Friday, May 4, 2012

Avengers Reviews - SPOILER FREE - by Ryan and Todd

One spot to see both my review and Todd's.  If you are wondering about Avengers, read this and let us help you make up your mind.  - Ryan

Ryan Kilpatrick's Review

It actually happened.  It’s only been hours since I saw Marvel’s The Avengers, but it’s still hard for me to believe that it actually happened.  Ever since seeing the extra scene at the end of Iron Man four years ago, I had my doubts that this film would really happen.  Sure, I tracked the progress of the Marvel films, and saw Joss Whedon, one of my pop culture heroes, was directing, but it still wasn’t real to me.  Until last night. 

The Avengers is not a perfect film.  Far from it.  If you are looking for a film that will change the way you view superhero films, this is not it.  If you want a new take on the power and responsibility of super heroic powers, look elsewhere.  If instead, you want to go to the movie theatre, see icons assembled together in one place, on the big screen, battling the biggest threats and facing down unbelievable odds in the biggest action adventure film in decades, then this is the film for you.

Being a huge Joss Whedon fan, I had huge expectations for the Avengers.  Probably unrealistic expectations, to be sure.  I wanted the deep characterization, profound metaphor and witty dialogue that Whedon made famous in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.  I got two of the three, as there is nothing profound about this film.  But Avengers isn’t about that sort of thing, as I said above.

The story is simple and straightforward – Earth is under attack by Loki and his army and only an assemblage of heroes is enough to respond.  This is a film about those heroes, and the fact that there is no real reason that they should come together as a team, even with the unbelievable odds stacked against them.  In this world, there is SHIELD, armies and more, but the Earth needs heroes.  The entire first two acts of the film are about why this team shouldn’t exist, but yet it has to in order to save the world.

If you’re going into this film to see that process and see how these people come together, bruised, battered and broken, then you will be extremely satisfied.  Whedon answers all the questions you want to know going into a movie like this.  Why are Black Widow and Hawkeye on this team full of monsters and gods?  Why does this assembly follow the mortal Captain America?  Why would anyone trust Dr. Bruce Banner, knowing he will turn into the Hulk?  All those questions and more are answered.

The performances that Whedon gets out of the actors is, for the most part, extraordinary.  Tom Hiddleston as Loki is the centerpiece of the film.  If he doesn’t work as the main antagonist, the whole film would fall apart.  Hiddleston imbues Loki with lunacy, insecurity, ego and more, in a performance that ranks up there with the best villains in film history.  All the reviews I have seen rave about Mark Ruffalo’s performance as Banner and the Hulk, but to me, Hiddleston is the standout of the film.

Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow is the other standout.  This is a character that literally doesn’t need to be in the film.  No one is buying a ticket to see Black Widow, at least not before this movie comes out.  Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk are the attraction, but Black Widow steals the show.  In many ways, she has the most character moments and the best motivations of any of the characters.  This is a great performance by Johannson.

I have my share of criticisms, such as the clunky opening, but honestly, they are irrelevant.  The film is about heroism, and it expresses that by revealing character through action, but also putting the characters in a room and letting them breathe and talk.  The trailers have given you the action pieces, but it’s seeing them all together speaking that really shows the challenge not only of the characters, but also the filmmakers.  This is not a film that looks to recreate your concept of heroes, it is one that tries to show you why they are necessary.  Go. See It.  Now.

Todd Perlmutter's Review

Keeping quiet about having seen The Avengers more than a week ago hasn't been easy.  And as much as I've wanted to just dive right in and talk about the movie that I saw, I thought long and hard about a way to do this post without talking about the actual plot of the movie.  You see this is the movie that proves you can do a big budget superhero film that isn't based on a single character.  This is the movie that is going to make Warner Bros. rethink every aspect of their proposed Justice League movie - because this movie raises the bar so high on the concept of a multiple superhero movie that to make something less would be an epic mistake.

I can say with the utmost confidence that I am a huge superhero fan.  Those of you that listen to the podcast or happen to know me beyond that probably know that I'm about as geeky as they come.  And my knowledge and love of superheroes is something I pride myself on.  This movie brings me back to my childhood in ways that it's hard to describe.  There are moments that I dreamt of all those years ago, moments I never for a moment thought I'd see on the big screen, and there they were before my eyes.  And those moments brought tears of joy to my eyes.

If you think you've got the whole movie figured out from the trailers, or prior tellings of the tale this movie sets out to tell then I'm sorry to say, but you're probably wrong.  I was wrong. I went into this movie with extremely high expectations - setting myself up for a huge disappointment.  Instead what I got was something above even the bar I set.  Those trailers tell you nothing.  They spoil nothing.  The moments in them are both great and meaningless to the whole.  It's the moments before and after what you see in them that matter.

You will learn why this team of comic book heroes is considered to be one of the greatest teams ever assembled, and you will understand not just who they are, but why they work.  The character dynamics are true to the source material right down to the tiniest of details that pay homage all the way back to their very first comic book story.  All the actors reprise their prior roles with amazing success, and in a way where none of them take away from the others.  A greatly architected work.

The only change to the cast that bears mentioning is Mark Ruffalo who plays both Bruce Banner and the Hulk.  His take on the character is amazing bringing in aspects originally brought to the character by John Byrne, while also bringing us back to the days of the old Bill Bixby version of Banner seen in The Incredible Hulk television series.  He then takes the whole Hulk package, turns it on it's side, kicks it a little, and serves it back to us in a way that can only be described as finally getting the Hulk right on the big screen.

The heroes of this movie are not those they resemble in the Ultimates or the Avengers comic books. They instead take the best qualities from both sources and transcend them to become something more. The Man. The Monster. The Knight. The God. The Archer. The Spy. An unlikely group brought together with a common goal, learn together to become a team, and save the day.

"And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth's mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born..."  

That day is May 4th 2012.  Yea Verily!

Make sure to make plans to see Avengers with the Disney Film Project Podcast crew on Saturday, May 19 at Downtown Disney in Walt Disney World, and stay tuned next Monday, May 14 for our podcast on Avengers!

1 comment:

  1. I saw it too and loved it.

    I went the day after the release (living in France), actually i had things to do that night but I got borderline forced to the Theatre BY TWO CHICKS!
    I still can't believe i can legitimately write that line :
    Two chicks forced me to go see the Avengers movie with them!

    It's a huge success here in France : more than 2 Million tickets in a week, it's a real surprise.

    Thanks for the blog, it's awesome !!


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