Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What You Should Have Seen #22

The Avengers

The wait for this movie, the build-up, the prequels and the non-stop advertising…they’ve all been worth it.

Real quick, I feel the need to let anyone reading this know that there will be spoilers. I’ll be as vague as possible in most instances, but there’s going to be some details I’ll have to talk about. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to know anything other than what’s been shown in the trailers, then read no farther. Just know that this movie is worth your hard-earned coin. ALL of your hard-earned coin.

Also, if you haven't seen it yet, stay through the credits. It's pretty much a must-do now for all of Marvel's movies, but it needs to be said here. Stay until all the credits have rolled. You won't regret it.

So, shit, that was awesome, right?

I’ve been anticipating the movie since its announcement. I’ve been EAGERLY anticipating since it was announced that Joss Whedon was going to direct it and rewrite the screeplay. My geek senses were in overload.

I went with a group of friends, and I wasn’t slapped once for all the talking and geeking out I did. I’m sure it was a strain on the girl I sat next to since she had no clue about the comic book references.

I liked how the movie started. Project: Pegasus is introduced and destroyed quickly, and Whedon does a good job in keeping with its comic book focus: to research alternative (and unusual) forms of energy. But then it goes and gets itself blowed…in? Not up, anyways.

Personally, I like that we got to see all the characters recruited to stop Loki. I liked Black Widow’s interaction with Bruce Banner. I liked Fury giving Cap his next mission. Agent Coulson and Tony and Pepper? Priceless. And it was a good continuity call on Whedon’s part since Coulson has been around Stark and Iron Man since the first movie. Thor is the only one who just happens to “show up,” and I’m okay with that. He did what he felt he had to do, and we got our obligatory hero vs. hero fight.

I’m going to do my best not to complain about little things (Cap’s arm not being crushed when Thor hits his shield, Loki’s influence being severed by being hit on the head) because it’s a comic book movie. Granted, it IS live action, but still, you have to go into these things with a willingness to suspend a bit of belief.

All the hemming and hawing, the will they or won’t they (when you just KNOW they will, otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie), comes to an end with a great but awful death that should have been assumed if you know just one thing about Joss: he will kill characters you have an emotional attachment to. Don’t believe me? Buffy’s mom and Tara. Cordy and Fred. Wash and to a lesser extent Book. I didn’t give any thought to it until a friend brought it up a few weeks ago, but it made a lot of sense. Coulson has been in both Iron Man movies, Thor, and has had a couple of solo shorts included on the Iron Man 2 and Thor DVDs. Clark Gregg is an underappreciated actor and he subtly made Agent Coulson and integral part of the Marvel Universe, so much so that he was recently introduced into “real” Marvel continuity. It was an awful shoehorn job that also introduced a black Nick Fury, but what’s done is done. Let’s see where it goes.

The climactic battle is incredible. It spans only a few square block of downtown New York, and it’s intense. Everybody plays to their strengths, and even the non-powered Hawkeye and Black Widow are effective. I thought Loki was handled well, and while the end of the Chitauri wasn’t all that original (straight out of Independence Day…Randy Quaid should get some royalties to help out with his current financial difficulties), it was effective and made sense.

Now let’s take a look at the characters and actors.

I’ll start with Cobie Smulders and her portrayal of Maria Hill, both of whom are new additions to the film world of the Avengers. I was worried because all I’d seen her in before this was “How I Met Your Mother” and The Slammin’ Salmon, both of which are comedies. I liked her portrayal of Hill. In both appearance and acting, she really brought the comic book character to life, regardless of the amount of screen time she got.

Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is up next. Compared to fighters like Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and Captain America, he’s pretty useless. But stick him at a high vantage point and he’s a shot caller with a few well-placed explosive arrows. Renner’s Hawkeye was closer in line to the Ultimate version rather than the “regular” Marvel version, and anybody reading this who doesn’t read comics has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, so just ignore it. For you comic veterans, this isn’t a bad thing, and it’s more in keeping with Nick Fury’s ethnicity, Thor’s costume, and the inclusion of the Chitauri. He’s a soldier, not a former villain and circus performer. Renner plays this part extremely well.

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is similar. She’s a spy, not a soldier, but she’s still just a human with excellent training. She was useful in bringing in Banner, and Whedon made her useful in the big quasi-melee at the end. She and her little pea shooters weren’t quite as useful as repulsor blasts, indestructible shields, uru hammers, or giant green fists, but her acrobatic skills got her where she needed to be in order to shut down Loki’s generator.

Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was the surprise hit of the movie. He was a ferocious monster. There was no internal conflict, no giant monster seeking love, no emotion at all except anger. If all you want out of a Hulk is smashing, then you’re going to love him here. Whedon even gave him a couple of the funniest parts of the movie, and both of them involve him…interacting…with the two Asgardians. Ruffalo’s Banner was more likeable than either Eric Bana’s or Ed Norton’s, but it was a good combination of the two previous incarnations. Where Bana’s Hulk dealt more with the origin and Banner’s scientific pursuits, Norton’s dealt more with BEING pursued and learning to control the beast. When Ruffalo’s Banner is introduced, he’s done a good job at learning how to keep the Hulk in check during his time “in the wind,” and after he’s brought into S.H.I.E.L.D. we see the scientist at work. As much as I loved him here, I still don’t think this Hulk is strong enough to carry his own movie, but I’m looking forward to seeing him in additional Avengers movies.

I know I already brought up Coulson’s death, but I want to mention a few more things. One of the rumors I’ve heard is that he’ll end up being the Vision in the next movie. I’m okay with that, I guess. If you’re going to just throw the Vision into the mix, it would be extremely difficult to tie in Wonder Man and Ultron. It would have to be a completely different origin, so why not toss the dying brainwave patterns of Agent Coulson into a synthezoid? The other rumor I’ve heard is that Coulson isn’t actually dead. Fury cancelled Hill’s call for medical assistance because Coulson was already dead, but what if he wasn’t? We saw with the trading cards that Fury is not above manipulating people to meet his own agenda, so what if he NEEDED Coulson to be dead? I’m going to take this one step further and say that it wasn’t even Coulson. I can’t pinpoint when it was said, but I distinctly remember Tony throwing out the phrase “life model decoy.” LMDs are S.H.I.E.L.D. staples, and Nick Fury is notorious for using them. So what if “Coulson” was actually an LMD? Or what if he actually did die, but he’s the basis of the LMD program, so now there will always be an Agent Coulson. He’s going to be the Kenny who dies in every movie, but it’ll be okay because it’ll be an LMD. So that’s my contribution to the rumor mill. My track record on these things isn’t very good though, unless my theories about Tony Harris doing some Earth 2 issues with James Robinson pans out.

The main players who we’ve seen in their own movies before this were just as good as they were in their solo flicks. I thought these characters each got a wonderful amount of screen time, which I’m sure was a huge challenge for a picture like this. These are guys who carried their own movies, and egos could have killed this thing. Yay for level heads!

For you Whedonites out there, I’ve only heard of three characters that were played by actors who’ve worked with him previously (Chris Hemsworth is an odd case since Cabin in the Woods was filmed before Hemsworth was cast as Thor and well before Whedon was greenlit as the director). I knew about Alexis Denisof before seeing the movie. I read on a Whedon fan page that this was one of the things he was doing this year, so I hit the Interwebs to do a little research. That research ended up spoiling the next-to-last scene of the movie, but I’m okay with it. Had I not done the research, I never would have known that he was under all of the alien make-up. You can’t even tell it’s him by his voice. The one person that I noticed was Enver Gjokaj, who played Victor in “Dollhouse.” Then there was an actress who I recognized, but I didn’t realize she was a “Joss person”: Ashley Johnson. I remembered her as Chrissy from “Growing Pains.” She was apparently in two episodes of Whedon’s “Dollhouse” (one of them being the unaired pilot), an episode of Rosanne (although one not written by Whedon), and she’s in Whedon’s upcoming adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing.

Well, that…that’s a lot of words right there. Hell, I loved the movie. I saw it in IMAX 3D and was just blown away by everything. Sometime during the next couple of weeks I’m going to take my seven-year-old son to go see it. I walked out of the theater with no reservations about letting him see it. Sam Jackson may have said “ass” once, and almost any blood seen is cartoony alien blood. Everything’s pretty sanitized. We’ll see it in Real 3D (as opposed to IMAX) because of cost and location, but I’ll be interested in comparing the two formats. I’ll give you an update when it happens.

Have YOU seen the movie yet? What are your thoughts? Do you disagree or agree with anything I’ve said, or do you think I’ve missed anything? Let me know. Comment. Go ahead, no one will laugh at you. Promise.

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