Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers

Summer blockbuster movie elements: ASSEMBLE! Made for comic book fans looking forward to the culmination of Marvel's devious scheme!

Rated PG-13

for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.

The Avengers

Time for me to B.Y.O.B. (Bear Your Own Bias): I’m a comic book guy.  I read several titles religiously (like X-Men and Daredevil), and others pretty dang often (Iron Man), and others only sporadically (too many to list).  But one I almost never read was The Avengers.  Dunno why; maybe after The X-Men and The New Mutants and X-Force and Excalibur and Iron Man and The Fantastic Four and Daredevil and Alpha Flight and Power Man & Iron Fist and all of the others to which I subscribed, I ran out of money.

In any event, I still knew enough about them to be excited about The Avengers’ Grand Experiment, and the movies leading up to it (the Iron Man movies, the Hulk movies, Thor and Captain America).  More truth be told, I root for all comic book movies to succeed; whether they were my favorite title growing up or something peripheral; or whether its Marvel or DC (or even Fox; yecch).  The last few years have been like movie paradise for comic geeks like me; special effects and various other bits of movie magic have finally caught up to the imagination of the creators of the comics we devoured as kids, and we’ll go to see the movies based on them no matter what, just to see our childhood heroes up on the big screen.  Now will I see it myself again, or tell others to see it?  That depends on the movie.

So having said all that, not only will I be seeing “The Avengers” twice for free, and then I’ll pay to see it again in IMAX, I’m also here to tell you to see it for yourself.  Of course, it helps to have seen the aforementioned supporting movies beforehand.

Actually, it more than helps; it may be absolutely necessary.  Amidst the obvious fun, the big set pieces, the special effects, the Joss Whedon-esque humor and timing, and even the quieter character-driven moments that are favorites of geeks like myself who enjoy seeing Bruce Banner and Tony Stark have a meeting of the minds, there is a rather complicated plot in there somewhere.  It’s a bit of a jumble, frankly; to know what’s going on the viewer needs to pay close attention to certain lines that may be uttered only once.  That’s a tough thing to do when many of them fall right in line behind a joke you’re still laughing at, or they’re strung out somewhere along 152 minutes.  Additionally, in typical Whedon form, there are conversations between bad-guys to explain what the heck just happened or what is about to.  For those who tune out during such exposition, thinking that comic book movies are all about the whiz-bang factor, they will miss some vital plot points.  Common after-movie discussions are who the heck was that army of Loki’s?  And who’s the guy behind the army?  And what’s a Tesseract, anyway?  What does it do, where did it come from?  Pay attention, non comic-book folk!  All will be revealed.

For everyone else, summer has begun.  “The Avengers” is one of those movies with so many “my favorite part was” scenes that you’ll find yourself recalling them for your friends who sat right next to you through it before you reach the parking lot.

Although Robert Downey’s “Iron Man” is the most financially successful franchise, his character also holds this one together.  The obvious challenge was giving enough screen time to four different main characters that have each handled movies of their own. This challenge was not only met but surpassed by also giving the lowly humans some ample time too, allowing Jeremy Renner’s “Hawkeye” and especially Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow” to not only hold their own amongst super humans, but play pivotal roles in some cases.

And the filmmakers have also taken great pains to make what was once considered a hard sell of the movie – The Hulk – and transformed him into not only the force to be reckoned with that he was supposed to be, but a viewer favorite.  And regarding favorites, for those who know Whedon, also know that he continues to follow his own credo right down the line in “The Avengers;” meaning he’ll find and kill the warm nougat center of whatever movie in which he is involved.  But he also gives the fans plenty to crow about, and non-comic book lovers plenty to laugh and enjoy.  Stick around for a pair of pre- and post-credits goodies, too.  The first is set-up only a fan will truly appreciate; the second is a gift for all, and is soon to be wallpaper on many a geek’s computer everywhere.

Overall Score for “The Avengers” from Rich Bonaduce: A-

“The Avengers” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.

142 Minutes

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Written by: Zak Penn (story), Joss Whedon (story), Joss Whedon (screenplay), Stan Lee (comic book) & Jack Kirby (comic book)

4 1/2 out of 5

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