May 10, 2012

Do you like this?

f you are hoping for a review of this film from an objective standpoint, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. A film like “The Avengers” isn’t going to be reviewed by the rational adult I’ve become; the man who loves independent film and David Cronenburg is on vacation this week. Instead, “The Avengers” is being judged by the 12-year-old who knows all the words to “Ninja Rap.”

My interest in reading was maintained in my youth by DC and Marvel comic books. They are as responsible for my education as any teacher I’ve ever had. If it hadn’t been for Clark Kent, I would never have learned about Atticus Finch. Comics were a stepping stone that led me to the deep waters of English literature.  

There wasn’t a chance I wouldn’t like this film. I can’t tell you that “The Avengers” is high art. I can’t tell you it’s the best movie I’ve ever seen. But I can tell you that it sure felt that way when I was in the theater—and I loved every second of it. It’s my childhood obsession come to life. So take this review with a grain of salt and a shot of patience.

“The Avengers” is the culmination of a long marketing campaign of superhero movies. Most of the Marvel heroes have had their own features over the past four years, films that thrilled fanboys and irritated critics. The market has been flooded with CGI and tights for the simple reason that there is a built in audience of 30-year-old nerds (like myself) who will pay handsomely to see their favorite mystery men save the world. We’ve been lucky that the industry has taken these stories seriously and done a decent job of making quality films. Beginning with 2008’s “Iron Man” and ending with last year’s “Captain America,” Marvel Studios has lovingly crafted a dominating genre that pleases audiences. “The Avengers” seems like the best of them.

The story follows heroes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye as they come together to form the world’s first superhero team. They must join forces to save the world from Loki, a petulant child of a villain who commands an army of lizard-like cyborg minions. He is, of course, bent on ruling the world with an iron fist because his dad didn’t give him enough hugs. Earth’s greatest heroes must band together and overcome their personalities to defeat a common enemy. It’s kind of like “Major League” with superpowers. Of course, the heroes clash, leading to fun superhero-on-superhero displays of power. The plot is simple, but it needed to be to accommodate the number of characters. The actors take their roles seriously, necessarily avoiding camp, and keeping close to the source material.  

The writing and directing was handled masterfully by Joss Whedon, the mind behind geek favorites like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly.” Whedon’s clever dialogue and steady pacing allows the film to unfold naturally. Past films with large casts of heroes have suffered from being rushed, trying to cram too much character development and action into one feature length film. The previous films covered these character’s origins and powers sufficiently, allowing for a real sense of direction and purpose. While “The Avengers” is primarily an action film, there is quite a bit of dialogue and character development.  This pads the film out to almost two and half hours, but I was never bored.  

If I had one complaint (and I do because of my legal obligation as a comic book geek), it would be with the Hulk. He can’t be both an uncontrollable monster and a precisely aimed weapon capable of taking direction. I would have preferred him to be chaotic, attacking friend and foe alike. The film sets the Hulk up as a last-resort nuclear strike, but he doesn’t quite deliver in the climactic scenes. However, watching him smash his enemies apart is so damn cool I’m willing to overlook the oversight.  

As I wrote earlier, there was no chance I wasn’t going to love “The Avengers.” I knew that going in. I’m thrilled that my childhood nostalgia has become mainstream Hollywood fare. I like the butterflies I get before buying my ticket. That doesn’t happen a lot. Eventually, these films will run their course. But for now, it’s a great time to be a fanboy.


May 10, 2012

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