"There's only one god, ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that."
Watching The Avengers last night for the third time beginning to end, I more or less decided that I never need to see it beginning to end ever again. It's not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but it's just not my thing. There's a part of my brain that wants to love this film because it's the first successful and coherent team up of major marquee superheroes on the big screen. My thirteen year old self would likely slap the shit out of me for saying this, but I think this film is horribly overrated. Seeing it continuously top lists of the best Marvel films led me to wonder if I had misjudged the film the other two times I saw it. In fact, here's a link to my original review just hours after seeing it for the first time. Watching it again last night, I fear I was right all along.
The film just kind of starts, throwing you into the middle of three different Aaron Sorkin walk and talks where crucial information is being doled out by characters I haven't met before, human and alien alike. I get that the "drop you into the middle of an action" scene is more effective than the "let's stand around and deliver exposition" scene, but I'm almost immediately checked out when Hawkeye, a character I haven't yet had time to give a shit about, is turned evil by Loki. It's all just emblematic of the overall MCU's problem with too-muchness. I've sat through five movies of set up for this one, and now you want me to sit through another hour of setup? Jesus, how much of my life am I supposed to devote to this monstrosity?
My biggest problem with the film has always been the rather disposable nature of the threat Loki and his "army" pose. First of all, the Chitauri? Really? Of all the alien invaders you could've picked—acknowledging that Skrulls are off the table because they're owned by Fox due to their Fantastic Four deal—the lame Ultimate Universe knock-off Skrulls were the way to go? All of the scenes on the Chitauri homeworld or the Negative Zone or wherever the fuck it is play like something out of a Roger Corman knock-off movie. It wasn't even until the credits that I realized that one of those dudes was Whedon regular Alexis Denisof. I'm sure it's all terribly interesting to people who've longed to see The Chitauri on screen, but the way these characters talk about everything in vague terms just leads to aggravation.
Despite these gripes, the film does get a bunch of things right, Hulk being the big one. Joss Whedon was the guy Hulk always needed to transcend the comic page, and for the first time ever, I feel thoroughly satisfied by that character's arc. Tom Hiddleston's Loki is also a delight, reveling in his menace and never shying away from letting on that he's under substantial pressure from all sides. As his dim-witted half brother, Chris Hemsworth brings a ton of fun to the proceedings as well, relishing his chance to play a truly dim bulb. I also love Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson, particularly his Captain America fanboy crush, and whatever mumbo jumbo they used to bring him back to life for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was well worth it because he's one of the best things about the MCU. The rest of the ensemble is good, if a tad on the non-noteworthy side of things.
As for Chris Evans' Steve Rogers, his arc here is subdued thanks to the appearance of Robert Downey, Jr.'s endless quip machine known as Tony Stark. It's impossible for Stark not to suck the air out of every room he's in, and I missed Cap being the center of attention, to be honest. I'm a little worried that he's going to be featured so heavily in Civil War because despite the obvious looming conflict between the two, Downey seems bound and determined to be the winner all the time, much like his character. This isn't obnoxious, since it's mostly in character, but it's there and it's something these films have never really dealt with. By the time the credits roll in every Marvel film, Stark's borderline psychopathic behavior is wholly vindicated by his lone wolf tactics. Hopefully Civil War will prove me wrong about Downey and Stark.
There's enough fun dialogue, creative action scenes, and solid performances to make the movie more good than bad, but it's just so flabby. At least twenty minutes could have been cut to make this a much leaner and meaner film, and frankly I dread re-watching Age of Ultron because all of those shortcomings come to the forefront in that film. Whedon definitely nailed his big shot, delivering a movie that both die hard fans and general audience members can enjoy equally, it's just got far too many problems for me to recommend it to casual fans.
—Downey has that true movie star quality of somehow being above the very thing he became famous for doing
—When people talk about "The Powers that Be," are they talking about Powers Boothe?
—Iron Man's Shakespeare in the Park bit will never not make me laugh
—Cap's "I understood that reference" might be the most Whedon-esque line in the film
—Why retcon Hulk's origin to involve an attempt to recreate the Super Soldier serum? Can someone please explain this to me?
—More movies need a Deus Ex Harry Dean Stanton
—If Thor: Ragnarok does nothing else, it needs to build off the Hulk/Thor relationship in this movie
—I know this should be the other way around, but in retrospect, Ashley Johnson is the Discount Dakota Johnson
How about you, Brandy? Are you ready to summarily tear me to bits for saying this movie is overrated?
BRANDY: Tear you to bits? I wouldn't do that. See, I'm comfortable with you being wrong. And you are very wrong, Steve. You are very, very, undeniably wrong.
As a die-hard Whedon fan, this hits every note for me—yes, he has a formula (kill off the heart of the show, witty dialogue, lots of exposition and quirk, great fight scenes, touching moments shoehorned between action sequences to break up the testosterone with feelings), but it's a formula that works. This is the only movie for me where Black Widow is allowed to really handle herself, and I love the way Joss writes women.
The Chitauri, as you mentioned, weren't my favorite part either, but the last battle was so visually fun to watch that I'm willing to forgive the fact that they used the alien B-team (actually, I don't even think the Chitauri were the B-Team—we still have the Kree, the Brood, the Phalanx—or if you're going to do the Chitauri, do them right. They're shapeshifters, dammit, and not letting shape-shifting aliens... shape-shift is kind of a giant waste of available plot!) Joss is the king of the one-liners, and there were some great ones in the film—and while you may not have cared about Hawkeye in the beginning, Steve, this is the film that spawned the Barton-love of a million fangirls.
I still don't like Mark Ruffalo as Hulk—I wish Norton wasn't such a dick about things, because I loved him as Banner—but I really thought this movie was a success. Whedon and Marvel took all these big characters with big personalities and big backstories and managed to weave them into a story that was entertaining, engrossing, and flowed well, and had just the right amount of action and exposition. Two things, okay three:
—Fuck you for killing off Agent Coulson, goddammit
—I'm still waiting for my Widow movie.
—Shawarma places around the globe really owe a debt of gratitude to this movie. Every damned time I watch it, I get a craving for fucking shawarma. I don't just WANT the shawarma. I NEED it. The shawarma craving is under my skin. I'm like Pavlov's Fangirl here.