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June 2, 2012

Emmett reviews THE AVENGERS (2012)

 

So, just how much cocaine did I just snort?

That’s the thought that inevitably ran through Mr Hollywood Executive’s head when we woke up one morning, and realized that he’d just given control of The Avengers to Joss Whedon.

The Avengers. The culmination of five other blockbusters. The film featuring A-listers as the supporting cast. You know… the movie budgeted at a quarter of a billion dollars.

And because that was just some brilliant cocaine, Mr Hollywood gave it to Joss Whedon.

The man might be the crowning example of unappreciated genius. Of his four (unbelievably good) television shows, three were stomped to death by the network before they reached their prime. One didn’t even make it out of its first season, and it made Blake’s Seven look like a monkey’s shit-doodles.

Joss Whedon is an unappreciated genius, is what I’m saying. But more than that, Mr Hollywood realizes with regret as he stumbles past the unconscious whores in his hallway. We don’t really know whether he can make movies.

He wrote Toy Story, sure, and that was great. He also wrote Alien3 and the Buffy movie, and they were… not. He’s directed exactly ONE film, Serenity, which was loved by all, and didn’t make its budget back for years.

So, Mr Hollywood thinks despairingly as he readies his breakfast serving of cocaine. I’ve just given control of a $250 million movie to a guy who writes underappreciated television and has no idea how to make money at the cinema. What a colossal mistake.

If there’s one lesson to take away from The Avengers, it’s this.

Make those mistakes more often.

 

The Avengers is more fun than drunk Santa at Disneyland. It’s more entertaining than infinite YouTube videos of puppies yawning. It makes fun-for-all romps like The Adventures of Tintin and Avatar look like watching your nails grow, while asleep.

It’s bloody good.

From now on, there’s only one rule in the media industry: Give Joss Whedon Your Money. Hopefully, that can be amended with another rule to the effect of ‘give it to him now.’ What’s that, now? Unparalleled character development, neo-noir urban fantasy, old-school cerebral sci-fi, animated kid’s movies, Eliza Dushku in a dominatrix outfit, and now multi-million dollar popcorn blockbusters. Seriously, I’m starting to believe the guy can make anything.

But moving away from my hopeless fanboy worship thing for a moment, I should probably explain why I like The Avengers.

Let’s just be clear that I wasn’t really psyched for this film. The first Iron Man was good, but its sequel, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor were all exceptionally average – just a few months ago, I wrote about how they were all the very symbols of what is wrong with comic book movies today.

But moving away from my hopeless fanboy worship thing for a moment, I should probably explain why I like The Avengers.

Let’s just be clear that I wasn’t really psyched for this film. The first Iron Man was good, but its sequel, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor were all exceptionally average – just a few months ago, I wrote about how they were all the very symbols of what is wrong with comic book movies today.

I also gave a few hints about the direction comic book movies should be taking.

Not to take any credit here, but I think somebody was listening.

The Avengers has two major things going for it, and one thing that isn’t really a criticism at all.

 

First, there are the characters.

This is why you get Joss to do your movie, folks – likeable, believable characters, on-screen chemistry and snappy, funny dialogue.

Apart from Iron Man, who actually gave a shit about the rest of the Avengers? Thor was a cardboard cutout of a football player trying to play a Viking, the Hulk was a boring bundle of angst and apathy… Just hours before going into the cinema, I named Captain America’s defining character trait as ‘being a kind, courageous, pants-on-head idiot’.

Let the word-eating commence.

Everybody gets screen time, everybody is believable and well-realized. I can understand this with Robert Downey Jr, but Chris Evans? Really? The guy was in Fantastic Four. But no, these guys are heroic, complex, easy to differentiate and an absolute joy to watch.

Take the Hulk, for example. He’s had two movies to himself, and they were both boring. I can’t even remember who the actor was. Now, played by Mark Ruffalo, he’s a very sympathetic character with a very real burden. Before The Avengers, they were publically not making another Hulk movie. Now, Ruffalo has signed on for six more films.

Even the minor characters are funny, likeable and even a tiny bit complex. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Agent Coulson (I have no idea) were basically just cameos in the previous movies. Here, they actually grow as people. I actually gave a shit what happened to these leotard-wearing monkeys, even the one who missed the technological bus by half a millennium.

And yes, it’s Joss Whedon, and so yes, it’s funny. Don’t get me wrong, the writing isn’t Shakespeare, but the ultimatums are badass, the speeches are moving, and the one-liners are hilarious. There was one moment with the Hulk that was so good, so unexpected, that the entire theatre broke out into laughter and applause. I’m not kidding, they started applauding because of a gag that was probably ripped off from Bugs Bunny.

 

Then we have the spectacle.

This is, above all else, a popcorn movie. It’s meant to show us some pretty lights and loud noises, and we give them money in return. And until now, why on Earth would Joss know how to do that? He’s never made a superhero movie, or anything approaching a blockbuster.

I don’t know who they hired, I don’t know what meditation techniques they used, but it worked.

Hello, Michael Bay. Explosions? These be how you do them. There are moments that just stagger you with their scale. The battle aboard SHIELD’s helicarrier, for example, is utterly enormous. I can feel my wallet twitching in agony with every wall that splinters apart, with every fighter jet that’s casually tackled. And the New York fight… it’s everything I could want from a superhero movie battle. Multiple heroes, each fighting in their own style against an overwhelming alien force, lifted from the pages of Sinestro Corps War or All-Star Superman. There’s one shot that goes between each hero in turn, each in the middle of something awesome, without a single cut. It’s like James Cameron had sex with Grant Morrison, a camera and a thousand tonnes of high explosive.

The CGI is good, I guess. I confess that I’ve never really loved the stuff, even when it’s done very well, and it is done very well here. There’s none of that sense of unreality, of disconnect that you get from things like the Star Wars prequels – when the Hulk punches an enormous alien eel-robot, you’re not thinking ‘that would have taken millions to animate’, you’re thinking ‘oh fucking balls, how am I going to conceal the fact that I just shat myself?!’ There are so many scenes, like that, that just stagger you with their sheer punch (often literally).

One final thing I should mention here – they used motion capture on the Hulk, so incredibly, the big green guy actually looks like Mark Ruffalo. It’s a cool effect, and used to great, um, effect in some of the aforementioned punch-scenes.

 

So, on to the criticisms that aren’t really criticisms.

Most obviously, this is NOT 2001: A Space Odyssey, or The King’s Speech. It’s Let’s Punch Literally Everything. But unlike something like Transformers, it’s LPLE done very, very well.

That bleeds into one other tiny complaint – this is a movie for the whole family. Despite the thousands of alien soldiers viciously laser-raping New York City right in its tender, explodey butthole, we never see a single civilian casualty. There’s nothing much in the way of gore (I think one of the supporting cast gets a bloody nose at one point). Just saying, Tarantino this is not.

And… I’m really scrounging for something else to complain about. I guess the ending was… no, but surely that earlier bit with the… um… Yeah, fine. I can’t think of anything.

 

Go watch this movie. I really wish that I could give away just a few of the great lines, the dramatic moments, but that would be too cruel.

If you wait too long, those moments will be spoiled for you. If you pirate this, Joss Whedon, the cinematographers and the surprisingly good roster of actors won’t get the cash they deserve. See this movie.

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