Monday, October 22, 2012

"The Avengers"...Finally...

Well, I have now seen “The Avengers”. I had been waiting patiently for it to hit DVD, and once it did it went to the #1 spot on my Netflix cue. As I had been waiting and waiting, a part of me was beginning to worry that my growing expectations were going to be dashed against the proverbial rocks. The box office numbers were massive, and the reviews were great (although I did avoid reading any of them)…my expectations were extremely high. The DVD arrived in the mail, and it has now been viewed. One word comes to mind as I write this…fan-freaking-tastic!
I am by no means a walking encyclopedia of Marvel Universe canon (although I do live with one), but I know quite a bit more than your average bear. Initially, after watching “The Avengers”, I was thinking that people who have not seen all of the set-up films (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor) would be able to get into this first Avengers film. Yes, in several respects this first film was setting things up for the sequel (and other series films that I am sure will follow), but there was also a storyline thread that ran through all of it, connecting all of the various parts. What may seem easy for anyone to understand by my personal standards, well…I think my “Judge-o-meter” is a bit off due to what I already know. Would I recommend to those who have not seen any of the precursors to see them before “The Avengers”? Of course. Not only will it help them get to know more about the individual team members, they are good films. The Hulk films, not so much, but the others are worth the time.
SPOILER ALERT: Be warned that I will definitely be mentioning certain aspects of the film that will spoil things for those who haven’t seen it. If you don’t want to know any details, stop reading here. Okay…warning given.  Moving right along…

The villain in this first ‘Avengers-as-a-team’ film is the habitual liar and mischief maker, Loki. Foundling brother to the Asgardian god, Thor, Loki had a rather dramatic exit at the end of the first Thor movie. He learned that he is actually a Frost Giant by birth and that Odin (Thor’s dad, and Asgardian Allfather…he’s the head honcho) found him and raised him as his own. Loki loses it, and decides in his own twisted way to prove himself to Odin, while getting Thor out of the equation (Thor had slipped up, and Odin took away his powers and shot him off to Earth…prime time for Loki’s move). To say that Loki is a tad bitter would be an understatement. The newly discovered Frost Giant decides to wipe said giants out of existence to prove his love for his ‘father’. Odin falls into ‘Odin Sleep’, which is something he does to re-energize…the time of said ‘sleep’ is never predicted, nor postpone-able. Now seeing his way clear, Loki appoints himself as king of Asgard, and sets about his plan of destroying the giants. Down on Earth (a.k.a. Midgard), Thor learns humility, gets his powers back, returns to Asgard and fights Loki. As both Thor and Loki hang precariously from the edge of Asgard’s Rainbow Bridge, Odin awakes and saves Thor. Loki decides to let go, and he falls to what all see as certain doom. Okay, I have finished my attempt to ‘Reader’s Digest’ the pre-story of the villain propelled portion of “The Avengers”.
I have established the main evil doer as Loki. The implement of Loki’s doom delivering plan, is the “Cosmic Cube” the Tesseract. Thought to be Asgardian in origin, it was once owned by Odin Allfather. It is actually the Tesseract that has been a connecting thread through the precursor films to “The Avengers”. Rather than backtracking to explain all of the appearances of the Tesseract, here is a link to a Marvel Movies Wiki that explains things:

“The Avengers” begins at S.H.I.E.L.D. (“Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division”). Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is alerted to a problem with the testing of the Tesseract, with Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) conducting the tests. We learn that the Tesseract acts as a gateway between two points. Trying to figure out how to shut it down (they still aren’t 100% on how it works), Loki appears through the gateway. He starts his reign of terror there, putting master archer and SHIELD member, Hawkeye, under his control, along with Dr. Selvig. Loki manages to escape, taking the cube with him.

Fury then goes about collecting the various members of the as yet officially unformed Avengers. Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson); Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); Bruce Banner, a.k.a. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo); Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.); Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) would come later.
The casting of all of these actors in their respective roles is perfection.  They all do a fantastic job stepping into the skins of these well-known comic heroes.

Evans as the Captain, is fittingly patriotic and duty driven. The fact that he is a walking anachronism is brought out here and there, but not in a ‘beat you over the head’ kind of way.

Johanson as Romanoff is mission driven, the assassin portion carrying her through events in a skilled, no nonsense way. She is quite athletic; executing her stunts well, and has proven herself to be a good female action actor.

(Left: Jeremy Renner as "Hawkeye"; Right: Scarlett Johanson as "Black Widow")
Renner as Hawkeye gives a seemingly effortless performance. For the first half of the film he is under Loki’s control, so it isn’t until after Romanoff kicks his butt to bring him back to reality that we really see him in top form. Much of what he does during that first half is ‘off screen’ action. We see a guy get hit with an arrow, but we don’t necessarily see Hawkeye shoot it. Once he is officially a part of the Avengers, we see him in action more.

