Now this is how it’s done!
Back in 2008, when we were being prepped for Iron Man, the fledgling Marvel Studios told us that this was the beginning of a grand odyssey; one that would ensnare multiple characters from their pages in multiple movies before culminating in a grand old opera with all stars on deck. That is very bold talk.
Since then, we have been introduced to a new Hulk (new again for this picture), Captain America, Thor, and secondary characters Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Nick Fury. Before then, the idea that one film could successfully incorporate all these icons in one picture was, to this reviewer, risible. Most of these larger than life films, with too many characters, are all spectacle and no resonance (see Spider-man 3 for proof). Marvel’s audacious multi-film build up is exactly why this works, and boy does it.
Thor’s banished brother, Loki, has enlisted the help of a powerful alien race to invade and ensnare the earth and her people in slavery. Against the orders of ‘the council’, Nick Fury assembles a group of powerful and unpredictable individuals to save the planet and defeat Loki: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. They don’t play well with each other, and draw into question who is the greater danger: Loki or them?
There are few storytellers in the world, working today, that have the gift to be able to wrestle a monster ensemble piece like this and make it coherent, let alone fun. Joss Whedon has finally been given a canvas large enough to show what many have known for decades. It is absolute genius that his script gives all players equal footing. Not one of the majors from franchises of their own is given front and centre any more than the other. The focus is the mission at hand, and it is this simplicity in plot that allows for the characters—something Whedon can make sing in his sleep—to rise above the gargantuan chaos and connect with their audience. It doesn’t endlessly rehash what has come in the films leading up to it, and it doesn’t set up over-complex story threads for the characters to go on to in their next singular outings, freeing whoever follows on to direct them from that burden. And of course it wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon project without the requisite humour, which is pitch-perfect when the story permits its entry. The Hulk got the major laughs in the theatre I was in, and deservedly so.
All the actors, save for debut Hulk, Mark Ruffalo, have had time to get to know their characters. They are comfy in their roles and play off each other wonderfully. Ruffalo had the hardest challenge, coming in as a replacement for Ed Norton, but he is such a great addition I hope they let him have his own movie down the track. Samuel L. Jackson has been the master of cameos in the Marvel film universe up until now, but Avengers lets him broaden the strokes on his enigmatic character to great effect. The weak link for this reviewer is the villain, and it is not Tom Hiddleston that is to blame.
One of the truisms of mythology is that a hero is only as good as his villain. So impressive are the heroes in this picture that Loki and his scheme appear underwhelming against them. One can’t be blind to the financial realities and responsibilities of a movie this size, but I think perfection was only narrowly missed by the light-handed depiction of Loki’s villainous acts. Had Whedon been able to go a fraction darker and give Loki more teeth, as it were, I think this tiny flaw would have been rectified. This is not to say Loki and his sequestered army aren’t enjoyable, either, but everything was there—rating aside—for them to be awesomely bad.
The spectacle utilises every cent of the 220 million reportedly budgeted for this outing. Whedon has shown he is every bit as talented in blowing stuff up and carnage as he is writing dialogue and character.
Marvel’s audacity, I am pleasantly surprised to say, is justified. This is a master class in spectacle cinema. Their plan has worked: they have taken some very disparate characters and tones from separate movies and combined them into a delicious final product. This is the X-Men on steroids and a worthy pay off for anyone who has been waiting eagerly for the Avengers to assemble.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.
Runtime: 143 mins.
Director: Joss Whedon
Writer: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson; Mark Ruffalo; Chris Hemsworth
Genre: Action | Sci-fi
Tagline: Some assembly required.
Memorable Movie Quote: "There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could... "
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Site: marvel.com/avengers_movie
Release Date: April 27, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 25, 2012
Synopsis: Nick Fury and the international agency S.H.I.E.L.D. bring together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his alien army.
Available on Blu-ray - September 25, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.78:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French: DTS-HD HR 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Disney/Buena Vista, The Avengers arrives on blu-ray with AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Sharp and detailed, the images – at least in the first part of the picture while the team is being assembled – are incredibly dark. The nighttime scenes are heavy and sometimes shut out details in the shadows due to the inkiness of the blacks. Of course, this all leads to the daylight showdown which – in my honest opinion – is nothing short of breathtaking. Fine object detail is revealed and colors are saturated to plus-sized levels; all uniform fabrics are visible (including a few stray hairs on the Hulk’s skin). The Manhattan skyline is rippled with thunderous detail and the CGI effects are flawless. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is an otherworldly experience with bass levels roaring through the woofer with a dynamic LFE force that could propel you upwards. Immersive and expanding, it’s a track that is never lifeless.
- Provided by director Joss Whedon, this commentary is probably one of my favorites. His dry humor – sprinkled throughout any production that has his name associated with it – makes the technical details and difficulties of shooting in 3D interesting. He talks about the pressure of the film and working with all the superheroes and wonders why, hilariously, he was ever picked to manage such a spectacle.
The summer blockbuster of 2011 arrives on blu-ray with a fully leaded assemblage of supplemental material that should whet any, casual or obsessed, Marvel fan’s whistle. Housed in a 3D slipcover, the release comes packaged with the blu-ray 3D version, regular blu-ray, DVD, and a digital copy of the film. The Second Screen Experience, a first for the ongoing series, grants viewers access to the S.H.I.E.L.D. database and includes some Top Secret information about the characters via their laptop or iPad/iPhone. Item 47 from the Marvel One-Shot features Jesse Bradford and Lizzy Caplan stumbling over some alien technology that might help them with their thieving enterprise. There’s also a Gag Reel that features 4 minutes of goofing around from the cast. Another featurette showcases eight scenes trimmed from the movie, including a different opening and a different ending. This is interesting and suggests Captain America might have been Whedon’s primary focus when he originally put the movie together. Two featurettes – A Visual Journey and Assembling the Ultimate Team – feature interviews with the cast and crew about the significance of the film and what they are attempting to do.
- Marvel One-Shot: Item 47 (11 min)
- Gag Reel (4 min)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (15 min)
- A Visual Journey (6 min)
- Assembling the Ultimate Team (8 min)
- Soundgarden Music Video (5 min)