doing one of the biggest superhero teams in comic history, seems to me that’s the kind of guy you’d want doing it.
SHIELD is doing some experiments on the Tesseract (aka the Cosmic Cube, last seen at the end of Captain America), when something goes haywire, and it opens up a portal, bringing forth Loki, last seen at the end of Thor tumbling off into the cosmic abyss. Loki proceeds to swipe the Tesseract, and begins to go about his evil plot. SHIELD director Nick Fury figures it’s time to assemble…some help. As the Tesseract began emitting an unusual gamma radiation signature before it was stolen, he enlists the world’s foremost expert on gamma radiation, Dr. Bruce Banner, to help track it down. To battle the immediate threat of Loki, he calls Steve Rogers back into action. To help put the final pieces of the puzzle together, he calls in SHIELD’s consultant, Tony Stark. Thor eventually shows up, seeking to bring his brother Loki to justice and reclaim the Tesseract for Aasgard’s vault. With back-up being provided by top SHIELD agents Black Widow and Hawkeye, Loki’s plot soon comes to light. Loki seeks to lead an army of invading aliens, known as the Chutauri, to conquer the Earth. With this broad band of heroes before him, Fury figures it’s time to dust off a scrapped SHIELD program known as the Avengers Initiative. Can this group of heroes put aside their differences, become the Avengers, and save the planet?
What I Liked
One thing I’ve lamented about the dearth of superhero films over the past 12 years or so is they’re so darn serious…they just don’t have the sense of fun that I’ve long associated with comics. What can I say? I’m a Silver Age guy. That’s one of the few reasons why I enjoyed the Fantastic Four films…they have that sense of fun. Well, I’m very glad to say that The Avengers is FUN. It is very fun. It is fun in spades. It knows when it needs to be serious, and when it needs to be lighthearted. A proper balance is achieved. Not just fun, but funny. The quips and superhero one-liners will have you busting a gut.
And the Hulk…oh my God, the Hulk steals the show. Every time that Bruce Banner hulks out, it is magical. Again, with the character of the Hulk, the temptation is to show him as nothing but rage unleashed. But in this film, the Hulk is having fun smashing. It’s nice to see a fun Hulk. And I do agree that Mark Ruffalo is probably the best Bruce Banner we’ve seen to date. This is a man whom, thanks to his condition, has a full handle on his emotions without being emotionless.
Robert Downey Jr, as always, is awesome is Tony Stark/Iron Man. He and Steve Rogers/Captain America take an instant dislike to each other, as Stark is so flippant and Rogers still has World War II “golly gee wilikers” earnestness to him. Stark, however, takes an instant liking to Banner, as he realizes that Banner is probably the only guy who can successfully challenge him to the title “smartest guy in the room.”
I loved Captain America last year, and it was good to see the Cap pretty much the same, but as he frets in the film, his 1940s attitudes are a little out of place. (He has one very politically incorrect scene with Nick Fury that made my jaw hit the floor.) Black Widow’s interrogation of Loki is a great scene…really, every hero gets a wonderful little character moment, from Thor trying to reason with his brother Loki, to Black Widow and Hawkeye lamenting their assassin/mercenary pasts.
What I Didn’t Like
Perhaps Tony Stark does get a little too irreverent in some scenes, bordering on grating. Things do kind of slow down in the exposition scenes, and you really want to see the heroes go back to punching each other or the bad guys.
This is just an amazing, fun, and mindblowing superhero film. And I really hope the sequel promised by the post-credits scene comes to pass.