(Mark Ruffalo as "Bruce Banner/Hulk", in mid-transformation)
Ruffalo as Hulk…the best portrayal I have seen of the green one. There was gentleness to his portrayal of Banner. It’s as if he is always in a perpetual state of exhaustion…he is constantly working at controlling his out of control alter-ego. Actually, when Banner was in Hulk mode, Banner appeared to be more aware of things in that state than I have seen in prior portrayals. I couldn’t get through either of the last two Hulk features. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there is a Hulk movie in the works with Ruffalo.

Anyone who has seen the Iron Man movies knows that Downey is brilliant as Tony Stark. Massive intelligence, ego that gives the size of his intelligence a run for its money, and a large helping of sarcastic rich guy. Downey has his setting knobs turned to ‘full’ here. The sarcastic one-liners, and Stark’s sense of superiority, fill the film. But it’s not annoying, or out of place. In past posts about Downey and his Iron Man role, I have mentioned his tendency to “chew scenery”. Again, he does it here, but it works. He’s one of the few actors I can think of these days that can get away with it.
(Robert Downey, Jr. as "Tony Stark/Iron Man")
Last, but definitely not least, is Hemsworth as Thor. I dig Thor. (Type ‘Thor’ or ‘Hemsworth’ into the search box of my blog, and you’ll get some previous entries that will attest to that.) Chris Hemsworth has proven himself to be a top notch actor. Far better than other actors of his generation. He brings a chivalrous strength to Thor. I don’t know who else could do it. Thor is a bit more perturbed in this film. Initially, Thor is there to take care of matters with Loki himself (it’s Asgard’s business). He quickly learns that there is much more to the problem Loki has created, and he joins forces with the Avengers.
(Chris Hemsworth as "Thor")
So, Loki has arrived on Earth to gain control of the Tesseract…for what purpose? To open a portal that will allow the Chitauri (who Loki has a pact with) to invade Earth. Once invaded, Loki would assume the position of King of Earth.

The thing I really like about what is obviously first in a predicted line of Avengers spin-off features, is the films effectiveness. It acts as the tool to bring the Avengers together, but it also contains a solid and engaging plot line that makes it a hugely entertaining film. It is by no means a throw-away, like other series starters have been. It brings the ‘hero vs. villain’ world of comic books effectively to the screen. I look forward to the next one.

There are a number of funny moments and lines in "The Avengers". The following is one of my favorites.


I have been a big fan of the X-Men for years, Logan/Wolverine being my favorite X-Man. I knew of the Avengers, and knew some basic info about the individual members. I never really paid them much attention though. All of the films in this series of Avengers based movies have changed that. In the Marvel Universe of feature productions, the films of the Avengers franchise have even surpassed the X-Men. For me, anyway. My admiration of Thor aside (*grin*), these films have been consistent and cohesive. There isn’t one movie among them that I wouldn’t recommend.

I don’t think I have to say this, but…Loki’s plans are thwarted. He does manage to get the bewitched Dr. Selvig to create an apparatus to house the Tesseract in, and open a huge gateway for the Chitauri to enter through. A massive fight breaks out in the streets of New York, Avengers vs. Chitauri and Loki. 

Against Nick Fury’s recommendations, the “council” sends a bomb carrying plane to launch a nuke at Manhattan. Everyone will die, but getting the enemy is the main goal. Enter Tony Stark to save the day. He goes after the bomb, diverts it up through the gateway (into outer space…who knows where), and blows up the Chitauri mother ship. Back on Earth, Selvig snaps out of his controlled state, reveals to Romanoff that for whatever reason he built a fail-safe into the cube apparatus that can be triggered with Loki’s staff. The staff is lying nearby, they get it, once the bomb is through the gateway they wait just long enough for Tony to fall back through it. The gateway is shut, Tony survives, the Chitauri have been defeated, everybody have some Shawarma (I’ll touch on that in a sec).

Another favorite funny moment is also Loki related. He is facing the Hulk, and boasts about how he is invincible because he is a god. Anybody with any sense knows the Hulk will do what he does best...smash!

The Tesseract was seen by Fury as a means to limitless energy for man kinds use, and a way to create some weapons to help fight against enemies from other worlds. Now, at the end of the battle, Thor takes the cube back to Asgard where it belongs. He also takes a muzzled Loki back home for some Asgardian justice.

The individual members of the Avengers go their separate ways. Until next time, that is. Who knows where or when they will be needed? Whatever the next crisis is, I’m sure it will result in great entertainment.

Oh, yeah…the Shawarma. Be sure to either watch all of the credits, or fast forward to the end of them. What you will find there is quite funny. Here’s a small sample…

No comments:

Post a Comment