Friday, May 4, 2012
Movie review: The Avengers
Watching a mindless summer action movie shouldn't feel like work.
Even though Superman had his run in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, followed by Batman in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, superhero movies didn’t really catch on until the release of X-Men in 2000. Since then, rarely has a year gone by without some superhero getting an origin film or a sequel. And since 2008’s Iron Man, we’ve been on a collision course for what many consider to be the ultimate superhero film, The Avengers.
For those who didn’t grow up devouring comic books, the Avengers are a rotating group of Marvel Comics superheroes who team up to fight whatever bad guy happens to be in their way. For the movie version, that group consists of Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), all of whom either received their own films or were featured in previous films, save for Hawkeye.
The plot, as conceived by writer/director Joss Whedon, is a barely-comprehensible trifle – something about an alternative energy source that can also be used as a weapon of mass destruction – that requires viewers either to have seen all the previous films in which these heroes appeared, or to actually give a flying fig. In reality, no actual plot is necessary, as the main attraction is to get all these people together and see what happens.
Unfortunately, doing just that takes a looooong time. Instead of using a good portion of the film to set up an interesting story, Whedon decides to give each and every hero a lengthy – and unnecessary, since they’ve mostly already had their own films – introduction, except for the one person who needed it, Hawkeye, who is all but dismissed right off the bat. By the time we get to the meat of the 2 ½ hour film, Whedon has almost exhausted whatever patience the audience has.
But Whedon does one thing right, something that actually somewhat redeems the sluggish destruction-fest that The Avengers turns into – he turns the Hulk loose. While it can be enjoyable to see the rest of the cast use their assorted powers and skills, there’s just something fantastic about seeing the Hulk mindlessly (or not-so-mindlessly) smash things and people who deserve to be smashed. For a character who usually has to wade through a ton of angst, watching him express himself in such a visceral manner is an absolute blast.
Another saving grace, should you be able to afford it, is the presentation in IMAX 3D. For once, 3D actually lives up to its promise, as you feel like you're actually in the same room (or ship or sky) as the characters. And if there's one thing that deserves to be showcased in all its glory, it's superheroes strutting their stuff.
However, neither of those things actually makes The Avengers near as good as it deserves to be. Instead of being like X-Men, where the superheroes actually feel like a cohesive unit, the joining of these six feels forced and unsatisfying. More importantly, save for the Hulk, it’s just not that much fun. A plotless blow-‘em-up action movie should at least provide non-stop thrills, but what The Avengers delivers is a slog that makes you feel bad you didn’t do your homework.
For showtimes for The Avengers, click here.