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Sunday, May 6, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: THE AVENGERS

It all started in 2008...after Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man) so boldly announced to the world that "I am Iron Man", it wasn't long before he caught the attention of one: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and thus, the "Avenger Initiative" was born! What began was a new, highly-successful, film franchise from the partnership of Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures and Paramount Pictures that would span five movies leading up to the largest combination of superheroes ever in one movie: THE AVENGERS! When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) seeks the power of the Tesseract (a.k.a. The Cosmic Cube), along with his new alien army of Chitauri; 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes' must join together to face insurmountable odds as they save the world from total annihilation!
Avengers Roll-call: Capt. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) at his side.
Never before has such a monumentally epic movie been made or has there been so much controversy over a movie of this magnitude, both in talent and production. This movie represents the culmination of years of casting and production. With a budget of over $220,000,000, director Joss Whedon (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel Firefly/Serenity) was the one chosen to eventually take on this ambitious and unprecedented project. After Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010), came The Incredible Hulk (2008), Thor (2011), and finally Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), which completed the roster of heroes that would allow for The Avengers to be team. While most of the major heroes already had their own solo movie (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Capt. America) the team itself is also comprised of a few minor heroes who made their first appearances alongside those heroes. Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. The Black Widow made her first appearance in Iron Man 2 (2010) as an undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent working in Stark industries. Clint Barton/Hawkeye also had a brief cameo in Thor (2011), as the quick-thinking, bow-and-arrow wielding S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
Loki
While these "lesser" heroes have a more prominent role in The Avengers, there are other supporting characters as well as "love interests" from other movies who reprise their roles for this superhero team-up extravaganza as well. Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, from Iron Man) makes a few brief cameos at Tony Stark's side; as well as Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård, from Thor) also appears in The Avengers. As before, I had stated in last years review of Captain America: The First Avenger that I had some issues with Chris Evans playing Cap as he had already established himself as Johnny Storm/Human Torch in the Marvel Fantastic Four movies. But as far as Disney is concerned, it doesn't matter since 20th Century Fox owns the rights to The Fantastic Four and it's characters (including Silver Surfer).
The two most surprising (although somewhat predictable) characters who did NOT make an appearance in this movie is of course Jane Foster (Natalie Portman from Thor) who is mentioned in name and image only. As for Lt. Col. James 'Rhodey' Rhodes, a.k.a. War Machine (played by Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2 and  Terrence Howard in Iron Man), does not make an appearance or is even mentioned. Also definitely NOT present in The Avengers is Tony Stark's ever-present bodyguard and friend 'Happy' Hogan, played by actor and director of the two Iron Man movies, Jon Favreau, who said in a recent interview: "...I'm not going to be available." Favreau also stated recently that he "opted-out" of directing Iron Man 3 (2013), which is being directed by Shane Black. The biggest (and I do mean BIG!) change in the cast lineup comes from the 'Big-Green-Mean-Machine' himself: The Incredible Hulk played by Mark Ruffalo, whose character has been played by two different actors in the past, by Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk (2008) and by Eric Bana in Hulk (2003). There has been much controversy surrounding Norton, in not returning to the role as it was posted on his Facebook page about the dispute that "...it won't work out for me...". Despite all of the debate, Ruffalo is The Hulk for now and also for the foreseeable future. As for the other Marvel superheroes who have been a part of The Avengers in the past rumors abound over the speculated new characters in Avengers 2. As for the original Avengers (created by Stan Lee and jack Kirby) who made their first appearance in the comic books in 1963 included Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man and Wasp. Captain America was reintroduced into the comics in 1964. The movie incarnation of The Avengers is reminiscent comic title of "The Ultimates" (2002), a modern re-imagining of the classic Avengers.
The Avengers is a non-stop, fast paced action-adventure with mind-blowing special effects and battles. For anyone who is worried that too many superheroes is too much, have no fear. While many of the main characters origins and plot points (i.e. The Tesseract) have already been established in their own movies, their was no need to rehash them. While the film focuses mostly on Iron Man and Thor, it does devote a lot of screen time to Captain America and Hulk, especially as far as Cap's overwhelming feelings of being "out of time" and also Banner/Hulk's constant war with his emotions and the ever-present fear that he will eventually "Hulk-out"! It is inevitable that Hulk will have to unleash all of his green-fury in order to battle the alien threat. The Ruffalo-Hulk also seems to represent a more "manageable" Hulk than any others previous, such as actually working with a team. Although he never really says much as many Hulk's in the past (specifically the comics) have. While the fanboy in me wants nothing but to praise this amazing movie, the critical reviewer in me has just a few "pickies": As Iron man is very much the focus (and the biggest box-office draw) of this movie, he also gets the coolest and most sarcastic lines in the film, even Thor gets a few one-liners and Hulk get's his one line! But unfortunately, Captain America gets some of the cheesiest lines ever in ther movie! Also, even though Loki is the main villain in this film, when the alien army invades he is left literally powerless as a villain and gives up way too easily.
Captain America rises to a leadership status in the team, although he frequently clashes with Iron Man creating personalty conflicts. As in Iron Man 2, Nick Fury (Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. has a much larger central part to play in the story. Without revealing too much (or Spoilers) in this review let's just say there is a lot of "fan-service" in this movie and any fan of the Avengers or Marvel Comics in general will particularly be totally satisfied. As always there is a very special "teaser" as the end credits roll that will no doubt make my fellow 'fanboys' roar with excitement. Also be sure to look out for Stan 'The Man' Lee himself in a very brief cameo appearance! There is also a particularly funny moment at the very end of the credits that will no doubt get mixed reactions from fans and moviegoers alike. There has always been the fear that with the alliance with Disney and Marvel would hinder the franchise. However, as the latest movies have clearly shown, Avengers like many of the others will be and has been very successful. As of now, The Avengers has earned over $200 Million at the box office which will no doubt increase during the Summer making it THE most successful superhero movie ever!

LINKS: The Avengers Official Website
 

*Personal Note: I enjoyed this movie so very much! As a fan of both the comics and movies, I feel this is THE BEST superhero movie I've ever seen! I was really worried that this movie would not go over well, but all my trepidations were put to rest, as well as my faith in Joss Whedon. The Avengers was not only a great movie, but a great movie experience. I went to see it opening weekend at the midnight premier with friends. The theater was hot and packed, full of my fellow fanboys, some even dressed up in homemade or bought costumes. I have NEVER heard SO much applause in ANY movie! After every epic moment and/or comedic moment, there was either a roar of applause and cheers or laughter. At times it became somewhat distracting, but I knew I was surrounded by my fellow fans so I welcomed it. The Avengers was truly Awesome!