The Avengers (2012)
Do you want to guess? I can let you guess. I suppose that I'm simply writing this for the sake of tradition. I mean, I've established a clean format that lets my few readers know what the movie is rated and my guesses for why it is rated that way. Sometimes, I go on these little rants about how the MPAA is dumb, but that's neither here nor there. What's The Avengers rated? PG-13, but you already knew that. Why? For superhero violence and mild language. A lot of things 'splode in this movie and the Hulk gets scary at times. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon
Big confession here: I don't love The Avengers as much as most people do. I think it is fine and I'm super glad it exists. I would almost say that there's nothing all that wrong with The Avengers. It's a perfectly fine movie that I'm going to find nitpicky things to complain about. It just doesn't hit that sweet spot with me. The only reason that I can really say that is because I have just a wealth of other amazing Marvel movies to draw from, so when one doesn't hit the sweet spot, I can acknowledge its value while not feeling the need to gush over it. The Avengers is a great movie, but it's just not my favorite.
I don't know why movies need to be earned nowadays. We never earned X-Men, did we? It just kind of came out. It's a perfectly good movie. But the X-Men all have the same origin with the exception of Wolverine. It's probably why the X-Men movies constantly feel the need to revisit that well of Logan's origins. It's the only one they have. But the Avengers are very much like the Justice League. They are corporate's answer to more book sales. Captain America books sell pretty good. Iron Man books sell okay. Let's put the two together and see what happens. I'm the biggest advocate of superhero storytelling. I'm being wildly annoying when it comes to begging my wife to let me see Infinity War early. I read far too many comics. But I also understand that superhero comic books are primarily exclusively forms of entertainment. (I know that Doctor Doom cried at 9/11, but that might be proving my point than disproving it.) These stories are used to sell comics and those comics are used to now sell movies. But The Avengers is successful as a dismount to an experiment. Arad, Feige, and a whole bunch of studio folk came up with the idea of a cinematic universe all coming together and showing that these movies work better as not sequels, but related films. The test was to see if, given enough successful movies in succession, could they be building hype for a massive movie that would act as a payoff to hours and hours of screen time. The answer, thanks to The Avengers, was "yes." People wanted stuff like this. The Avengers was an event. People lost their minds. Two things should have happened that really didn't happen. 1) Any one of those movies should have flopped hard leading up to The Avengers. Honestly, Iron Man 2 was considered not as good as Part I, which usually means abysmal failure when it comes to other franchises. Thor was also a hard sell. But they were still financially (and quasi-critically) successful. 2) The Avengers should have been a letdown. Remember, Samuel L. Jackson mentioned the Avengers Initiative at the end of the first Iron Man movie. That was how much anticipation was involved. They let us know really early on that The Avengers was on the horizon. There is no way that let of expectation could be fulfilled. (I now hear the conversations I've been having with Bob over the past few months and I realize that I love being challenged.) (Also an aside, I just walked to his room to discuss this point and now there might be a lack of momentum.)
Um...so what you guys up to?
But I guess I should discuss what makes The Avengers kind of fall flat for me. I don't know if it is as original as it should be. The idea of superheroes fighting before becoming friends is too old of a trope. I know, the movie is an adaptation of the comic that embraces that trope. People want to know who would win in a fight: Thor or Iron Man? (Okay, people really want to know who would win in a fight between Thor and Superman, but that is a tale for another day.) But the movie doesn't have that much Avenging in it considering its name. I think that Age of Ultron works better in that regard. Yeah, I'm the guy who really likes Age of Ultron. Come at me, bro. There's a lot of setup and frankly, the world doesn't feel real. I know that the MCU is already a pretty alternate reality, but it also often seems grounded. Except for Asgard. That place is hilariously goofy. But the set pieces at the beginning of the movie are just so comic booky. A big blue room with Dr. Selvig analyzing the Tesseract seems ridiculous. I'm thinking about Peter's high school. There's no man-on-the-street element to The Avengers. Everything is grandiose and huge. I kind of want a farmhouse with people working (again, I like Age of Ultron). I want normally skewed. Instead, we're thrown right into science fiction-berg (just off the expressway from Mysticalrealismville) and that's not what I want. I love me some sci-fi, but I like when regular people interact with the unknown. This is a world where the weird is normal and sometimes people just gotta punch the problem until it goes away. That's where the Hawkeye problem shows up. I know that Jeremy Renner wasn't happy that he really didn't get to play Hawkeye for most of the first Avengers movie. He really didn't. He got to be a random henchman that we didn't get to enjoy that much. Then there is the superheroes fighting sequence laid out. It is silly that they fight. Thor thought he was murdering Captain America. Let's put that out there. He didn't know that the vibranium shield would have stopped Mjolnir, which means he thought that he was killing Cap. Didn't he learn this lesson in the last film? Wasn't that the point of Thor? He should be thinking about the consequences before acting. It's only once the Hulk shows up does the movie course correct. Yes, I like the opera house stuff and the dialogue is pretty great throughout, but the movie doesn't really become a proper movie until the Hulk shows up.
And this is the genius element of the film. Joss Whedon, the nerd god of yesteryear, made the Hulk work. After many many attempts, the Hulk really works in this movie. He established the template to say to use the Hulk sparingly. It's not a perfect template. Thor: Ragnarok proved that, but it is a great model. The Hulk is the best part of these films because he is absolutely a force of nature that is both hilarious and terrifying at the same time. I know that Coulson technically brings the team together and I can appreciate that scene for what it is, but the Hulk is what makes all of the characters work. I love that Black Widow is absolutely terrified of him. I like that Stark likes antagonizing him. I like that Thor and he are in a constant grudge match. I love that he listens and respects Captain America. The Hulk is what makes the Avengers work. The end sequence is overall great, but I am always waiting to see what the Hulk is taking on in those sequences. He's just this massive character that manages to surprise aliens. It's odd that I'm usually skeptical of an all powerful character like the Hulk, but the more he impresses me with his strength, the better the movie really gets. He punches one of those flying caterpillars and it dies? Yes. Yes and more please. But Banner is the perfect foil for that character. The dynamic between Banner and Hulk is so striking. I also love that the Hulk has just the right amount of intelligence to become sympathetic. He's a scary dude and his anger is always a confused anger. It's funny, and I'm getting into over-analytical mode right now, but I wonder if the Hulk likes being given a target because it removes all of the confusion from him. He just seems so happy to be smashing things that are bad. He's angry smashing things he shouldn't be. When he's fleeing humanity and wants to be left alone, he's so angry. When he's smashing aliens, he's got a smile on his face. That's an interesting choice.
The movie is pretty great. There's so much that works with it. I just kind of want a break from it. I'm going to preach about why Age of Ultron is so much better probably some time next week. Continue liking and loving it. It is worthy of your love. It's just not for me right now.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.