Review by Vives Anunciacion
Published April 30, 2012
Marvel’s The Avengers
Co-written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Watching Marvel’s The Avengers felt like I was watching a kid gone wild in the biggest playpen ever. It was a James Cameron moment. “I’m Joss Whedon and I own all the toys in the world!” The Avengers is a fan’s dream come to life – a live-action special-edition comic book in brilliant 3D.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Whedon has achieved some sort of a storytelling feat by successfully balancing action, effects and characterization in a film that requires equal billing among its A-list Hollywood stars.
Essentially a sequel to Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) infiltrates SHIELD headquarters and takes possession of the Cosmic Cube, aka the Tesseract, in order to unleash an alien army and establish his dominion upon Earth. In the process, Loki takes control of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the scientist Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård).
Realizing that the entire planet is at risk, SHIELD commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) activates The Avengers Initiative to assemble the one group that can stop Loki. But first, they’ve got to learn the term “teamwork.”
Fury calls in Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (now played by Mark Ruffalo, replacing Edward Norton who did well in the 2008 Incredible Hulk), Capt. America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Loki is momentarily captured, sans the cube. At this point, none of the superheroes have met Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who snatches Loki away in an attempt to convince his erstwhile brother to return the cube to Asgard.
After this lengthy introduction, the film expounds on its two main themes: character dynamics and plot, highlighted in two centrepiece scenes. A smackdown of superegos, and then the smackdown against Loki’s army.
The smackdown of superegos is built in several stages: two instances of physical infighting involving Iron Man, Thor and Capt. America and then Thor vs Hulk; and lastly verbal infighting, which is the big argument in the ship involving all superheroes.
In a rare example of concise filmmaking, Whedon weaves character type, wit, sarcasm and plot points in rapid dialogue, then adds intensity (in camera work and editing) as the superheroes argued cooperation amongst themselves. “Were not a team,” said Bruce, “we’re a time bomb.” This scene would have collapsed with performers of lower calibre, but the superstars delivered superbly. For me, the entire film is about this centrepiece.
Downey Jr, despite having most of the best lines, is a toned-down Tony Stark. Capt. America’s old-schoolism is expanded. Hemsworth’s charm in the movie Thor is nowhere. The rest are mere supports, but share enough screen time. The net effect is that they all even out.
The second centrepiece is the almost-endless (and to me, tiring) action finale that establishes The Avengers as a team, with Capt. America as team leader. With teamwork, they overcome. That’s it, really. Cue sequel.
Stripping it of its wit and superstars, The Avengers is a dazzling shell – a showcase of superpowers using top-of-the-line production without much underneath. Take away Loki and Thor’s backstory and it’s another alien-invasion movie.
The Avengers may have all the fun, thrill, wit and humor the superhero world could offer at this point. Somehow, at the end of the screening, a voice in my head said, “Time for bed.”
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