The Avengers Screen 18 articles

The Avengers

2012

The Avengers Poster
  • Every now and then, director Joss Whedon (Serenity) executes a quirky camera set-up to assert that the film was created by him and not a team of marketing executives. Of the star-studded cast, only Mark Ruffalo (playing Bruce Banner) and Robert Downey Jr. (as Iron Man) bring any personality to the place-holder dialogue. Overlong, monotonous, violent, and simple-minded, this is like one of those “World’s Biggest Gang Bang” videos, except that no one onscreen appears to be enjoying himself.

  • The Avengers isn’t terrible. It has a welcoming, communal spirit, especially for a big-budget, early-summer picture. But its director, Joss Whedon — who also cowrote the script, with Zak Penn, based on the characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — seems to have gotten lost in mythology on his way to the story.

  • Writer/director Whedon first showed his incredible talent for long-form storytelling in TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, infusing the fantastic with slowly built, genuinely relatable emotion. On The Avengers' comparatively minute canvas of two and a half hours, Whedon effectively creates a sketch of a working universe and tells us that his characters are emotionally damaged but doesn't explore that damage in any substantive way.

  • After two-and-a-half hours of world-threatening chaos and world-saving derring-do, you leave the theater satisfied, but without so much as a single memorable image (or idea) lingering in your mind. As Hulk-sized “tentpole” movies go—those that have all of Hollywood’s resources at their disposal and the fates of entire studios in their hands—you could certainly do worse.

  • Maybe the awkward first steps are over and the franchise will gain traction in the sequels. More topical references might help. Here, the feeble 9/11 allusions and generic paranoid conspiracies go nowhere. But what the Avengers really need is something to avenge, some compelling emotion or commitment; rallying the troops with blood-stained collectible trading cards doesn't cut it.

  • As a fan I love the characters and universe. As a critic it's hard to see what distinguishes The Avengers from all the others. Most significantly, there's not really any unifying idea (thematic, visual, or otherwise) beyond extremely basic concepts of teamwork, so The Avengers has about as much meat as it has style.

  • [Whedon] brings it off, with a couple of flourishes (a night-hued pregame brawl between Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America has the goofy joy of a kid slamming his action figures together) and with enough space for the actors to breathe... But as impressively stage-managed as the film is, it never gets truly thrilling.

  • I can take one of these Marvel heroes at a time, as the particular proprietary blend of glossy flash, self-reflexive jokes and ridiculous noise gradually settles into its own coherent rhythm. Each has a specific over-arching conflict. Thor is operatic versus everyday, Captain is wholesome resoluteness versus perplexing change, Iron Man is cheeky individualism versus duty. Combining all these strains into one movie, however, just makes for a ton of noisy stories piled on top of one another.

  • Tony Stark gets his usual quota of motormouthed zingers, but this only feels "written and directed by" when Whedon gathers everyone in the same room and gets them bickering—and even then, he sometimes sacrifices character continuity for a laugh.

  • So it’s truly gladdening to listen to actors like Downey, Johansson, Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man’s lady-love and lifeline, Pepper Potts), Mark Ruffalo (Dr. David Banner/the Hulk), and Clark Gregg (S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson) speak the banter and asides in Joss Whedon’s script, which is tight and – by the measure of what tends to occur in a Marvel Comics title – perfectly logical.

  • “The Avengers” is a movie that, in its calculated overload of sensation and symbol, exists in a realm beyond good and bad. The movie’s laughably literal and mechanistic exposition (complete with dialogue spoken in the all-caps comic-book typeface) gives rise to some surprising mytho-political twists.

  • This is an enormously entertaining movie, but it’s comic book in the old sense – X2, which has subtext and emotional content, is still more satisfying. That seems a niggling complaint, since this is all about a cynical spy who unleashes against-the-odds nobility – a harmless fantasy of decency and minor redemption (the bad stuff happened in earlier films or bacsktory) that ought to win over twelve-year-old audiences everywhere.

  • Loki may not have registered for you in Thor, Adam, but he was the only thing that had registered for me. Above-mentioned adolescent fun aside, he’s the best thing about The Avengers as well. Has an actor ever been made to look this ridiculous while commanding the screen this completely? David Warner’s similarly antler-headed, otherworldly creep in Tron is the only comparable thing that comes to mind.

  • The Avengers is sleek, colorful, and often funny, but this veils a deliberate allegiance to an ideology that not only devalues non-American life, it can’t even bring itself to show combat death. It’s as far removed from reality as the nameless casualties of US drone strikes are from our field of vision.

  • The stamp of [Whedon's] personality is practically unquestionable: There's a certain indirectness in many special-effects shots, a respect for capturing motion in an unbroken take... In an industry that systematically alienates everything that doesn't contribute to "impressive effects" and "an easy-to-understand, primitive story," what Whedon brings to the table is practically a miracle in and of itself.

  • Like a superior, state-of-the-art model built from reconstituted parts, Joss Whedon’s buoyant, witty and robustly entertaining superhero smash-up is escapism of a sophisticated order, boasting a tonal assurance and rich reserves of humor that offset the potentially lumbering and unavoidably formulaic aspects of this 143-minute team-origin story.

  • Despite a predictably nonsensical plot, Avengers Assemble rises above the usual histrionic heroics by refusing to take itself remotely seriously - in a way that’s canny and engaging, with snappy banter and a cast that predominantly play ball.

  • A great deal of the credit for [its high quality] has to go to Joss Whedon, the writer-director. Whedon is already a fascinating case of contemporary transmedia authorship; how does The Avengers fit into his work? Certainly family dynamics have been at the heart of all of his television work, just as they are in The Avengers. He has spoken of this as his chief interest in making it: “These people shouldn’t be in the same room, let alone on the same team — and that is the definition of family.”

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