Avengers (2012)

Review by Throwback

Rejoice, my friends, for we live in a truly great time. For all of the horrible things currently happening in the world, it’s good to know that there are certain very palpable and significant things that stand out as good. For example, we can always say that our day has dawned to see the most ambitious movie project of all time come to fruition. If for some reason you’ve been buried alive for the last four years, I’m talking about The Avengers, a film so enormous that the company actually started/re-started four whole franchises so that they could get around to making this feature. Of course, having been teased with post-credit sequences and Easter eggs since 2008, there remains the looming question of whether or not the final product can live up to the monumental hype that has been steadily escalating for all this time.

The fact that I’m well-nigh speechless for this review should serve as a resounding “YES.” Upon reflection, The Avengers was so good that I’m not sure if it was possible to over-hype it, period.

Just to get it out of the way, the typical viewer can probably walk in and watch the whole thing without having seen any of the prequels. It can be done, but I have no idea why anyone would choose this course of action. One might as well decide to turn down a twelve-course meal because they’d rather just have the dessert. In other words, everyone should endeavor to see all five of the other franchise works first.

The essential plot is that Thor’s brother, Loki, has gotten the backing of a mysterious benefactor who has placed him at the head of an alien invasion force known as the Chitauri. To make the invasion work, though, they need the Tesseract (known by comic book fans as the Cosmic Cube) which is currently in the possession of Nick Fury and the espionage organization SHIELD. To defend the human race, Fury recruits the four franchise heroes, as well as Black Widow and Hawkeye. At that point, it’s just complete and total awesomeness for the next two hours.

Don’t think that this awesomeness is of the cheap, Michael Bay, fanboy variety either. This is way more than stuff getting blowed up real good. This is a complete film. First, let’s look at who is actually helming this thing. It’s Joss Whedon. Joss Whedon’s fingerprints are seldom on anything that is less than great: Buffy, Angel, Toy Story, Firefly, Astonishing X-Men, etc. The list is long and distinguished. Whedon’s writing is usually characterized by great dialogue and sharp cultural references. With this array of characters, he has plenty of canvas to paint on and takes full advantage. Everyone sounds completely genuine and nary a shred of corniness present. Except when it’s called for, of course. Not only that, but Whedon deserves some serious praise for his directorial work here. Think about what it would take to pull off a movie with this many franchise players, not to mention other stars like Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Samuel L. Jackson, then getting everyone the right amount of screen time and development, and making sure that they are all relevant from the action standpoint as well.

Whedon not only pulls it off, but he makes it an almost seamless integration of personality and plot. Everybody gets their fair share. You don’t wonder why folks with no powers can somehow play on the same field as demigods and super-soldiers. There isn’t a question of why Bruce Banner feels more at home with Tony Stark than Nick Fury. It’s all played out right on screen without being ham-fisted.

It would be difficult to take each performance in proper order. There are just too many. I’ve gone on record before praising Evans, Downey, and Hemsworth, so I’ll stick with newbies for this review. For Renner as Hawkeye, he has some very cool moments and does Ultimate Hawkeye quite well. If you are a huge fan of the real Hawkeye from West Coast Avengers books and all that, you will probably be disappointed. Try to let that go. He’s not that guy, but he still makes it work out. Ruffalo was much more a focal point of the movie and really shone. His nervous and anxiety-ridden Banner was exactly what the role called for. Not only did Ruffalo stand out as Banner, but The Hulk pretty much steals the show. Holy smokes, who saw that coming? I’m perfectly comfortable saying that the two best moments in the whole film are Hulk-centric. Let me go further. When I get the DVD for The Avengers, the first thing I will probably do is fast forward to the Hulk parts and re-watch them about a dozen times. This was a good thing, as The Incredible Hulk with Ed Norton is almost universally considered the weakest of the prequels
(which is false). The Avengers will single-handedly ignite interest in more follow-ups for the character.

So you might be wondering what sort of Catholic elements might be found. Captain America, who can be nothing other than some sort of Christian, has a couple of brief but very palpable moments in this vein. One is so explicit that I was shocked it made it into any modern movie. The rest is of similar stature to what you’d find in the standard comic book fare, though I admit that the fleshing out of Tony Stark is specifically engineered to make the idea of heroism and sacrifice more of a theme than the two prior Iron Man outings. Sure, he was looking for some kind of personal redemption before. Now, he comes to more of an understanding of how others fit into that picture. Of course, The Hulk is pretty much a catechetical tool waiting to happen about the problems we have with our passions and their proper ordering.

From a content standpoint, this fits mostly into the Thor/Captain America range, rather than Iron Man. There is almost nothing objectionable at all. Black Widow has a form-fitting costume but it’s nothing scandalous, in my opinion. There are a couple of innuendos that are dispensed with quickly and without elaboration. Language? Maybe half a dozen tame swear words. The violence is almost entirely bloodless, but there is a lot of it. Which is probably why most people are seeing this movie, so there’s not much need for a warning.

I’m refraining from calling The Avengers perfect. There are a couple of minor plot weaknesses, but anyone who lets these spoil what is otherwise an epic masterpiece has something seriously wrong with them. My whole family, from my 4 year old to my parents to my in-laws, unanimously agreed that this was a phenomenal accomplishment in the motion picture universe. Go see it. Several times.

Three tiaras.