A quick take on The Avengers

"...and then the Marvel CEO says, 'Joss, is it OK if we pay you in gum?'"

Lisa and I caught a Friday afternoon showing. We both felt like we got our popcorn money’s worth. I may have some deeper thoughts later, but for now here’s my initial take:

* New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott was onto something when he called The Avengers “a snappy little dialogue comedy dressed up as something else.” The verbal sparring among the main characters was far and away the best part of the film for us, and I’d have happily watched two and half hours of Bruce Banner and the rest of the gang just hanging out somewhere—My Dinner with Loki, anyone? Or to put it another way, screenwriter/director Joss Whedon was worth every penny that Marvel paid him, and I really hope he got a percentage of the gross. (Hah!)

* The special effects were predictably awesomeas in, simultaneously impressive and nothing I hadn’t seen before. More than once I caught myself thinking, “Wow, this scene is gorgeous, and if I didn’t care about the characters I’d be bored to death by it.” I really, really hope Marvel understands that, and that they offer Joss Whedon an even bigger percentage of the gross to get him to come back and do the sequel. (Double hah!)

* The action sequences were a mixed bag. The small-scale fights were great, because, again, characters! Snappy dialogue! The big battle aboard the flying aircraft carrier, with The Avengers in danger of literally tearing themselves apart, was way cool too. But the final battle felt anti-climactic to me. It was still fun, don’t get me wrong, but unlike the act two fight I was missing the sense that there was anything real at stake.

I mean, we know the seemingly unstoppable alien army is, in fact, going to be stopped. The only question is what it’s going to cost. And here we run into the problem that while this may be Joss Whedon’s movie, it’s Marvel’s property. You can try to head-fake me into thinking Tony Stark is going to sacrifice himself to save the earth, but we both know Marvel still needs him for Iron Man 3, so I’m not buying it. (OK, maybe I bought it for a microsecond. But not really.)

One other huge misstep in the finale is that the invading aliens are faceless drones who cannot be bantered with. That’s right, they’re made of Whedon Kryptonite! What genius executive thought that was a good idea?

* I guess we really are in a post-post-9/11 era. I remember going to see Spider-Man in the summer of ’02 and being spooked by the Green Goblin tossing pumpkin bombs at Manhattan crowds. Ten years later, Loki’s peeps completely trash midtown and I didn’t even blink.

* Shawarma!

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3 Responses to A quick take on The Avengers

  1. sean says:

    I have to disagree with the notion that there were no stakes in the final battle. As an admitted Marvel-newbie, I could have envisioned a cliffhanger ending, where the invaders’ portal wasn’t closed, and while Loki may have been felled (natch), there could have been some (read: MANY) lingering alien troops left behind to be the foil of the next dozen Marvel movies.

  2. mikem says:

    Reavers are faceless(sometimes literally) drones that cannot be bantered with, but I don’t think Whedon was forced to insert those. However I have to agree I found the final enemies less interesting.At least there was still Loki.

    • Matt Ruff says:

      Reavers occupy a somewhat different genre niche. They’re horror-story antagonists who are supposed to scare the crap out of you — for that, facelessness works great, while banter tends to kill the tension.

      If the aliens in The Avengers were set up to be genuinely frightening I’d have been cool with their lack of personality. But there’s just nothing there.

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