Monday, May 21, 2012

REVIEW: The Avengers

My review of The Avengers appears today at Strange Horizons.  Short version: I enjoyed the film, but not nearly as much as so many other have done, and certainly not to a degree that makes its phenomenal box office success understandable to me.  As impressive as it is in its ability to tie together characters and plot points from five previous movies, I can't help but think that The Avengers also lays out very clearly why the Marvel movie franchise is fundamentally flawed.


Anonymous said...

I agree entirely with your review of The Avengers. I wasn't thrilled either with the hackneyed storyline, and the motivation for getting the team together (spoiler: Coulson's death) didn't ring true to me. Seems like most people would disagree, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm probably a bit late in the game since everybody else before us has already written everything there is to be said about this film, but I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of people who found the Avengers deliciously entertaining!
Yes, of course the brain should be left outsisde the movie theatre... yes, there are plot hole everywhere, but as far as comics go, this is one of the better ones and to me this is what an action film should be! Here's my 2 cent review:

Dan Hemmens said...

I'm surprised you're so positive about Black Widow, she felt extremely tokenistic to me. Yes she gets to be the one that does a lot of the things that advance the plot, but because the plot is so arbitrary, it feels like most of the things she does are thigns anybody could have done. I mean yes, she gets to be the one to press the "off" switch on the interdimensional invasion ray, but only because everybody else is busy doing cooler, more exciting things.

Robert said...

Black Widow had what our family unanimously agreed (a rare event) was the best scene in the film--aside from Hulk's "puny god" line which is sort of in a category all by itself--the interrogation of Loki. She goes in confident, looks like she is being overwhelmed, seems to break, then turns the tables and walks out with exactly what she wanted.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

In a film with only two female characters (three if you count Pepper Potts's cameo), it would be hard for any of them not to seem tokenistic, Dan. But I do think that Black Widow transcends the arbitrariness of the plot she moves along. Her triumphs over the course of the film establish her not only as a badass but a very specific one - as many reviewers have noted, she plays up to the tendency of both her antagonists and her allies to discount her, and gets under their skin by allowing them to believe that they have done the same to her. The character that emerges is someone very controlled and very adept at controlling others (an interesting comment I cam across pointed out that the reason she is so afraid of the Hulk and Bruce Banner is that she has no way of reasoning with and thus controlling him), and thus someone that I'd be interested in seeing more of.

Alexander said...

Agree with most of the points of the review, especially the liking for Banner and Natasha. The former in particular was a surprise--I hadn't seen either Hulk movie and have never been interested in the character or concept, but here it was really interesting.

I was significantly less impressed with Loki, though. Felt too cliched, and not nearly manipulative enough to justify the role in the plot (or basis in Norse myth, the potential for the character). There were some great scenes with him, the interrogation with Black Widow and to a lesser extent Stark's face-off in his house, but it feels like both would have meant more if he was written as consistently smart, so heroes intellectually holding their own meant more. As was, Loki was a physical threat but his tricks felt relatively simplistic, and he doesn't live up to what the story requires of him, as a truly dangerous central threat.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I was impressed with Loki, Alexander. As I say in the review, he's the best of the Marvel villains, but even that is mainly about potential (and giving the actor room to elevate the material) and not about the script, which is hopelessly muddled. I do think, however, that he works well in The Avengers. For a movie that puts all its eggs in the character basket to have as its villain someone who can get under the main characters' skin is a smart choice, and one that I think is far better handled here than in previous Marvel movies - compare The Avengers to Iron Man, for example, in which the villain is someone Tony Stark supposedly loves as a father and yet neither he nor we are affected by his betrayal. I agree that Loki isn't as smart as he should be, but then that's true of the entire film, and to make him particularly clever would surely only shed more light on the idiocy of his plan.

Anonymous said...

I actually would say the original Iron Mans (1 & 2) have the best villains, because at the heart of a great villain is greed, but one that only reveals himself at the end. After all, disinformation and distraction is at the heart of human relations today, and had Nick Fury been under pressure from US military and corporate interests to profit from the Tesseract (and even cut a deal with Loki), this would have added depth to the story. Or, had Loki pursued his quest to dominate Earth as vengeance against his brother, and had some scheme to overturn the Chitauri as well: as your review says, a smarter Loki. As it is, Joss Whedon must be under enormous pressure to have make a popular film, and that he could weave his intelligence and wit into it is exceptional.

Vancouver, BC

Andrew Lavigne said...

My favorite part of the Avengers is when it is revealed that the world is literally ruled by the Illuminati yet no one so much as bats an eye at that.

Worse: with a single twist, Coulson's death goes from "Some people believe in heroes, and find the ideals they represent worth dying for" to "Belief is for suckers."

Then it ends by quoting 9/11 AND Boondock Saints, by having the news montage of blithe dialogue like "But WHO would question these heroes?" (with shots of ruined buildings, of course.)

There's plenty of decent bits, and Ruffalo knocks his role out of the park, but it all adds up to one of the most incoherent, cynical films I have ever seen about heroism.

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