(This is a very, very rough review; yes even more than normal. But bear with it if you will. I have an early flight and wanted to bang something out, otherwise I would have done a marginally better job. )
Marvel history, it’s all been building to this. Ever since Iron Man introduced us to Agent Coulson, teased with the small appearance of the Vibranium shield and taunted with the secret appearance of the very big S.H.I.E.L.D head Nick Fury we’ve all been anxiously awaiting the appearance of the picture. Its release is a big moment for many people and so it is only fitting that the film itself be as big as one can fit inside a film can and on that front The Avengers certainly delivers; though unfortunately that kind of size comes with severe downsides such as a lack of grace and precision (picture if you will the fighting style of the Hulk in comparison to say Hawkeyes, one smashes both his target and the scenery around him with each attack while the other is precise in his punishments) and the picture delivers these too. Which of these two sides wins out will be determined by your personal thought process and perspective; your approach will determine whether or not you are disappointed or delighted by the spectacle of what you see on the screen.
Though I wasn’t when Marvel’s first Avengers machinations were mere mumbles in the mouths of Marvel executives like Kevin Feige I am now a full-fledged comic book geek, a title that brings with it a unique and often pessimistic perspective on these action movie adaptations. No, I havnt read any Avengers books per se, but I still purport that my ‘expertise’ had an effect on me, though it isn’t the expected one. Geeks too often obsess on the details and the accuracy there of; this is what they are want to do, this is what makes them geeks, but the problem here is not one of minutia.
The real test for The Avengers is not whether the movie manages all of the Marvel history, but if it works without any of it; if seen in a vacuum would this film still be a success? My answer is undoubtedly a yes, but barely. Hawkeye and The Hulk are perhaps the perfect controls to use for this kind of analysis as they are the most recently introduced the two of them theoretically new to this title. Both are given a lot of cool moments throughout the picture but one comes out clearly on top (This film spends a lot of time setting the heroes against one another which is something Geeks like to do and the Hulk comes out on top of all of them, without question) and the primary cause for this is the fact that he is the more compelling character.
Though it is mostly full of huge ones the fact is that the film handles the small moments the best: the little lines, emotional beats and technical elements in amongst the epic action are what make this picture sing, it’s just that those tender tones are too often drowned out by the bombast of blastcaps and other pyrotechnics. Of course you may think that we come to a film like this for the fireworks, but in this instance we arrive for the ensemble; these are all characters that we know and love and what we want is to see them in action and not just action involving them. We do get a lot of this, enough certainly to make the movie worthwhile; we could however have used much more of the main characters.
Instead an immense chunk of the pictures running time is spent setting up the most unpalatable plot in the series yet (and yes I meant series, The Avengers is a sequel and not a standalone, this is its other weakness). Though it is certainly clever how many cameos and macguffins from past titles this movies script manages to check of, I would have much preferred an entirely original story that stuck together a little better. Though Whedon and Penn have managed to show the strengths of each individual franchise they also brought the silliness of each series with them and while the former formed those fun moments this ridiculousness all merged together and multiplied to make the movies plot. It is essentially and without change the same story as the Transformers film; the guy who wrote Buffy just made a Michael Bay movie; thankfully then he does it damn well.
So look, I’m a film geek first and foremost and as such I can be quite critical of cinema, but know that in this case it is just tough love. The Avengers is functionally flawed but still a whole hell of a lot of fun. The audience I saw it with were not prize winners or those willing to line up for a midnight screening, they were just ordinary –fucking – people and they applauded The Avengers. Yes, there were scenes were these people cheered and clapped in large, unanimous numbers and in Australia that is a sight, that means something. So don’t listen to me, listen to them and go see this movie, just be sure to see it in the mindset of a man who claps.