The Avengers— with a Vengeance

The much anticipated, and now World Number One movie (grossing already a staggering one billion dollars), the Avengers has hit the movie screens in at three formats (2D, 3D, real 3D) and I will tell you now, you will do just as well to see it in 2D instead of 3D, unless you have real 3D. So much of Jos Whedon’s first Marvel movie is shot in the dark that the dark 3D glasses make it frankly too dark to enjoy some of the crucial dark scenes. This is not a problem with the real 3D where the glasses make things much brighter.

While I am listing my complaints, this movie is too long to take at least young children to, unless you want to be constantly interrupted for potty breaks and the like (the movie is 2 hours and twenty two minutes and you have to stay for the teasers after the credits as well). There is also the issue of all the violence and explosions in this movie. Indeed, some of the scenes that prompt the most laughs are the most violent ones, such as when Hulk is body slamming Lokie right, left, and center. Or when Hulk shuts up Thor with a punch. But enough about the movie’s shortcomings, or in this case long-goings. There is much to commend about this movie.

First of all the cast is excellent. Sometimes ensemble movies do not work so well, but in this case it is an enjoyable collection of talent. Obviously, Robert Downey Jr. is the scene stealer supreme, and he is quite entertaining in this film. One could have wished however for far more romantic interplay between him and Pepper Potts. Alas, Gwyneth Paltrow gets short shrift in this film, and its too bad, though there is one marvelous scene shared by them.

Secondly, Captain America and Thor are right in character and enjoyable. Especially hilarious is the scene between Iron Man and Thor where Iron Man complains that listening to Thor with his archaic diction is like going to Shakespeare in the Park. There are plenty of genuinely funny moments in this movie, and the dialogue is often good thanks to Jos Whedon

But there is so much shoot em up bang bang in this film that it has a deadening effect, and it saps some of the potential moments of genuine pathos of their depth and effectiveness. It’s hard to feel sad when you continually see your heroes thrashed and then coming back as if nothing hurt or happened, even when you are dealing with a mere mortal with a zingy shield like Captain America.

Especially effective is the new Bruce Banner (aka Hulk’s alter ego) played by Mark Ruffalo and Scarlet Johansson as the Black Widow. They definitely ad some flavor to the mix. And what should we make of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury? I like the man, he’s a fine actor, but he’s not allowed much range of emotion in this film. And for those of us who actually remember the original Nick Fury (and the Howling Commandos) who was a white guy, this casting continues to be a stretch in various ways.

I do have to say the CG of the Hulk is state of the art and is finally believable. Especially hilarious is when he falls to earth smashing a warehouse, and the warehouse guard complains about his building being crushed by a naked green guy falling from the sky (like that happens every day), to whom he throws some clothes. Talk about jolly green giant. One critic said that whereas the Hulk previously looked like Gumby in the 2003 film, or shellacked in plastic, that finally he looks real. I agree.

As for the plot well…. Lokie comes to earth to steal a permanent energy source from the good guys. In order to accomplish this of course he has to open a portal and bring in the alien army to make all this possible. His goal– being King of the world, and hopefully smashing his goody two shoes brother Thor. Yes, there scenes that seem to have been lifted from Independence Day.

Much of the movie involves setting up the team of Avengers, getting them to stop bickering between themselves, and getting them on task with saving the world from Lokie and his minions. But all of this is enjoyable pop corn summer movie fun, and as at the Kentucky Derby the first big, fast horse out of the gate has a good chance of taking the Derby prize. The Avengers is that horse in the race for summer movie moolah.

I doubt there will be many summer movies more entertaining than this one, though hopefully next time the newly christened Marvel Studios will do a bit more editing, and we will have a few less scenes of thrash and crash. The danger of course in making a lot of money from Marvelous films, is that you become intoxicated with your own success and become self-indulgent…. see for example the overly long Peter Jackson version of King Kong. Let’s hope Stan Lee allows Jos Whedon to continue to produce his franchise films. And lets hope it continues to be as fun and even funny at times as this one.

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