Nadia Elkharadly: An almost timely movie review – The Avengers

Our esteemed guest columnist Jim Slotek shared a very interesting perspective on the state of blockbuster films, inspired by the Avengers release this past Friday.  He (and Robert Downey Jr.) is completely right; film going masses have been geared and steered into what they “think” they like and want.  Every summer, multi-million dollar productions are generated, and hyped for months, sometimes years ahead of time, working movie lovers into a frenzy.

Most of these films have little or no substance, they are mostly pretty people wrapped in shiny packages, sometimes with big explosions punctuating snappy dialogue.  And you know what?  I’m pretty ok with that.  While I generally look for depth and complexity in the music I seek out, when it comes to films, I tend to function in quite the opposite manner.

Having watched The Hulk in its various incarnations, the first two Ironman movies and having a vague understanding of what was up with Thor and Captain America, I felt myself adequately prepared for the Avengers when it came out this past Friday.  The fact that it was my brother’s birthday that same day sweetened the deal, and considering he’s the biggest comic book and film buff I’ve ever known, there was no way I was going to be allowed to miss this grand occasion.  One ridiculously long and boring lineup later, we were sitting in our primo seats in the middle of the massive theatre, 3D glasses on, ready to be amazed.  And we were.  So, here, for the first time, is my actually somewhat timely movie review of the Avengers!

The Avengers film stars Robert Downey Junior, Samuel L. Jackson (with an eye patch!), Scarlett Johanssen and a bunch more people I’ll get to.  Sci-fi television icon Joss Whedon makes his blockbuster directorial debut, giving sci-fi lovers something to be excited about.  And in true Whedon fashion, he gets right down to telling the concise, albeit patchy story.  The Avengers initiative was the brainchild of Nick Fury (Jackson – with an eye patch!) as hinted at in past Marvel universe films, meant to be a team of elite soldiers to be brought together when the earth is in peril.  Fury heads up SHIELD, the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division aka some fake yet incredibly well funded government agency which currently has possession of a renewable source of alien energy called the tesseract.  Apparently you can’t have one of those things around without drawing some serious baddy attention, so of course, a serious baddy steals it.

That baddy is none other than Loki (Tom Hiddleston), supervillian, Norse demigod and all around jerk who steals the tessaract to hand it over to a crazy looking alien, in exchange for an army to destroy earth because…earth apparently pissed him off one time.  Imminent and catastrophic danger now established, the Avengers are gathered.  Sweet and somewhat bumbling SHIELD agent Phil Coulson is sent for billionaire playboy and techie genius Tony Stark, alter ego: Ironman (Downey).  Sexpot super shield agent Natasha Romanov (the black widow, played by Johansson) ventures to India to wrangle Dr. Bruce Banner, alter ego The Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo).  And Fury himself recruits defrosted depression era super soldier Steve Rogers, alter ego: Captain America (Chris Evans).  Norse god of thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets in on the action because of some long time (adoptive) sibling rivalry, and his need to protect the planet.  With the addition of SHIELD agent and archer extraordinaire Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner), the super team is ready to do battle against the forces of evil.  And battle they do!

As you can tell by my slapped together summary, the storyline really wasn’t the greatest.  Big bad Loki was given some great lines but very little character development.  His beef with earth is never really being explained beyond wanting to destroy something that his brother Thor loved, out of jealousy and spite.  The already thin storyline is barely fleshed out, leaving some gaping holes in the plot as result.  The same goes for the backstories of characters who didn’t benefit from their own film, namely the Black Widow, who hints at having some serious past drama, but never goes into detail.

The cast are all reprising their roles from previous Marvel films over the past four years or so.  The only exception is Ruffalo, who took over for Ed Norton and Eric Bana before him.  Much speculation surrounds Norton’s exclusion from the film, the foremost story being that he would not have gotten along with the current cast.  Ruffalo captures Bruce Banner’s burdened yet bitingly humorous persona quite well, and comes out as the breakout performance of the film.  He shines most when bantering with Downey, which is actually the case with pretty much every character in the film.  While Ruffalo may be the breakout star, the brightest one, unsurprisingly is Downey.  He’s given the snappiest lines, and pulls great banter out with each and every person he interacts with on screen, and in true Downey style, he makes more than the most of it.

The award for the most underused acting chops end up in a tie between Johansson and Renner.  Johansson had maybe three really knockout scenes in the two and a half hour epic, most notably her initial planned escape scene, and her revelatory interrogation of Loki, which is Hiddleston’s most intense scene as well.  Renner starts the movie as a hypnotised hostage, and ends it as the super-agent he was supposed to be all along, with nothing much happening in between, character wise.  His biceps looked fantastic though, probably from all that bow pulling and arrow shooting.  Hemsworth’s Thor is as stoic and honourable as required, but doesn’t really dazzle beyond his rugged good looks and shiny armour.

Evans’ Captain America managed the best character arc of the ensemble, growing from a troubled and reclusive man out of his time to not only the super solider he was made to be, but a true leader and hero.

It’s abundantly clear that screenwriting and well developed characters were not what people were looking for in the Avengers, and Whedon and co. definitely knew it.  So they gave the people what they wanted:  nearly nonstop, heart racing and pulse pounding ACTION.  Whedon’s experience directing multicharacter fight scenes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse really came out during this film – every fight scene is absolutely killer, and every character gets a chance to show off his (or her- in Scarjo’s case) moves to their full advantage.  The 3D cinematography was stunning, as was the CGI animation that was practically seamless, and not jarring like in some movies.  The most pleasant surprise for me was all the hilarious moments that came out of this extremely action packed film.  There were countless times where I found myself bursting into laughter, and not all of them were inspired by Downey.

All in all, I loved the Avengers.  It delivered what it promised, and was entertaining from start to finish.  It’s not going to win any Academy Awards for writing or acting, but that’s not what it was about.  Every once in a while, you need some mind numbing, no brainer fun, and that’s why movies like the Avengers are great.  The Avengers may not have been an education or enriching experience.  But at the very least, millions of people in North America got to escape their daily doldrums this weekend through the magic of a mindless action movie.  And that’s just fine with me.

PS:  did I mention the film’s signature song is by my all-time favourite band?  Well, it is.  Enjoy it here!

Until next time,

Xo

N

Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

2 Responses to “Nadia Elkharadly: An almost timely movie review – The Avengers”

  1. Loki’s beef with Earth is the plot lynchpin of the Thor movie from last year. Just sayin’.

    Great review, Nadia. Popcorn and CGI. Who could ask for anything more? “Battleship”, “Spider-man” and “Prometheus” are up next.

  2. haha Thor and Captain America were the “pre” films I missed, Thor mostly because of my dislike of Natalie Portman. They could have cleared that up in this film though, not that it really mattered in the end. Acting like a petulant child made the beatdown he ended up with that much funnier.

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